Posted on March 27, 2021

Confront Your Colonial Past, Council of Europe Tells Portugal

Victoria Waldersee and Catarina Demony, Reuters, March 24, 2021

Europe’s top human rights group said on Wednesday that Portugal must do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight racism and discrimination in the country today.

The comments by the Council of Europe come as debate in Portugal over how to remember its history heated up in recent months as the country prepares to unveil its first memorial to victims of slavery, in Lisbon.

The memorial – rows of sugar cane painted in black – was designed by Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda and funded by Lisbon council. It will stand in the centre of the city.

From the 15th to the 19th century, Portuguese vessels carried close to 6 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic, more than any other nation, but up to now Portugal has rarely commented on its past actions and little is taught about its role in slavery in schools.

Rather, Portugal’s colonial era, which saw countries including Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor as well as parts of India subjected to Portuguese rule, is often perceived as a source of pride.

“Further efforts are necessary for Portugal to come to terms with past human rights violations to tackle racist biases against people of African descent inherited from a colonial past and historical slave trade,” the Council of Europe said in its yearly report on Portugal {snip}