27.9.04

Fora da janela


I read a funny and true story today, and this photo just reminded me of it (because Alcântara looks as if it hasn't changed much in the past 90 years). Way back in April 1918, Portugal was a country at war, fighting alongside the Allies in Flanders. One direct result of this was food rationing at home. Three army sergeants went to the fruit market that then existed on Praça da Figueira, and bought 45 kilos of potatoes. When they got back to their barracks at the Castelo de São Jorge, they realised that they were 1.5 kilos short, so they went back to the market and complained to the stallholder who claimed they were lying. The soldiers called on two market inspectors who informed everyone that while they had been cheated, the law quite clearly stated that no-one was allowed to purchase more than 5 kilos of potatoes per day, and that the sergeants would have to return the excess, and the trader would have to refund them. This pleased no-one. The soldiers called the police, who took their side, and arrested both of the market inspectors. A short time later, a third market inspector was sent to straighten everything out. He presented his identity card to the police, who confiscated it and locked him up with his two colleagues. Lisbon's Depute Chief Food Distribution Inspector, Ruy Vecchi Celestino, promptly made his way to the police station, where he was "verbally abused, kicked and pushed to the ground" by the two police officers. A phone call from the Minister for Food Distribution, Admiral Machado Santos, was required to get the inspectors and their bosses out of prison. The two police officers, Constable 897 and Corporal 100, who were undoubtedly poorly educated and illiterate country folk (as most Portuguese police officers of the time were), were apparently the subject of a strongly worded complaint from the Ministry of Food Distribution to the Police Commander. It is not known what happened to them [Diário de Notícias, 4 April 1918]. Who says history is always boring!

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