Feb 16, 2012

The Portuguese Stereotype

Basically, this is a post where I intend to reunite things I find where Portuguese people are portrayed through foreign eyes.

1. Tintin - Mr. Oliveira da Figueira

The Tintin comic books have a huge international profile, and inside them, you can find portrayed: Mr. Oliveira da Figueira .

For a start, the name basically means Mr. OliveTree of the FigTree, and although both are common last names in Portugal, it seems that the author wasn't randomly picking names. So, Mr. FruitTree, I mean, Mr. Oliveira has a few appearances throughout the series, and I'll try to iconize them in a few images. They are in Portuguese, but I'll translate for your personal entertainment.

Here, in Mr. Oliveira first appearance: Tintin, aboard a ship is introduced by the captain to a fellow passenger, a certain sir from Lisbon, Portugal.

Without any conversation, the Portuguese immediately jumps into the occasion by presenting Tintin with several opportunity items, like ties.

A beautiful tie that matches Tintin skin color, he says. Genuine swords from Toledo, Spain, and as a gift he'll throw in a watch and a toothbrush. After a while Tintin goes away congratulating himself for not buying anything useless. He says "you always buy a lot of useless stuff from people like that". He's still loaded with junk, just doesn't realize it.

Mr. Oliveira sets shop in the middle of the desert. Tintin thinks it wont be successful, but Mr Oliveira set up in  high ground and brought a megaphone system. Immediately a lot of people come to buy things, mostly things that they don't need.

He explains to Tintin, that the operation was a success, and even better, that his clients will be back.

One of them comes back complaining about the horrible food, soap bar, that was sold to him, pledging revenge.
On another story, Tintin travels again to Mesopotamian parts, and sees Mr. Oliveira in a local market.

He recognizes Mr. Oliveira salesman skills: "Twisted man, always the same, he sold him a pair of roller skates".

Selling roller skates in a sand covered town, is of course his trademark move.

He recognizes Tintin, and immediately asks him to join him in a glass of Portuguese wine to celebrate their reunion.

Here, Mr. Olveira entertains a group of man with a very sad story, about the disgraces of a certain family. Of course the story is completely fabricated on the spot, but is nonetheless enough to make the men burst into tears.
Conclusion: In this stereotype, Portuguese are gifted merchants and men of the world, that without any evil intent push events towards their favor. No one needs a pair of roller skates in a desert town and no one sets up store in the desert. Yet he makes these happen. Mr Oliveira is also very very theatrical in his poses and speech. but even through all the personality twists, you can easily see that he's an alright guy. I would say it's actually quite representative of last century's middle class Portuguese persona. Maybe less today, but still very well done.

2. Asterix - Lusitanus

Another famous comic. In one of the more recent volumes, it portrays a Lusitanus roman slave: a member of the Lusitani tribe that lived in the western part of the Iberian peninsula. Whether questionable if  Lusitani and Portuguese are synonyms, make no mistake about the authors intentions, this guy is supposed to depict a guy from Portugal.

Each of the free slaves states their intended destination. The Portuguese guy is the short guy.

Their leader asks them to take turns speaking.

The Spanish guy suggests Spain, and immediately the Portuguese suggests them to go to Portugal.

All this guy does is this. And from it  you can read quite a bit.

Conclusion: Portuguese are short, dark haired, and have a shared sibling-like rivalry with Spanish people. Again, not a false stereotype. Not entirely accurate, but good.

(If you have any characters to add, send them to me through this blog)