Lisbon, City of Tolerance

Lisbon is promoting itself as the City of Tolerance. Of course it was the first European capital to get African slaves and its central square the site of the murder of thousands of Jews during the Inquisition, but it’s also been a welcoming haven for all cultures and ethnicities in more recent times. Africans and other ethnic minorities gather in São Domingos Square (directly behind the central Rossio), and that’s exactly where a monument reminding of the horrors of the Inquisition has been placed together with a mural with the phrase “Lisbon, City of Tolerance” in several languages. The explanation for why Africans chose to make that their meeting point is that the church on the site once had a black priest and has therefore always attracted the communities from Portugal’s former African colonies.

Lisbon’s claim as a tolerant city does have its foundation. It has always been a safe place for refugees (especially during WWII), and it did abolish slavery before the rest of Europe. Since the late 1970s it has also received large numbers of immigrants, mostly from Africa, and more recently from Brazil and Eastern Europe. In the Mouraria neighborhood, and especially around Martim Moniz Square are a number of ethnic shops, including a shopping center where you can find products from India to China.
There is some “segregation” of these ethnic groups to their own neighborhoods and an increased sense of social tensions around Lisbon’s suburbs, but the Portuguese capital does remain a much more peaceful and tolerant city than other European capitals and it hopes to stay that way.
The memorial you see on the photo below was placed 500 years after the Inquisition and says “In memory of the thousands of Jews victims of intolerance and religious fanaticism, murdered in the massacre started on this square on the 19th of April 1506.”

Lisbon, City of Tolerance

Lisbon, City of Tolerance

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