Downtown Lisbon displays large black-and-white photographs of smiling soldiers with droopy mustaches, marching to what has been called “the world’s coolest coup.” It was Apr. 25, 1974 that the revolt turned into a popular uprising involving young people in bell-bottom pants and carrying flowers. In less than 24 hours, Europe’s longest-lived dictatorship collapsed.
“It was a coup like no other. The atmosphere was more like a party. None of us had ever heard of an army intervening to bring democracy. Surely, it’s normally the other way around,” recalled Swiss journalist Werner Herzog.
The almost bloodless “Carnation Revolution” is a source of pride for Portuguese, and the anniversary includes concerts, book launches and a series of tributes to the “Captains of April,” who led the coup against Portuguese dictator Antonio Oliveira Salazar’s ultra-conservative regime and its 36-year reign.
Among the changes in Portugal since 1974 is a rise in the rate of education. Under Salazar, only a fourth-grade education was compulsory and a quarter of citizens could read or write. Today, 95 percent have those capabilities, and universities enroll ten times more students than before the revolution.
Under Salazar, culture and art were suppressed, the press was censored, a secret police force clamped down on opposition, and women were not permitted to vote. Today, women enjoy equal rights and fill over 30 percent of seats in parliament.
“April 25” is also the most popular street name in Portugal, with 1,150 street and plazas named after the date.