In the past days we have participated at a conference of the Università degli Studi of Turin on the linguistic and literary relations between Spain and Portugal. Organized by the Scuola di Dottorato in Lingue e Letterature Moderne and coordinated by professor Giancarlo Depretis, the papers of the conference were read by Jorge Urrutia, Francisco José Martín, Francisco Escobar, Orietta Abbati, Piero Ceccucci, Mª Caterina Ruta, Gianna Carla Marras, Veronica Orazi, Fernando J. B. Martinho, Elisabetta Paltrinieri and ourselves.

Regardless of the topic of the papers – but particularly when the word iberismo was mentioned – the discussion and dialogue gravitated around the characteristics defining both peoples, demonstrating again how difficult it is to escape from all those topoi accumulated and reinforced by history and used in a self-interested way by both sides. And the fact is that, basically, these topoi tend to have some verifiable origin.

A few weeks ago in Palma, at the XIII Festival Mundial de Danses Folklòriques I could visually experience an extreme contrast between two people. First the Nganzo Ngali group of Rwanda came on the stage in the Plaza Mayor: a burst of rhythms, extreme fun, roaring of drums, jumpings and round dances, loud laughing and a complex and generous joie de vivre. The public inevitably took over their rhythm and laughing. And right after them, almost without transition, the Rancho Folclórico da Casa do Povo Aveiras de Cima from Ribatejo, Portugal appeared on the scene. Melancholy fell over us like an endless cold rain, and after the roaring of the African drums the grieved sound of the accordion, dotted only by the gentle tapping of a drummer on a jar had the effect of a sudden eclipse of the sun. Surely this was an unfair impression, caused by the excessive contrast and offuscating the history of an entire people, not mentioning the fact that this group won the prestigious third prize of the contest. Nevertheless, after this experience who among the Catalan and Spanish public could deny the topos of the Portuguese who is melancholic, sad and pessimistic even when dancing and feasting?

Have a look at the photos, because they are worth a thousand words. They also display how different human beings can be, beyond the color or the particular place where they live. Even music is not missing: you can hear it from their gestures, faces and eyes.

Nganzo Ngali, Rwanda.

Ribatejo, Portugal

Commentary of Pei Di:

Palya Bea and the Folkestra: Portugál (of the album Mamikám, 2001)
Refrain: “…sweet sorrow / I’ll go there some day / how to explain it, it’s a Portuguese thing / they look at the sun / and their heart is aching / I’ll go there some day and will think of you…”

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