Camões wrote Os Lusíadas , Portugal's national epic poem celebrating Portuguese history and achievements. The poem focuses mainly on the 16th-century Portuguese explorations , which brought fame and fortune to the country. Camões' poem, considered one of the finest and most important works in Portuguese literature , became a symbol for the great feats of the Portuguese Empire . Camões was an adventurer who lost one eye fighting in Ceuta , wrote Os Lusíadas while traveling, and survived a shipwreck inCochinchina (present-day Vietnam ). According to popular folklore, Camões saved his epic poem by swimming with one arm while keeping the other arm above water. Since Camões' date of birth is unknown, the date of his death is celebrated as Portugal's National Day.
Although Camões became a symbol for Portugal nationalism, his death in 1580 coincided with a dynastic crisis that eventually resulted in Philip II of Spain claiming the Portuguese throne . Portugal was then ruled by three generations of Spanish kings . Sixty years later, on December 1, 1640, the country regained its independence once again by expelling the Spanish and making John of Bragança, King John IV of Portugal .
During the authoritarian Estado Novo regime in the 20th century, Camões was used as a symbol for the Portuguese nation. In 1944, at the dedication ceremony of the National Stadium, António de Oliveira Salazar referred to June 10th as Dia da Raça, the Day of the Portuguese Race. The notion of a Portuguese "race" served his nationalist purposes. Portugal Day celebrations were officially suspended during the Carnation Revolution . Celebrations resumed after 1974, expanded to include the Comunidades Portuguesas, Portuguese emigrants and their descendants living in communities all around the world.
|Largo de Camões - Lisbon ©JMLA 2002|