At the beginning of every September a music festival called Festa do Avante! (http://www.festadoavante.pcp.pt/2012/), is held in Lisbon Portugal, created and run by the Portuguese Communist Party.
Many people ask me why I like this festival so much, why am I always talking about it weeks before it happens, wishing that the day comes quickly. To those people I ask if they have ever been there, and the answer is always “No, never”.
Ok, so forget, if you prefer, the communist ideals that are defended by the majority of the people who organise the festival. Forget, if that makes a difference for you, that this festival is organised by members of any political party. The festival is not that! The festival is the possibility for those three days being able to get away from everything that exists outside and even if it’s just for a few moments, feel our hope renewed.
(In case you are wondering: no, I do not belong to any political party and I’m not here to defend communists… I’m here to write about the festival).
I decided to write about it this year, after giving it some thought and reflection, because I noticed something that for me is very important. This was the third consecutive year I went to that festival and I could perceive something very interesting. People there seemed happier than previous years. And when the song A Carvalhesa echoed everywhere through the speakers, this feelings of lightness, happiness, would prevail even more. There’s this link on YouTube where you can listen to the music and see people dancing: Carvalhesa Avante 2012 final comicio. (The video isn’t mine, but from all the videos I’ve seen, I think this is the best one).
What I like about A Carvalhesa is that when the music starts, you see people running down the hills to join the crowd at the main stage. Even those who you don’t see jumping, they seem happy, they tap their feet and bob their heads. I feel power in that song. And this year, I felt it even more. The difference in the people that were there and the people we meet outside was brutal. Especially when we were listening to A Carvalhesa. It seemed to me that in those mere minutes people could completely forget about the problems, the crisis, the daily fights that sometimes make us feel we have failed. They seemed to feel renewed hope and strength, a will to go on fighting. When I was watching people I felt they were lighter. And no, it wasn’t just because they weren’t at work. The difference comparing to other years was big: we could noticed this feelings much, much more.
To me, Avante! gave me the feeling of lightness, and, at the same time, I reunited more energy, and I think that those who were there too (at least a large amount of the people there) felt exactly the same. It made me wonder: life is much more difficult outside, so the difference inside the festival, the lightness, the joy, we can feel it and see it on other people more than we could the years before. And doesn’t it feel good to step away from what makes us “feel bad” once in a while?! It helps us to look at things differently, gives us more strength to face life.
All the work, from building up the tents and stages, to selling drinks and food, and even working in the health centre, is done by volunteers. None of the workers earn anything. No, I lie: they have the opportunity of working together with other people who also enjoy being there; they have the possibility to make a contribution to three days of sharing, fun, culture and experiences.
People can criticise the festival. But there are some people from other political parties who go there for the spirit, for the good moments; for the sharing. Miguel Esteves Cardoso, a Portuguese writer that has nothing to do with the Communist Party, wrote an article about it after the second year he attended the festival. Trying to make a faithful translation of what he wrote, he said somewhere in his article: “Thus it reaches another convenient bias. We would like to think that the party (Festa do Avante!) of PCP was partisan, sectarian andforeign ideologically. Actually it could not be more Portuguese and healthily nationalist” (in“SÁBADO”, 13 de Setembro de 2007).
Avante!, to those who go there, becomes, without even noticing it, a tradition, and the end of the summer makes no sense without this festival. Yes, I love going to this festival. Because Avante! are three unique days…unique in everything!
“Resistance is already winning. A Festa do Avante is a victory annually renewed and expanded of this resistance… Truth be said, it’s not without difficulty that I resist anymore. When one undresses a bias, what does one dress instead? All I have left is the independence of spirit to express the unique intelligent reaction to another Festa do Avante!: congratulate those who ran it and many others who’ve been there. I mean, in the unlikely case of these not being the very same people” Miguel Esteves Cardoso, in “SÁBADO”, 13 de Setembro de 2007.