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Zé Povinho in Caldas da Rainha porcelain

Zé Povinho is a Portuguese everyman created in 1875 by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. He became not only a symbol of the portuguese people working class, but turned into the unofficial personification of Portugal.

"Zé", in Portuguese, is a common short form of the name "José" - as "Joe" is for "Joseph", in English - and "Povinho" is a diminutive for "the people".

Zé Povinho first appearance was in 1875-05-22, at A Lanterna Mágica magazine, but with no name. He was named later, in the 1875-06-12 edition of the same magazine. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro kept drawing this character for almost 30 years, until his death, publishing it in many of the more popular magazines and newspapers: O António Maria, A Paródia, O Commércio do Porto Illustrado, Pontos nos iis, among others.

He is a popular kind man who lives a simple life and mocks the powerful. is not a figure of authority but rather a simple man of the people, acting as a tool of criticism against the powerful, the political and elitist fringes of the society, injustice and tyranny.

Zé Povinho became, and still is, the most popular character in Portugal. Being drawn as a yokel could, and does, lead to some aversion and denial from the Portuguese people to be represented as such. Yet his kindness, his will to help others and, most of all, his utter contempt and disrespect for the powerful ones that try to dominate him, made him so popular. Zé Povinho ridicules the powerful, laughs at them, and then carries on with his simple life but has the same attitude towards the peoples own weaknesses and prejudice.

References

  • Estudos em Homenagem a Jorge Borges de Macedo, Lisbon, INIC, 1992
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