Written History – Academical History of Porto
This text was written by Patrick Pais himself and not by JS Braga, the author of the HistoryFromEveryone website.
I was solicited by the author of historyfromeveryone to create a text in order to share part of my academic life, which, according to his words is the “most fulfilled” that he knows. With those words the confrade José Maria Soares Braga* clearly showed his enormous ignorance. I propose myself to dedicate this task to the best part of my talents and commitment. The message I propose myself to share seemed obvious at the moment I received the invitation to write it, but I must admit I’m still choosing the episodes I will share as I’m writing the text.
Given the difficulty of choosing where to begin, I will start by sharing a tale on which I was not present. A very important tale for the people involved, that occurred on the most important period of my academic life. On an Astronomy’s praxis day1, Confrade Pedro Oscar Jorge Pedrosa was presiding the event.
Pedrosa was walking with the freshmen on Cidade Invicta – ‘Unbeable City’, the other name for what the city is known – while sharing tales and histories, historical data and rumours of the bohemian life. The trip ended at the gardens of Palácio de Cristal (CrystalPalace), a very appropriate place for the practice of story telling, one of Pedrosa’s best qualities.
Near the students of Astronomy, a group of disabled children was also promenading the same gardens. The leader of the student group, a brute and a joker but, in a similar quantity, also sensible to social causes, immediately, Confrade Pedrosa told the freshmen to sing one of the songs of their student’s group to the children. I heard this history from different people’s points of view, all of them with a shine in their eyes, but there was no single soul that was more affected by this event other than my Elsa Maria Pereira da Silva Moreira, my Sister by Affinity. She was a freshman at the time. She was a very rebellious newbie student who felt extremely emotional after singing to the little boys and girls, when they approached the group of students and decided to return the gesture, also singing a song of their own back to the students. From my point of view, the simplicity of this moment, together with the emotionality surrounding the event is probably one of the best reports of what is in fact the Academical Life of the City of Porto. At least, of what was and is my academical life.
Another tale I cannot ignore is the legend of the student who jumped from the D. Luís bridge, with the cape of his academical clothing open, and managed to glide to the shore of Ribeira do Porto (Porto’s riverside, literally translating, it’s one of the most important and oldest places in the city), performing the landing on some slimy stairs and slipping into the freezing water of Douro river. This legend of Porto’s Academical Life would have occurred during one of the most incredible and toughest Rally das Tascas de Astronomia2 (RTA) ever in the history of Porto’s academic institutions. In all fairness, these events are not usually competitions. Just a moment on which people get together, talk, have fun and, because of that, they have become the perfect way to create some of the most incredible histories that my academical life has ever witnessed.
This occurred in 2010. That year, RTA, usually organized during winter, had been postponed until May. And in gladly it was. The freezing waters of the DouroRiver could have caused much more damage for whoever wanted to take an accidental dive. Legend tells that the landing of flying student had some problems. The soles of the shoes were not ready for such an event on such wet, slimy stairs, being therefore, the reason of the dive. Non-believers state the supposed flying student was simply trying to lighten the weight of his belly in the margin of the river, falling in the process. To those people I can only say that I saw nobody urinating in the river. I can, however, testify that the given student did swim with a closed cape around him and a bottle of Port Wine in one pocket and a bottle of wistful Receita (alcoholic beverage composed by white wine, beer and sugar) from Casa Melo3 on the other.
It is difficult to distinguish a truth from a lie in an RTA night. Story tells that the student’s jump from the bridge existed only because of the creativity of Confrade Pedrosa. The story also tells that, at the given night, brown-colloerd-skin Confrade Francisco Luzolo Viti, transformed in a Caucasian man for brief minutes.
I, as a storyteller, have the obligation to leave room for interpretation when these tales are told. I can, however, guarantee that, on the given night, River Douro’s stream was quite calm at the surface but extremely strong at the depth of his feet.
* – The name José Maria Soares Braga is related to the author of this website. The full name of the historical characters should be used, in my opinion, in the chronicles of the Academic Life considering the possibility that in one hundred years from now, someone will use this text as a historical document. And Confrade is a Portuguese expression related to a brotherhood of some kind. A friend. A comrade, a colleague.
1 – Astronomy is one of the degrees of the Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, and it was the author’s first degree in his university life. Praxis, like it is mentioned on the Official History part of today’s post, can be described by the interaction between older and younger students. It can have both a negative and positive context. It depends on the personal point of view of who sees it and of who lives it.
2 – Rally of the Tascas is a competition on which one or several groups of people go to a tasca (cheap kind of restaurant/bar/coffehouse, very famous in Portugal), drink, and move to the next tasca. And Rally of Tascas de Astronomia is the given event when it’s organized by Astronomy students.
3 – Casa Melo was the most appreciated restaurant among Porto’s university students, now closed.