(Editor’s Note: Lisbon’s communities from Portugal’s former colonies provide the strongest link to the country’s past, when it was the hub of a trading empire that connected Macau in the east to Rio de Janeiro in the west. Though integral elements of Lisbon life, these communities can sometimes be an invisible presence in their adopted land, pushed out to the periphery of the city.
With our “Postcolonial Lisbon” series, CB hopes to bring these communities back into the center, looking at their cuisine, history and cultural life. In this second installment of the series, we look at Lisbon’s Angolan community.)
Although Angolans are not known to emigrate en masse like their continental counterparts, they do form the second largest African diaspora community in Lisbon.
The seventh largest country in Africa, Angola has undergone considerable upheaval, which has contributed to this. Violent civil conflict began after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and continued – with a few interruptions – until 2002. Caused by a power struggle between two former liberation movements influenced by the larger cold war, this conflict has caused half a million deaths, significant displacement and severe damage to national infrastructure, stoking a steadily burning atmosphere of social instability and insecurity.
Until 1970, Angolan migrants in Lisbon were mainly students who came to learn in the empire’s “metropolis,” and many of them obtained dual nationality later. After the Carnation Revolution, together with the massive flow of Luso-Angolanos (Portuguese descendants who were born or were permanent residents in Angola, known also as retornados), the capital received an influx of immigrants that peaked in the 1990s.
Lisbon has around 12,500 registered Angolan residents, the majority between 40 and 64 years old. However, as is usual here, statistics don’t tell the whole story and excludes those naturalized as Portuguese, those with dual nationality and those without legal status.
Although the community is not homogeneous in terms of class and geographical distribution, the majority of Angolans and Angolan descendants is affected by territorial and social marginality. Despite the presence in Lisbon of a well-off cultural elite and an influx of wealthy investors from the former colony, the socio-economic conditions of Angolan families are in general poorer than the national average. Many of them live in the peripheral rings of the capital where social housing is concentrated, suffering inequalities in terms of economics, education, employment and social mobility, all of which are exacerbated by racial discrimination.