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What does it mean to be Portuguese?

Being Portuguese is a magnificent paradox. It's a culture steeped in both sorrow and joy, stubborn opinions and poetic ideas. An ancient land, blessed with centuries of wisdom yet prone to moments of fervor. Ruled by lunatics, dreamers, warriors, professors, and writers - the Portuguese are an unruly bunch, always ready to voice their grievances. However, in times of danger or under external criticism, they all band together in unity.

Much like Fado, often mistaken for Portugal, with its melancholic tunes of love, loss, and death - to outsiders, it may seem despairing, but to the Portuguese, it acts as a cathartic and empowering emotional release.

As Caesar once said, "In the far corners of Iberia, there is a people who neither govern themselves nor allow themselves to be governed."

Portuguese people can debate anything and everything, take seemingly illogical stances, and vigorously defend ideas they may not even believe in. Survival is valued over honesty. Courage is ingrained in a culture where young men bravely line up to face bulls, squares are named after individuals who wedged themselves in doors to prevent them from closing, and the national holiday commemorates the death anniversary of a great poet.

With a rich and complex language, a vibrant yet sometimes exasperating culture, and a cuisine that embraces ingredients like blood, snails, and internal organs, the Portuguese have once again captured the admiration of the world, somehow. The influx of Americans, Canadians, and others moving to Lisbon has made encountering a true Portuguese in places like Chiado increasingly rare.

Yet, it's not just the beauty of the landscape, the scent of the air, or the color of the sky that draws people in. It's the wine, the olive oil, the leisurely pace of life, and the intoxicating yet frustrating essence of Portuguese culture. but, underestimate them at your own peril - this small nation has outlasted empires, invaders, and the passage of time.

As someone of Portuguese descent, being part of such a wonderful yet eccentric bunch provides a sense of perspective and sanity. Learning to accept them for who and what they are, and Portuguese culture for what it is, makes one gladly relinquish preferences for sour cream and half-and-half.

We are more than custard tarts and cherry liqueur, more than Lisbon and the Algarve - we are the cork forests, the ancient towers, the chestnut roasters, and the lemon trees. We are greater than the sum of our parts, yet smaller than the centuries that have shaped us.

As Pessoa wrote:

"We conquered the whole world before getting out of bed; But we wake up and it's opaque, We get up and it's foreign, We leave home and it's the whole world, Plus the solar system and the Milky Way and the Undefined."

To be Portuguese is to find happiness in simple pleasures, where a sadness is your friend and loss is your inheritance. It is to wake up and say to yourself, "We are still here."

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