sábado, 19 de maio de 2007


The Queima das Fitas (Portuguese for Burning of the Ribbons) is a traditional festivity of the students of some Portuguese universities, organized originally by the students of the University of Coimbra.

The first Queima das Fitas was organized by the students of the University of Coimbra, which is the oldest university of the country, and for many decades the only in Portugal.

Coimbra's Queima das Fitas, the oldest and most famous, is organized by a students' commission formed by members of the students' union Associação Académica de Coimbra. Celebrating the end of graduation courses, symbolized by the ritual burning of the ribbons representing each faculty, it takes place at the second semester (around May), being among the biggest student festivities in Europe. It lasts for 8 days, one for each Faculty: Letters, Law, Medicine, Sciences & Technology, Pharmacy, Economics, Psychology & Education Sciences and Sports Sciences & Physical Education. During this period, a series of concerts and performances are held, turning Coimbra in a lively and vibrant city. It also includes a parade of the university students, sport activities, gala ball, and many other public events and traditions.

The Ribbon Burning festivities are the big yearly celebration for the students and townspeople as well. The festivities run for a full week in May beginning with the traditional nighttime fado serenade in the square of the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. The square is packed with students in their black capes and according to the ritual, studies are forgotten for a week of joy and all-night revelry. The high point of the festivities is the Cortejo, a parade beginning in Alta (upper Coimbra, the university historic centre and home to the Rector's Office and the famous University tower) with the graduating students burning their grelo. The parade progresses down the hills of the Alta towards the Baixa (downtown Coimbra, near the river) with dozens of elaborately decorated floats, each in the color of their respective faculties, carrying placards with ironic criticisms alluding to certain teachers, the educational system, national events and leaders. The parade is made up of thousands of "newly liberated" students set apart by their top hats and walking sticks.

After the outbreak in 1969 of a crisis opposing the students to the dictatorial government of António de Oliveira Salazar, the festivities, as well as all other manifestations of the academic traditions, were suspended by the students as an act of protest. This was known as the luto académico (Portuguese for academic mourning). The restarting of the celebrations took place in 1980, in the middle of an intense political controversy between left-wing students who opposed the celebration, and conservative students, who wanted to resume the practice. Such struggle took some time to heal, but the "Queima das Fitas" is now only contested by a small fringe of the more radical left-wing student movements.

Nowadays the beer industry has become an important sponsor of Coimbra's Queima das Fitas, which has given still a wider projection to the festival, quite popular among young people from all around the country and even from Spain. During the festival's week groups of students from other universities, such as Lisbon or Porto, among thousands of other visitors, come to enjoy it. This growth in popularity has involved significant change to the festival, ever more professionalized, moving it a great distance away from its origins at the end of the 19th century. Students of more traditionalist or leftist sensibilities have occasionally decried this as an increased commercialization and commodification of their "mystique" and traditions.

The tradition of Coimbra was extended to all Portuguese cities with University. The “Queima das Fitas” of Porto is practically as old as each one of Coimbra. In 1920 the students of the faculty of medicine of Porto had organized the first party which had given the name of "Festa da Pasta". In 1943 the name of the event changed definitely to “Queima das Fitas”.
In Porto, the "Queima das Fitas" didn’t happen since 1971 until 1977. In 1978, under some controversies of some Portuguese quadrants, that considered this event one reactionary initiative, the student feast restarted, growing and growing, year after year. Nowadays, this event has the participation of more than 350 000 students.

In Minho University, the student feast adopted other name “O Enterro da Gata” (“cat funeral”). The cat, in this region is the symbol of school flop, so it is necessary to make it funeral.

In Lisbon, where the tradition is not so strong, the University celebrates all the years the “Semana Académica de Lisboa” (student week of Lisbon). The same name is used by the University of Algarve and University of Évora.



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