8 curious facts about Portuguese speaking regions

From influencing the Japanese culinary to the first Jewish settlers in New York

By Google Arts & Culture

Monastery of Saint Mary of Alcobaça (12th-18th centuries)Alcobaça Monastery

The Portuguese speaking world forms a global network of cultural traditions, histories, gastronomy, and arts. Lusophone countries and cultures have many obvious links and influences, and some that may surprise you.

Scroll on to find out more.

Important Cultural Property Namban Screens (Momoyama period (early 17th century)) by Attributed to Kano SanrakuSuntory Museum of Art

1) Several Japanese words come from Portuguese

The presence of the Portuguese in Japan meant the two languages intertwined, resulting in many shared words. Bread, for example, is pan in Japanese and pão in Portuguese. The same for Saturday: sabato in Japan and sábado in the Portugal.

Chicken Tempura (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

2) The Japanese dish tempura also is Portuguese-influenced

Portuguese explorers of the 16th century visited Japan several times and introduced the fritter-cooking technique, generating what we know as "tempura". Actually, the name originates from Latin phrase quatuor anni tempora, which means "the four seasons of the year".

Stone Street Historic District Stone Street Historic DistrictNYC Landmarks50 Alliance

3) The first Jewish immigrants in New York came from Brazil

It may sound far-fetched, but it's true. Recife, in Brazil, was a Dutch occupation with a large Jewish population. When Portugal reconquered it, a group of a little more than 20 migrated in September 1654 to what was called at the time New Amsterdam, later becoming New York. 

Samba Scholl wing (1970 decade) by David Drew Zingg Instituto Moreira Salles

4) Angola's traditional music is the semba

That is right, with an "e". It is believed that the famous Brazilian rhythm samba is derived from the Angolan traditional music. Its name came from the word massemba, which means "a touch of the bellies". Semba is also responsible for influencing several other African rhythms, such as kizomba and kuduro.

Fort Real de Sao Filipe in Cidade Velha by CyArkCyArk

5) Cape Verde was the first European colony in the tropics

The city Cidade Velha, where the first Portuguese ships arrived, is considered nowadays an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World. It is possible to find intact the first constructions, such as two churches, a royal fortress and Pillory Square with its ornate 16th century marble pillar.

Declaration Of Timor Timur (1973) by Indonesia Fine Art Academy in YogyakartaMonumen Nasional‎

6) Timor-Leste is a tautological toponym

A tautological toponym is when a place name has two differently sounding parts that are synonymous. "Timor" is derived from the word timur, which means "east" in Malay. The same meaning can be found in the Portuguese word "Leste". In this way, Timor-Leste really means "East East".

LIFE Photo Collection

7) Equatorial Guinea is not on the Equator

Despite the name, the Portuguese speaking country is 114.10 miles (or 183.63 km) North of the Equator. There are two other countries with Guinea in their names: Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Brasilia, Brazil (2010-04-16) by NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science TeamNASA

8) Brazil's capital looks like a plane from above

Brasília, Brazil's federal capital, is an urban plan by Lúcio Costa, who won the 1957 contest to design the future capital of the country.  The plan was adapted to the landscape's geological features, and the airplane design might be an homage to Costa's famous teacher, Bauhaus superstar Le Corbusier. 

Cathedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or Cathedral of Brasilia, under construction, Brasília, DF. Brazil (circa 1960) by Gautherot, Marcel Instituto Moreira Salles

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