Portugal Information - Page 2
Portugal contains some traces of its prehistoric inhabitants, with megalithic monuments and stone carvings. Migrating Celts settled in Portugal. They were followed by Phoenicians and Carthaginian traders.
The Romans conquered the region after defeating the Cartharginians, and Portugal along with parts of Spain became the provinces of Lusitania and Gallaecia.
Like Spain, Portugal was ruled by Visigoth kings until the Moorish conquest. In the years from 1100 the reconquest from the Moors and the struggle against Spain eventually led to Portugal's identity as an independent country.
In the fifteenth century, under Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal was among the first of the European nations to set out on great voyages of discovery. Portugal had already began its expansion occuping the Moroccan port of Ceuta and other Moroccan coastal towns when the island of Madeira was claimed for Portugal in 1419. The Azores and the Cape Verde Islands were added to the Portuguese Empire by 1457.
Bartolomeo Diaz reached the tip of Africa in 1487, naming it the Cape of Good Hope. India and Brazil were reached by 1500. Magellan, a Portuguese explorer funded by Spain led the first expedition to sail round the world.
Later the Portuguese established a trading post in Macao and a settlement in Timor. Portugal's empire made it the richest country in Europe in the sixteenth century.
A defeat in Morocco, in which the Portuguese king was killed, led to Spanish rule over Portugal. During this period, and in the centuries that followed, Portugal gradually lost the overseas possessions. The Napoleonic Wars caused further problems for the country.
In 1910, two years after the assassination of his father and elder brother, Portugal's last king was forced to abdicate. Over the next fifteen years there were forty-four separate governments. In 1928 Antonio de Salazar became finance minister in General Carmona's government; from then until his retirement in 1968 Salazar ruled Portugal as a dictator. In 1974 a coup d'etat by the Armed Forces Movement (called the Carnation Revolution) overthrew the dictatorship. The former colonies of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe in Africa, and East Timor in Southeast Asia, became independent from Portugal within a year or so of the coup.
Portugal became a full member of the European Community in 1986. On 1st January 1999 Portugal was one of the eleven countries to join the Eurozone currency union.
Portugal achieved considerable economic growth in the years following membership of the European Community, although its industry was comparatively underdeveloped. Nowadays, the services sector provides the highest percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Significant exports include clothing, shoes, leather, chemicals, paper products and machinery. Portugal is a leading supplier of cork.
Mining, particularly of tungsten, uranium and iron ore is an important industry.
Port, madeira and other wines are major export products. Most other agricultural produce - olives, tomatoes, potatoes and grain - is grown for home consumption. Fish, especially sardines, are provided by the fishing industry.
Tourism is a major earner of foreign currency. Most visitors are attracted to the Algarve or to Lisbon. Foreign currency is also sent home by the Portuguese working abroad.
On 1st January 1999 Portugal was one of the first eleven counties to adopt the euro - the new unified European currency. (2008)
Portugal is known for its decorative glazed tiles - azulejos, embroidery, Arraiolos carpets and tapestries.
Fado is the traditional music of Portugal. The fado guitar may be descended from the Arab lute. Fado music, which is sad and melancholic, is said to have its roots in African slave music.
Football is Portugal's national sport. Popular teams include Benfica and Sporting Lisbon from Lisbon, and FC Porto from Oporto/Porto.
Bullfighting is also popular but unlike the Spanish version, the Portuguese bullfight does not involve killing of bulls by matadors. The fight finishes with a team of eight attempting to wrestle the bull to the ground.
Fishing, sailing and other water-sports are all popular.
Portugal celebrates all the main Catholic festivals. Particular national holidays are 1st December which celebrates independence from Spain, 25th April, celebrating the revolution of 1974 and 5th October which is Republic Day.
News from Portugal is available in Newslink.
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