“This is what I live for: friendship and the things of the spirit.” Alberto de Lacerda often repeated this refrain to his friends. Friendship meant kinship, connection, and community. The things of the spirit were poetry, literature, art, dance—the myriad expressions of the spiritual and transcendent Alberto sought, and lived by, his whole life.
Such values perhaps couldn’t lead to anything but an intercontinental life.
When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the eighties, one in ten residents slipped into the deep of heroin addiction—bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners—and Portugal fell into a panic.
Dispatches will be taking a vacation during the month of August. In the meantime, please take a virtual vacation with some of our recent dispatches: Join Julia Lichtblau as she contemplates economics in sun-soaked Lisbon; Maura Candela as she stumbles upon her husband’s roots in Sicily; James Gill as he recalls a paradise lost in Canada’s Saskatchewan prairies, and Todd Pitock as he gazes up at the cold night sky in one of the hottest places on earth.
How can you tell a modern, Western country is in the midst of an existential economic crisis? Bread lines? People begging in suits? Garbage and vermin? Tumbleweed? Packs of feral youth and stray dogs?
I’m in gorgeous, light-drenched Lisbon for a two-week literary conference, staying at a residence in a drab suburb near the huge, green-and-yellow-tiled Campo Grande stadium. I ride the subways, walk up and down the hilly, chipped-stone streets, poke my nose in stores, people-watch in cafés. I try to see people’s expressions in their cars. Portugal’s economy is at its worst since 1945, its central bank says, and one of the worst-off countries in the euro zone. Yet people here go about business purposefully. They look calm, dignified, not conspicuously depressed. They dress nicely though not as expensively as Parisians or Romans.