by Martin Page
When a book arrives on one’s doorstep as a gift, it has not only come from the sender, but it’s also arrived from the universe as a token of change and an opportunity for expansive knowledge. This is what The First Global Village by Martin Page became for me.
Before it arrived, my understanding of Portugal was extremely minimal; having never been there, nor ever having studied Portugal’s past or present, in my life time. I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. Southeast of that city is Lisbon and then Lisbon Falls – a place where the Androscoggin River rages during the spring, and a rock formation caused a natural waterfall. Once I realized that Lisbon was the capital of Portugal, it had a very quiet, subliminal influence on my life, but nothing that drove to me to get to the depths of the small western European country.)
Once in the wine business, I found myself researching Port for the obvious reasons. Beyond that reason, I had a completely empty slate. So, it is with great gratitude that I mention Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines for sending Martin Page’s book to me, which has allowed me to expand my world view a bit more. Delfim is Portuguese, and we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008.
The title really tells it like it is, because of Portugal’s multicultural contributions to the world, much of it includes a food and wine lifestyle. According to Martin Page, the following are examples of Portuguese influences around the globe:
- Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
- The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
- Portuguese is the third most spoken language in Europe (English, Spanish, then Portuguese), even before French and German. It’s the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities on the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
- The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
- Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g., Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christoper Isherwood, W. H. Auden.
- When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.
Their foods and irrigation system for watering is still studied to day by northern European medical researchers for clues to what makes their heart-healthy such a study lot.
Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving. This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be farmed and successfully introduced.
In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.
On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.
- From Jonah to Julius Caesar (700 BC )
- Rome on the Atlantic (55 BC)
- Rise & Fall of Christianity (212 AD)
- Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe (712)
- The Christian Reconquest (1126)
- The Cistercian Peace
- Prince Henry the Misadventure
- King João and the Great Adventure
- Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
- Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
- India and Beyond
- The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
- The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
- Freedom Regained
- Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
- Playground of the great Powers
- The fall of the House of Braganca
- The Slide to Dictatorship
- World War II: Betrayal and hte Fight for Freedom
- Freedom at Dawn
“Why were there so many invaders?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple. The first invaders discovered that this is a country rich in minerals, most especially gold and silver. the lure of gold has always set men into a frenzy of need to own.
It all begins in the Bible with a story we’ve all heard. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the sinners that God was angry, he didn’t want to go, and bought a ticket – supposedly – beyond God’s reach. Soon after the ship sailed, a violent storm erupted, and the captain and crew threw Jonah overboard. He was swallowed by a whale, and then spit out onto land. It was Portugal where he landed. Jonah traveled on to Tarshish, which today survives as a name of a small town in Spain, which is only 3 miles and 1281.6 yards from the border of Portugal.
By 230 BC, Hamilcar (father) was exiled to Tarshish. He took his son Hannibal (who was eight years old at the time, and wanted to go with his father). This was a costly mistake, as Hannibal would avenge his father by crossing the Apennines Mountains, win a major battle, and march toward Rome…
And so, their history begins, changing the pastoral landscape of a quiet people, who have managed to remain peaceful through all time, regardless of whom was the next to invade their homeland. The Portuguese were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them during each invasion. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness was created whereby widows and orphans are cared for, social welfare for all was created and has been maintained, all duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are as independent and self sufficient as some parts of the United State might be. It is a daily way of life, however, in Portugal throughout the country, not just pockets of social consciousness that we might find in successful regions of rural America today. Imagine – for instance – if this were our complete and utter culture during Hurricane Katrina. One neighboring town would not have closed out its neighbor in need. Our country would not have wondered what to do for a week, all the wheels would have begun turning without regard for anything else.
There is a lot to be learned from The First Global Village. Martin Page moved to Portugal for a reason, and I can only image as his eyesight failed during his last years, this culture would have made his disability more manageable, with a tolerant people, great food, and excellent wine.
My life is enriched by this Portuguese culture, which I plan to continue studying through Delfim’s eye. The universe has delivered an amazingly adventurous opportunity to my life.