The magazines of my life

I have always loved reading books, but there are also some very relevant magazines in my life.

As a child, I remember reading comic magazines. My favourite were Tarzan stories, and I prided myself on my – almost complete – collection that I lent to no one except my brother, and that was because he lived with me and I could control what he did with my precious magazines that I read over and over again. I was also fascinated by Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon (the middle ages and sci-fi both fascinating me!).

On a less “cultural” note, I have to confess I also read what I now think were very low quality magazines, then called “photo novels”: romantic stories told as comics but with photos instead of drawings, something very popular in Portugal and Mozambique in the late sixties and early seventies. Most of them came from Brazil but one of the most famous had a Spanish origin as its name was Corin Tellado. The quality of their stories or of the photos was very dubious, but still we could not resist those photos of languid kisses between sweethearts, at an age when that was almost forbidden…in fact Granny would not let me read that “trash” as she called them, but at home I would sneak to our maid’s room and read them there (with her connivance, of course) and when Granny and Mom were at the hairdresser with their heads in the huge hairdryers (where they would spend a considerable amount of time drying their hair full of rollers), I would sit behind them and smugly read the “undesired magazines”. As soon as I saw their time at the hairdryer was over, I would hastily put the magazines back on the table and pick up the book I had brought along so as to conceal my real reading activities.

Soon I was over those magazines but I continued to be addicted to good comics. In addition to the ones already mentioned – of which I’m still a fan today – together with my brother we began collecting Tintin, a French comic magazine that was translated into Portuguese, and where we could read the best French comics, from Tintin’s adventures by Hergé to Bob Morane (one I particularly loved), Ric Hochet, Blueberry, and so on.

In my early teens during one of our trips to South Africa I read a women’s magazine called Fair Lady for the first time and I really liked it. As it was good to practise my English – back then we only started learning English at 12 – Granddad decided to subscribe it and I received it at home in Lisbon. Not only was it good for my English, but it also kept me updated with what was happening in South Africa, and in addition I read many interesting articles about subjects such as gender equality, women and career, etc.

As I also read French (by then French was the first foreign language we learnt at school) I also started buying French Marie Claire. This was an incredibly good magazine that helped my formation as a young woman, as it published very good articles about topics relevant to women and some were written by well known feminists. I absorbed those ideas and learned a lot about women’s fight for equality. From that time on I considered myself a feminist, but in the way that I pursued equality of rights and opportunities. In Marie Claire I also learned about very interesting books, such as the one by Elisabeth Badinter about the myth of mother love that I wrote about in a recent post.

And then one day, when I was twenty, I came across what I could say has become my favourite magazine. Not that it substitutes others, as I say, more “serious” magazines, but because, as it comes out every week, this means I have been reading it every week of my life for more than thirty years! It is HOLA magazine and it is in Spanish. I have never learned Spanish in my whole life but as a child I had some Spanish friends that occasionally came over to Mozambique. They were the children of one of Granddad’s associates and lived in Madrid, and I communicated with them in what we Portuguese call “Portunhol” (Portuguese spoken with a Spanish accent that allows the Spanish to understand us much better than when we speak with our accent – in fact our two languages have many similarities) so I already had some notions and was able to read the magazine. HOLA is a typical “pink press” magazine – or maybe not typical, rather unique, as its quality is much higher than that of any other magazine of that kind I’ve ever come across. Not only are the photos and the paper of high quality but it is also very respectful towards the people they interview or write about, and they don’t really “gossip”, they communicate in a very serious and professional way that I really like. And of course, I find Spanish “famous persons” very glamorous –much more so than Portuguese – and I love seeing the dresses of the ladies – how often have I been inspired in them for some of my outfits, not that I buy the same brands that are featured in the magazine but one can always get some ideas…I usually say that I read HOLA to relax and look at beautiful people, beautiful places, beautiful houses…it does me the world of good. Incredibly, HOLA also became my “Spanish teacher”. Inadvertently, it has taught me Spanish. One day, a few years after reading it, I realised that not only could I speak Spanish (and not “Portunhol”) but I could write it as well! And from that moment on I began reading Spanish books – and I just love it! There are some incredible Spanish authors who are not translated and in the case of those who are, it’s infinitely more interesting to read them in the original version, as was the case of Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Cinco esquinas” that I have also written about in a recent post.

All my friends joke with me about HOLA. My Spanish friend Rosario, knowing of my addiction, once invited a friend of hers called Andrés, by then a photographer of the “pink press”, to come to dinner with us in Madrid. We got together at a Spanish typical restaurant and with us were two Portuguese colleagues of mine. Suffice it to say that when Andrés arrived the two of us began talking about HOLA and completely forgot about all the others! After a certain time he was amazed at what I knew – names, stories, events – and he blurted out: “Teresa, the things you know…if one day you need a job come to HOLA, they will employ you!”. I told him I was happy with my job but sometimes I think this might well have been an alternative career.

Even on my wedding day HOLA was with me. By then it came out on Saturdays – unlike today when it comes out on Thursdays. On my way to the hairdresser I bought it and read it there, but could not read it all and left in my car to take it to the honeymoon. As was usual then, our friends managed to get hold of the car keys and, in addition to “painting” the most obscene sentences and drawings with shaving foam on my poor car, they took out HOLA and my friend Beli was in charge of making some naughty comments and drawings there. As I discovered it on the plane to Croatia I was so ashamed people would see the very explicit drawings that I decided to read it later, but I couldn’t help laughing at my friends comments!

I have stopped reading some of these magazines that have been so important in my life: I no longer read Fair Lady – Granddad stopped subscribing it when I left home – but a few years ago when Nuno’s elder son went to South Africa I asked him to bring me a copy. I enjoyed reading it but it was not the same feeling – maybe the magazine has changed or more likely I’m the one who’s changed. Sometimes I still buy French Marie Claire, Vanity Fair or Vogue, but my favourite magazine of that sort is currently yet another Spanish magazine called TELVA. It’s amazingly good, combining very good articles and interviews and also high quality fashion productions. I really love it and buy it every month.

Of course I still love reading HOLA and I “religiously” buy it every Thursday morning and spend a few minutes at the cafe below our office taking a glimpse of the most relevant news. I can also see it online, of course, but nothing compares to the pleasure of going through its pages, the good old fashioned way. To me it has been a real life companion, always with me in good and bad moments, during University times, then on my wedding day, at hospital with me when my babies were born, during work time and holidays…I see it as a long-time friend that distracts me, keeps me company and gives me great ideas about fashion. It has taught me Spanish, a language that I love speaking and reading. It has taught me so many things about Spanish life, history…it’s amazing what I have learned in those pages. Today HOLA is published all over the world and in several languages (in the UK it’s called HELLO), but I’m really addicted to the Spanish edition.

These are the magazines of my life. They have all given me information and knowledge, and have helped shape the way I see the world. I have learned many things from them and I have spent many enjoyable moments going through their pages. I have practised my languages and even learned a new one. Reading them has been great fun and I’m very thankful for all they have given me. Let’s not forget that behind these magazines are great teams of people whose purpose is to bring us exactly that, a mix of information, culture and pleasure, and in my case they have done it exceedingly well. To all the teams of HOLA, Fair Lady, Marie Claire, TELVA; and even the long ago teams of those corny “photo novels”, my deepest thanks. You have all contributed to bringing flavour into my life. Please keep on doing your amazing work. My life without you would have been much less interesting – of that I’m certain.