ISSN : 2266-6060

Saudade

Lisbonne, june 2009.

At the foot of the monument, flowers, a wreath and especially hundreds of plates are placed in some disorder, marble slabs engraved with golden letters, photos clamped. For an ordinary traveler like me, that’s for sure: it is either a funeral altar or a memorial site . But get close and read the inscriptions for some doubt to surface. Even the smallest knowledge of Portuguese is enough to recognize recurring words: « obrigado », « obrigada ». So, these are votive offerings, but who do they thank? Is it the dead for their accomplishments, the sacrifices that have saved those who survived? And then there is a name or its initials: SM, Dr. Sousa Martins, sometimes accompanied by the portrait of a man with a mustache. Who is this mysterious doctor and why give him homage?
Back at the hotel, wikipedia solves the mystery: it is a nineteenth century physician for the poor, and it is not his former patients who are responsible for such a tribute, but its devotees that have attributed miraculous healing to him well after his death.
No need to believe in the joined invisible forces of science and religion: the gathering of these plates is an evidence in itself of the temporary victory over entropy.