Following a week of successful concerts in Spain, it was now onto Portugal, but not before deliberating on whether or not we should instead visit the beautiful Barcelona region in the northern Spain. We decided to stick to our initial plan and to perform in Portugal. This may be our only opportunity for us ever visit Portugal and share the music of the Morgan State University choir with this country. We left for Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon and a much different look at the Iberian/Andalusian region and its history – a history that would be of particular interest to those in the HBCU community.
It was a six-hour drive to Lisbon, Portugal with a mid-way stop in Lagos on the southern coast of the country. Lagos’ main industry is tourism, attracting a number of European visitors with its beautiful beaches and restaurants. If we were to sail a ship directly east of Lagos, it was possible to end up in New York City.
For African-Americans, Lagos is significant due to it being the country that introduced the enslavement of Africans to Europe prompting the trade to follow. Historically, Lagos was the center of the Portuguese Renaissance due to acquiring great wealth associated with their slave trade. Sailors from Lagos were the first to reach the coast of Western Africa and bring back 244 enslaved Africans to Portugal. From there, the slave trade would grow into becoming a global phenomenon.
Due to time constraints, we were unable to visit the Portuguese slave museum, which shared the story of the first slaves in Europe via Lagos’ Mercado de Escravos (slave market). Lagos infamously boasted one of the largest slave markets in all of Europe. Before taking our leave, we all shared an awkward moment when our guide, not realizing the significance of the audience, asked us all to meet at the slave market after lunch.
After checking into our last hotel once in Lisbon, within an hour we were on our way to dinner and some limited sightseeing in the city. After spending a week together, our excellent guide Kike Mantecón was leaving us after handing us over to his counterpart, the Lisbon local guide, Teresa. Although the languages of Spanish and Portuguese are certainly similar, they are enough differences that warranted a guide change.
We would miss Kike, he was very knowledgeable and through his wonderful sense humor stayed engaged with us throughout the tour. We found out that along the trip that he was a big Michael Jackson fan and when it came to time to say goodbyes to the group, he did so by serenading us with Michael Jackson’s song, “I’ll Be There.”
We all appreciated his spirit and hoped that he would visit the campus of Morgan State University when he comes to the U.S. in August to see the 2017 complete lunar eclipse. Back at the hotel, he gave me a book as a parting gift. It was in Spanish of course and it told the story of his excursions to India, Nepal, and Tibet. Every time I look at the book I will think of Kike.
We have been traveling hard for ten days now and getting a little weary. Tomorrow we will see the main points in Lisbon, sing our only concert in Lisbon, and prepare for departure home.