Portugal Bans Bare Feet

OK, this is an old story. But it is also an interesting example of the exercise of governmental power.

Here’s a story from 1928, in which Portugal attempted to ban the bare feet of its citizenry.

Portugal to Try to Enforce Barefoot Law

Lisbon.—The Portugese republic, which has been in existence since 1910, faces a serious test in the enforcement of a new law effective soon. This statute not only threatens the democratic equality of the citizens, but disregards national traditions and customs to such an extent that another revolution may easily be provoked, in the opinion of astute political observers.

Everybody must wear shoes, according to the latest republican legislative innovation.

Anybody who has ever visited Lisbon has noticed the particularly large number of picturesque fishmongers, both mail and female, who parade the streets barefoot, carrying baskets on the heads laden with their wares.

The fish venders, moreover, are not the only citizens who, by the custom of centuries, walk through the city’s streets barefooted. There are so many others that it is generally acknowledged that enforcement of the new law will be a grave problem for the republican government.

Here’s an example of the Portuguese bare feet and head baskets, from the November 1927 issue of The National Geographic (captions from the magazine).

Portuguese Hotel Porter

Girls serve as hotel porters in towns of north Portugal. Balancing heavy bundles of baggage on their heads, they trot up hills and climb stairs without even touching their hand to their burdens. This young girl is from the Villa do Conde.

And why, you ask, would Portugal decide that bare feet must be banned?

That is explained in a 1930 story. I don’t know if the 1928 attempt ended in failure, or if it just took that long to try to put the ban into effect. But here’s thes story:

Must Clothe “Dogs”

Lisbon—Peasants of Portugal must say good-bye to barefoot days. The government has just issued a decree saying: “Everybody must wear shoes because the sight of an unshod foot and leg is repulsive to many foreigners, is unhealthy and unesthetic. It furthermore suggested backwardness in the country.”

That’s right, bare feet were banned because foreigners might not like them (hey, what about regional charm?), and because it suggested that the country might be backwards. (Also note that feet were referred to as “dogs” nearly 80 years ago.)

A Small Shop

This small shop near Alcobaça, like others in Portugal, has no windows. Light and air come only through the door. This is an oriental idea of architecture which is a relic of Moslem times.

That doesn’t look backwards to me. In fact, these days I think bare feet should be seen as an indication of the progressiveness of a country. It is a clean, healthy sign that a place knows sanitation and how to deal with its trash.

By the way, I don’t know what happened to the ban. Despite the first article calling Portugal a republic in 1928, the 1926 coup d-état put them under military rule. This transitioned into right-wing dictatorship in 1933. Who knows what laws survived the transition?

Fonte: Portugal Bans Bare Feet | Ahcuah

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