26.1.05

A mulher ideal dos tempos fascistas


This is one of the statues that adorns the front of the National Library in Lisbon. This, apparently, was the Salazar regime's idea of what the perfect Portuguese woman should look like. Knowing a little about the Salazar regime's attitude towards women in general, I was initially confused about the signal this image was giving. Salazar, who was, apparently, a bit of a lady's man, never married, and from the minute he took control of Portugal's destiny in 1928 to the day he died in 1970, he shared a house with his housemaid - the indomitable Maria - he even went so far as to adopt her orphaned nephew and niece, raising them as his own. Inevitably there were rumours that Maria was more than just his maid. Following his stroke in 1968, the bedridden Salazar was protected by Maria, who decided who was allowed to visit and for how long. It is unclear if she too was kept in the dark about Salazar's status as ex-leader (the political elite were too afraid to tell him that he had been replaced, and apparently he died in 1970 believing he was still in charge). Another of Salazar's apparent conquests was the French journalist, Christine Garnier, who stayed with him at his official residence whilst writing a book about him (called Férias com Salazar - Holidays with Salazar). It is clear that Salazar did enjoy female company, although not enough to trust them with the vote. You see, under Salazarism, Portuguese women were supposed to marry young, stay at home, have babies, look after the children and their husbands and keep the house clean. Now, take another look at the statue, and see the exaggerated child-bearing hips. Now compare the fascist-era statue with the more recent one! I know which I prefer!

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