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In Portugal, cod fishing is rooted in the national identity and it is an essential part of the national cultural heritage and the Portuguese collective memory. In particular between 1933 and 1974, the dictatorial regime of Estado Novo, with António de Oliveira Salazar’s reign, fueled the myth of cod as “pao do mar (bread of the sea)”. The epic created around cod fishers and cod fishing was celebrated in the literature of the time. The key titles of the literature of the time are “The Great Workers of the Sea”, by Jorge Simões, published in 1942, “The Quest of the Schooner Argus”, by Alan Villiers, in 1951, to “The Schooner” and the “In the Seas of the End of the World”, by Bernardo Santareno in 1959. These books described how was the life onboard of a cod fishing vessel.

After a period of intense production, the topic of cod fishing has slowly disappeared from the literature of the arts of contemporary Portugal. The narrative of cod fishing is still dominated, in the collective memory, by the influence of the vision of the Estado Novo and the dictatorship. 

Currently, the Ilhavo Maritime Museum is supporting the reinterpretation of the cod fishing memory in literature, through the commissioning and the publishing of books which looks at the cod fishing heritage. Some examples are “The Quest of the Schooner Argus”, considered a classic of world maritime literature and “Portugal by the Sea” published in 2017. It´s a fascinating tale that gives continuity to an effort to pluralize the memories of the “Great Fishery” to make them more culturally open and historically diverse.

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