Saturday, January 18, 2014

Portugal - Introduction

Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic (PortugueseRepública Portuguesa), is a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is located in South-Western Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula, and it is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. Aside from continental Portugal, the Portuguese Republic holds sovereignty over the Atlanticarchipelagos of Azores and Madeira, which are autonomous regions of Portugal. The country is named after its second largest city, Porto, whose Latin name was Portus Cale.
The land within the borders of the current Portuguese Republic has been continually fought over and settled since prehistoric times. After a period of Roman rule followed by Visigothic and Suebian domination, in the 8th century most of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish invaders. During the Catholic Church oriented Reconquista, Portugal established itself as an independent kingdom from Galicia in 1139. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded western influence and established the first global empire, becoming one of the world's major economic, political and military powers, and ultimately dividing the world with Spain.
The Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau to China in 1999 (de facto) or the granting of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002 (de jure). The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states, leaving a legacy of over 250 million Portuguese speakers today (making it the sixth most spoken first language) and a number of Portuguese-based creoles. Portugal's international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century, especially following the Independence of Brazil, its largest and most important colony ever. After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established, itself being superseded by the "Estado Novo" right-wing authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974. The revolution in 1974 also resulted in the independence of AngolaMozambiqueSão Tomé and PríncipeTimor-LesteCape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1975.
Portugal is considered a developed country with an advanced economy and high living standards, listed with the nineteenth-highest quality of life index rating in the world as of 2005. It's one of the world's most globalized and peaceful nations. It is a member of the United Nations,European UnionEurozoneOECDNATOWTOSchengen Area, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. On 31 May 2010, Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage on the national level. The law came into force on 5 June 2010.
According to the 2011 Census, 81.0% of the Portuguese population are Roman Catholic. The country has small Protestant, MormonMuslim,HinduSikhChristian OrthodoxJehovah's WitnessesBaha'iBuddhistJewish and Spiritist communities. Influences from African Traditional Religion and Chinese Traditional Religion are also felt among many people, particularly in fields related with Traditional Chinese Medicine and African Witch Doctors. Some 6.8% of the population declared themselves to be non-religious, and 8.3% didn't give any answer about their religion.
Portugal's name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale. Cale was the name of an early settlement located at the mouth of the Douro River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the north of what is now Portugal. Around 200 BC, the Romans took the Iberian Peninsula from the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War, and in the process conquered Cale and renamed it Portus Cale (Port of Cale). During the Middle Ages, the region around Portus Cale became known by the Suevi and Visigoths as Portucale.
The name Portucale evolved into Portugale during the 7th and 8th centuries, and by the 9th century, that term was used extensively to refer to the region between the rivers Douro and Minho, the Minho flowing along what would become the northern border between Portugal and Spain. By the 11th and 12th century, Portugale was already referred to as Portugal.