The Eurovision Song That Sparked a Revolution
The 19th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest took place on the 6th of April 1974 in Brighton, United Kingdom, with 17 countries taking part — Portugal being one of them. Though the country placed a joint-last place with Norway, Germany, and Switzerland, Portugal’s entry “E depois do adeus”, sung by singer Paulo de Carvalho, would soon turn into a song that’ll end the country’s near-half-decade dictatorship. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s go back in history to hear the full story.
On the 28th of May 1926, a nationalist coup d'état composing of the Portuguese army and navy implemented a 48-year dictatorship, ending the unstable Portuguese First Republic. Both the army and the navy felt neglected by the government’s actions and chronic instability. The 1926 coup wasn’t the first attempt; there had been three others the previous year — 5th of March, 18th of April, and 19th of July.
Though these coups failed, they were mostly acquitted by a military court. Army officer Óscar Carmona, who had acted as a military prosecutor during the 18th April plot, even asked —
Why do these men sit in the defendant bench? Because their homeland is sick and orders its best sons to be judged and tried.
With the political instability and neglect of the army coming from the Portuguese First Republic, it was easy to see why many political parties at the time showed wide support for the 1926 coup.
The coup initiated in Braga on the 27th of May 1926 with General Manuel Gomes da Costa commanding. Having knowledge on this, Republic Government and Prime Minister António Maria da Silva attempted to organize some resistance, thinking the coup could be defeated. But alas, he failed… at least, that was what he thought when he surrendered the next day.
The revolution immediately continued in Porto, Lisbon, Évora, Coimbra, and Santarém. Lisbon was a particular success. There, Gomes da Costa marched into the city along with 15,000 men while being acclaimed by the locals.
Due to the coup’s success and spread to the rest of the country, the influences of Mendes Cabeçadas, Sinel de Cordes and Óscar Carmona established the Ditadura Nacional. With its success came serious changes. On the 3rd of June, all heads of municipalities were substituted, and both the Carbonária and all political parties were banned. Then, of the 22nd of June, censorship was instituted. Finally, on the 16th of December, a political police force in Lisbon known as the Police of Information was created.
There have been other establishments from the Ditadura Nacional during its reign, such as the minimum school year being reduced from 6th to 4th grade and schools being separated by sex in all non-university schooling on the 17th of May 1927, the Confederação Geral do Trabalho (national trade union center) being dissolved in 1927, the Portuguese Communist Party’s main office closing in 1928, and several failed coups and demonstrations against the Ditadura Nacional.
Then, in 1933, a new regime evolved from the Ditadura Nacional — the Estado Novo (New State). This conservative and autocratic regime would last until the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Developed and ran by António de Oliveira Salazar until 1968, the Estado Novo was one of the longest-surviving authoritarian regimes in Europe. It was also very colonial, having overseas colonies in Angola, Mozambique, and several other territories. The Estado Novo even tried to expand its empire via the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974) by suppressing the colonies’ self-determination and independence.
Worst of all, many innocent people were imprisoned and tortured by the Portuguese security agency known as the International and State Defense Police, aka PIDE. PIDE had the power to detain and arrest anyone suspicious of plotting against the state, and the agency imprisoned and assassinated many political activists, anarchists, communists, workers, intellectuals, and so much more. It’s currently unknown how many people have either been imprisoned or worse by this regime.
So, what does any of this have to do with a Eurovision song that got last place with three other countries?
It all started on the 25th of April 1974 at 10:55 P.M. The first, song “E depois do adeus” by Paulo de Carvalho played on the radio. This was the first signal of what would later be known as the Carnation Revolution.
The second song “Grandola, Vila Morena” by José Afonso, which had originally been banned during the Estado Novo, played on Radio Renascenca on the 2th of April 1974 at 00:25 A.M. This was the second signal to the people that the revolution was starting and those who wished to rebel should occupy the strategic points of the country.
Within a few hours, the authoritarian Estado Novo was overthrown. And with the defeat of this dictatorship came to the end of the Portuguese Colonial War, giving the countries of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Principe their well-deserved independence. That wasn’t the only positive change that occurred from this revolution. Just one year later, women were allowed to vote for the first time ever, the current Constitution of Portugal was was adopted in 1976, the days of democracy finally surpassed the days of dictatorship on the 23rd of March 2022, and, best of all, the people of Portugal finally have a right to freedom of speech.
Though the Carnation Revolution was mostly peaceful, four civilians were shot by the DGS, formally known as the PIDE. Why do we call this the Carnation Revolution? Well, during the revolution, red carnations were given to soldiers, who then placed these beautiful flowers inside their guns and on their uniforms. These red carnations later became a symbol of democracy and the namesake of this revolution.
Speaking of Eurovision and the Carnation Revolution, did you know that in the previous year (1973), singer Fernando Tordo represented Portugal with the song “Tourada”? Did you know the lyrics, which were about a bullfight on the outside, was a criticism of the decaying dictatorship? Did you know that this song, which placed a joint 10th place with Ireland, was one of the country’s best results in Eurovision until its 6th place in 1996 and its eventual win in 2017?
It’s no secret that Eurovision has impacted the world in such a huge way, but who would’ve thought that a song that placed a joint-last place with three other countries would spark an entire revolution that would end a country’s near-half-decade dictatorship? Yet, without Paulo de Carvalho’s “E depois do adeus”, the country of Portugal may be in a completely different place than it currently is today.