On April 25, 1974, the sun also rose. Little did Teresa know that day marked the absolute end of childhood. Thousands of miles away in Lisbon, the capital of a crumbling empire, the military had turned against the heads of state, and people had taken to the street en masse, handing out carnations to armed men who never fired a single shot. The ‘New State’ was no more.
News of the revolution reached Mozambique the following day. Teresa’s grandfather came home at noon under a cloud, and she couldn’t decipher the worry in his eyes. He explained the political regime in Portugal had been toppled, and Teresa’s typically self-possessed grandmother let slip a note of fear. “This is the beginning of the end,” she said.
Mozambique, Teresa’s native land, chafed under European rule. The Portuguese dictatorship wouldn’t consider Mozambicans’ right to self-rule and, by the time the April Revolution erupted, several countries in Portugal’s orbit had already endured years of strife and civil war. When independence came, it came hard and fast and bulldozed the lives of Mozambicans of all races. White Mozambicans, like Teresa and her family, had no place in the new designs for the future. Home became not-home.
The quiet outskirts of the city turned feral. Mobs broke into houses, murdered and raped and set families on fire. Fear made for itself a nest in Teresa’s house. At night, she and her brother and grandparents would lock themselves in their grandparents’ spacious bedroom where they clung to an illusion of safety. Hovering between panic and prayer, Teresa would listen for the slightest sound in the middle of the night.
Portugal did need many of the changes accelerated by the revolution of April 25 — freedom, democracy, gender equality, an end to isolationism, and so much more. No matter how hectic the first years of democratic existence were, and how tragedy touched so many in Africa, who lost everything they had and must flee for their lives, to a so-called “metropolis” where they bore rejection, scorn and contempt from their own countrymen… Change is inevitable.
The very word revolution touched a nerve for a great many years. Revolution meant terror. And loss. Leaving the sun behind. Your childhood home dwindling in the rearview mirror. Fearing they would tear apart your teddy bear at the airport looking for money in the lining.
It took Teresa a long time to look back dispassionately and understand that, without the freedoms ushered in by democracy, she wouldn’t have become the person she is today.
Did you know I have a book coming out soon? It reveals how Teresa made it through the dangerous post-revolution period, and how she coped with the grey new world she was forced to live in. A rainy, cold, colourless world of strict morals and stricter dressing codes, so unlike the carefree existence she enjoyed in Africa.
If you would like to learn more about Teresa, her family, her friends — their lives, loves and struggles, their fears and their many mistakes and failings, but also their attempts at redemption and resolution, keep watching this space. I will let you know when the book is out.
Edited by Jorge M Machado