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Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tortfeasor Parking Only

I'm not sure what's happening in the illustration on this sign, but it sure looks like a tort.

Photo near Vista do Rei, São Miguel, Azores, by RJ Peltz-Steele, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. HT @ Chris Becker.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Rats reveal human history, sometimes set its course

RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
A rat extermination program is well signed on the islands of the Azores.

As a tort lawyer, I can be a little obsessed with signs, especially warnings. So I was struck by the abundance of these signs on the islands of the Azores, specifically São Miguel, Terceira, and Pico, where I spent some time this month. The signs warn not to remove bait traps loaded with lethal rodenticide and not to litter, such as might provide food for rats.

Being a key port in the European age of discovery, the Azores are inextricably bound up with the history of human exploration and expansion. A remarkably successful species, rats are a part of that history, because they go where we go. The Azorean bat is the only native land mammal of the Azores. But people long ago brought more, including hedgehogs, rabbits, cats, and the islands' iconic cows, all besides, of course, rats.

The Azorean bat is found in dry forests. In contrast,
I am found here in the much wetter Reserva Florestal
Natural Parcial do Biscoito da Ferraria, on Terceira.
(Photo © Emma Falk, licensed exclusively.)
Unfortunately, the rats are now spreading a potentially fatal pathogen, leptospira, which threatens people and animals in the Azores. So officials have set about efforts to reduce the rat population.

There's been an abundance of research sequencing rat DNA to study the history of human exploration. For example, Gabriel, Mathias, & Searle (2014) studied rats in the Azores specifically. There are books on the history that rats and people share: Anthony Barnett's The Story of Rats (2002) and the New York City-focused Rats (2005) by New Yorker contributor Robert Sullivan. As the latter book suggests, rat research also informs contemporary urban development. Canadian "rat detective" Kaylee Byers wrote a fun first-person narrative for The Conversation (2019) on the value of "23andme" for rats.

Rats have a fan club.

The signs in the Azores reminded me in particular of a superb episode of the Throughline podcast in the spring, "Of Rats and Men," which well summarized the subject.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Lisbon graffiti writer seeks internet access

I passed this graffiti in the Entrecampos area of Lisbon while attending the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association earlier this month (photo by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

The text struck me as a curious coupling of "free expression" to excess and an unrealized "right to receive," or right of access to information and the internet.

It looks like someone tried to obliterate the middle section of the text, but as best as I can read it, it says, in whole: "I am a local artist in need of internet connection without any restriction. If you have a network that works and you [are] up for sharing, please text me the [user?] name, password and your approximate address to 969 158 614. In exchange, you(r) might get a poem."

I might have been better persuaded if the writer had asked in rhyme.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Historian explores Grant statue's African odyssey

My photo from Bolama in 2020
RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Martin H. "Jay" Joyce, author and my colleague in the exploration of historical curiosities, has authored a new article about the origins and winding story of the statue of U.S. President Ulysses S Grant on the island of Bolama in Guinea-Bissau and its two appearances on Bissauan postage stamps.

I have written about the Grant doppleganger's odyssey previously, in March 2020, when I got some of the facts wrong, and in November 2020, when I corrected and updated the record. Now Joyce has dived deep. He teases his piece thus:

In the March-April 2020 issue of Topical Time, Mr. George Ruppel recounted the story of why Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) issued stamps in 1946 and again in 1970, featuring Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was honored for arbitrating a dispute between Portugal and Great Britain during his presidential administration in favor of Portugal. The crux of the dispute involved territorial rights over the island of Bolama, just off West Africa’s coast.... In the mid-twentieth century, Bolama frequently appeared in the philatelic press because of the Pan-American Airways Clipper airmail routes, which used Bolama as a stopping point before proceeding across the South Atlantic....

An internet search for statues of American presidents around the world rarely includes this statue. Why not? As former ABC News radio commentator Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story...."

The article is Ulysses S. Grant in Portuguese Guinea—the Rest of the Story, Topical Time, May-June 2022, at 60. Topical Time is the journal of the American Topical Association.

Joyce is a 1974 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He is the author of Postmarked West Point: A US Postal History of West Point and its Graduates, a winner of a Vermeil award at the 2021 Great American Stamp Show. His forthcoming work from La Posta Publications is The West Point Post Office: 1815-1981: Keeping It All in the Family—Nepotism, Paternalism and Political Patronage, ... and Dedication to the Corps.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

US President haunts African 'ghost capital'

Main traffic circle in Canchungo, Guinea-Bissau.
All photos RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0.

Throughout Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa, characteristic landmarks found in town centers, parks, and traffic circles are large, dilapidated blocks of painted concrete, often graffitied. These blocks are actually bases that have held statues of prominent leaders during the country's tumultuous history since independence was declared in 1973.

For Guinea-Bissau, it's been a journey as rocky and potholed as the nation's roads. Independence from Portugal was hard fought, with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China pouring in arms for the revolutionaries to the end of establishing a communist foothold in West Africa. Anti-revolutionary soldiers were mass murdered after their defeat. Subsequent instability and corruption led to civil war in the 1990s, and election turmoil and political violence marked the 20-aughts. The presidential election in 2019 was contested, and just this week, since inauguration of the ultimately recognized victor, there are reports of military intimidation of the courts. No wonder statues don't last long in poor Guinea-Bissau.

That makes one statue still standing all the more an oddity. In an overgrown park in the heart of the main town on Bolama Island, in the Bijagos Archipelago, at the center of low walls of crumbling concrete that once demarcated colorful stars, the likeness of 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant rises defiantly.

The Grant statue is a curious throwback to Portuguese colonial rule. Actually, all of Bolama Town is a throwback to colonialism. Once grand Portuguese constructions crumble in slow decay in what's sometimes called Guinea-Bissau's "ghost capital." European powers such as Portugal favored locating their colonial bases of operations on offshore islands, where winds kept malarial mosquitoes at bay. Today the ghost capital is inhabited, despite its state; thousands of people live in subsistence, and sometimes dependent, conditions amid the ruins.

In the 1860s, President Grant became the mutually agreed upon arbitrator between Portugal and Great Britain over territory in the islands. After Grant awarded Bolama to Portugal in 1870, the Portuguese erected the statue to honor him. Notwithstanding the resolution of that dispute, and despite British efforts to aid the Confederacy and topple the Union in the Civil War, Grant was ultimately credited with strengthening U.S. relations with Britain during his two terms as President in the Reconstruction era. Grant proved so popular abroad that he and his wife embarked on a world tour after his presidency, and, with the imprimatur of President Rutherford B. Hayes, Grant inaugurated the custom of former presidents conducting informal diplomacy abroad.

The tale of Grant's Bolama ghost gained an unusual epilog in 2007, when the statue went missing. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported the story for NPR. Apparently stolen to sell as scrap metal, Grant was recovered in pieces, and authorities ultimately restored him--not how things usually work out for statues in Guinea-Bissau.

Ruins of Portuguese palace in Bolama Town

Abandoned cinema in Bolama Town


A storefront in Bolama Town painted for politics

Kids swinging in a refurbished Bolama Town park