Maria Candid Pacheco Cadavez: "The Case of Portuguese Tourism During Estado Novo" (excerpt)
"The meaning of culture and tourism for Estado Novo
As a writer, poet and journalist, Antonio Ferro was a so-called ‘man of culture’ and expounded much about the concept while in charge of the SPN and the SNI (Board for Information, Popular Culture and Tourism) after 1944. The notion of culture was very much elaborated upon by a regime that considered ‘popular culture’ as the display of the most authentic and genuine essence of the nation. Non-urban culture was then highlighted and promoted by the regime as a signifier of the pure ancestry of the Portuguese nation. In fact, tourism narratives and representations would emphasise this to the point where even in cities there was a strange need to build semi-detached houses with small front gardens that would somehow reproduce the rural atmosphere of the real nation. History, particular events related to the birth of Portugal, the discoveries and independence from Spain, were also favourite subjects frequently put forward as evidence of the national essence.
Tourism was of particular interest to the Salazar regime. The National Union, the only authorised political party at the time, held its first major meeting in 1934 with the revalidation of the Estado Novo ideology as a major topic on its agenda, specifically through the national and public acknowledgement of its leader. Nevertheless, one cannot help but notice how tourism in Portugal encroached into the debates.
The guidelines making up the different tourism narratives scripted by António Ferro deployed the interests that tourists have in cultural and national experiences deemed representative of the essence of a destination. The difference between a destination for national and another for foreigners is evidence that tourism was a preferential tool for teaching cultural (or should we say political?) lessons. The first group would learn never to forget their humbleness and rurality while simultaneously serving to populate the stage that foreigners would observe from a distance. As for the latter group, we believe that by allowing and welcoming them, the Portuguese Estado Novo was proving its neutrality to the world while at the same time hiring conveyors for its propaganda."