People were not free to express their opinions; women were not free to vote or to travel without their husbands' permission; children were forced to sing the national anthem before starting classes; everything that came out in the press, radio, television, shows was reviewed and oppressed; and even a simple American soft drink was not known of in Portugal until 1977, as it was not allowed during the dictatorship.

In the early hours of April 25th, a group of military ex-combatants from the colonial wars united and formed the MFA (Armed Forces Movement). They occupied the studios of Rádio Clube Português and made a statement to the population.

At that time radio was the most transversal means of communication, so making the announcement here allowed it to reach as many people as possible. They announced to the whole population that they were going to fight for the country to be a democracy again, and for freedom to return.

After that announcement, "Grândola Vila Morena" (José Afonso's song) was played, and a military column left Santarem for Lisbon. As soon as the communiqué came out, the population started gathering in the centre of the capital, thus allying themselves with the military, and what was meant to be a coup d'état quickly turned into a revolution.

It was a peaceful revolution, without the military having to use force, and there were no deaths or violence. The people, happy with their passivity, offered carnations to the military and they put them in the barrels of their guns. This was a revolution that, instead of seeing bullets and riots, saw flowers everywhere, which was a symbol of the rebirth of the people’s freedom.

In a country that was ruled by a dictatorship, it was not only women who were oppressed; the workers had few rights, the bosses were sovereign, and the laws only defended those in power.

This discontent on the part of workers began just before the Carnation Revolution. Since military service was compulsory for all men over 18, and the country was fighting the Colonial War, many men decided to emigrate in order to escape the war.

This caused a shortage of manpower in the factories, which was a problem for those who stayed because the work was divided among fewer people, thus forcing them to work much longer hours. With the increase in inflation, prices skyrocketed and the quality of life of the Portuguese fell significantly since salaries remained the same and prices were much higher.

These were effectively the two major factors for the great discontent of the working class in Portugal. They demanded an increase in wages and a reduction in working hours, but as we know, we lived in a dictatorship and strikes and demonstrations were forbidden.

Just as in Portugal, the whole world was fighting for workers' rights. On 1st May 1886, the streets of Chicago hosted the first workers' demonstration, gathering 500 thousand workers in the United States. In France, a demonstration was held in honour of the struggle endured by workers the previous year. These were two historic acts that turned May 1st into Labour Day. Until 1886, workers did not think about demanding their rights, they just worked and obeyed.

With the reconquest of freedom in Portugal, after April 25th, 1974, the political leaders of the opposition returned from exile to their country. A week after, for the first time, May 1st was celebrated as a bank holiday.

For me, these two dates are of such importance. Thanks to these events, I have the privilege of freedom, the power of decision, the power to have an opinion, to speak and think for myself.

I make a point of using these two days for reflection, to analyse how lucky we are to live in a free country, and although there are many things we must improve, we now live in a society in which everyone can think for themselves, we can choose who governs our country, and we can give our opinion on societal issues and government decisions.

It is important the newer generations never forget what their ancestors did for them, how hard they fought, how courageous they were in giving "their bodies to the bullets" for a people.

In the midst of all the difficulty, there were still some "good" things during these times. There was more education and a different kind of respect for others. We now hold in our hands and our hearts the ability and wisdom to combine freedom with responsibility, to look back and forward and to trace a new path, where we can bring together the best of both worlds.

by Claudia Ferreira - Casaiberia Mediação Imobiliária, Lda


Cláudia Ferreira, who holds a degree in Communication Sciences from Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, is currently serving as the assistant director and commercial representative at Casaiberia.

Claudia Ferreira