sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

Portuguese people

Numbers, Origins and Characteristics

According to the 2001 census there are about ten million people living in Portugal. Almost two-thirds of them live in the coastal fourth of the country, with the capital city, Lisbon, and its surrounding metropolitan area having the largest population with around two million people. Oporto (Porto), the next largest city, has a metropolitan population of about one million.

Most of the current Portuguese population grew from the mixture of all the peoples who have inhabited and traded in the region over the centuries. The first to settle were the Iberians, and over the years Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Moors, Jews, and others migrated into the area and combined to develop a people with unique physical characteristics.


Most Portuguese have typical Mediterranean features like brown eyes, dark hair, and a height of less than 6 feet. Evidence of the Germanic tribes can still be seen in the north of the country, where taller, light-haired and light-eyed people are occasionally encountered, and in the south, traces of the Moorish period are seen in both the physical type and the way of life.

Religion and beliefs

In the course of millennia this mingling between people, combined with the country's isolation from Spain and the rest of Europe, gave rise to a population structure that was homogeneous and distinctively Portuguese, both ethnically and culturally. About 97% of the Portuguese population identify themselves as Roman Catholic, but other religions enjoy freedom of worship. Protestants constitute 1% of the populace, and various other groups make up the remaining 2%. Although church and state are separated in the constitution, the country's holidays, its moral and legal codes, health and educational systems, are intertwined with its Catholic heritage.

While only about one third of the population attends church regularly, almost all Portuguese are baptized and married in church. The Portuguese (mainly those in rural areas) are a deeply superstitious people whose formal Catholicism is profoundly intertwined with pre-Christian beliefs.

Popular superstitions involve the phases of the moon and the evil eye, which is feared in a number of situations. Older rural women are expected to dress in black after the death of their husbands for about seven years, and many wear it for the rest of their lives. Western-style clothing is the norm, and people in the cities dress well.

However, vestiges of traditional garb such as berets for men and black shawls for women may still be seen in some rural areas. Defining a national character is never easy, but it can be said that most Portuguese are easy-going, welcoming, and friendly. Although some at first may appear sullen and morose to foreigners, they're generally known to be willing to go out of their way to help. Those in the northern part of the country are more formal and conservative, while attitudes in the south are generally more casual and relaxed.


As in all countries, there are differences between rural and urban people, with those from rural areas able to sustain themselves by their harvests, and generally distrusting Lisbon and other big cities for all they stand for: social turmoil and bureaucracy. They take festivals (usually in honor of a patron saint) very seriously, especially in the Minho province and the Azores Islands where they can last for days, with solemn processions, dances and fireworks. The lifestyle of the urban population is like that of their counterparts in other European countries (smartly dressed and with cellular phones clamped to the ear), but in both rural and urban areas manners tend to be elaborate, especially in forms of address. When the Portuguese greet each other, they generally expect to be kissed on both cheeks, or exchange handshakes.

Another cultural activity in both the city and small towns is spending hours at cafes, usually gossiping over coffee. As in most "Mediterranean" countries, older men also tend to gather in the cobbled squares watching the world go by, while women also have their own tête-à-têtes.

Education and work

All children must attend school at least until the age of fourteen, and most finish high school. Beyond this level, admission to colleges and universities is limited by quotas set each year for each subject and school.

Women (most of whom have gone outside the home, excelling as university professors, doctors, and writers) account for more than half of all persons enrolled in higher education and almost half of the country's physicians. Yet their role in the household is still considered of primary importance.

Portuguese workers are known for being adaptable, hard working, and frugal. Industry employs over a third of the country's labor force, while nearly half work in service jobs. Employment varies by region, with the main occupations being heavy industry around the capital, tourism in Algarve, and agriculture in the Azores and Madeira Islands. Salaries, although rising, are still below the European Union average.


To the Portuguese, their nation is a place they truly love. Those in Lisbon can't believe there is a city more lovely than theirs, the citizens of Porto are truly fond of their city on the banks of the Douro River, and those from about everywhere else believe no other place compares to their terra, or homeland. The Portuguese who went to live abroad usually visit their terra every year, and many return to live their last days after retiring.

Portuguese people around the world

There are about four million Portuguese citizens living abroad, most of whom immigrated in the early and mid-20th century. They settled mainly in France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, United States, Canada, Brazil, and Venezuela. In the United States most Portuguese settled in the states of Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The majority of the Portuguese population in the United States is from the Azores islands, as are the Portuguese who settled in Canada.


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