The Story of Zé Povinho
All Portuguese have heard the story of Zé Povinho, but first-person contact by our collaborator Manuel Smith has another flavor, since José Peres, the character who inspired the creation of this Portuguese reference in the world, was Manuel Smith’s great-great-great-grandfather. ..
José da Fonseca Peres, a typical Abrantes figure from the late 19th century who inspired Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a well-known Freemason, in the creation of Zé Povinho. The costume he wore and his physiognomy were revealed to Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro for the creation of a popular figure who would be successful in the newspaper A lanterna Mágica, in 1875.
Known in Abrantes by Zé Peres, he had a robust body, with a broad face that was highlighted by his sideburns, high forehead, thin lips and a slightly upturned nose. His small eyes had an expression of serenity and firmness, but that commanded a certain respect. A man of few movements, characterized by a certain harmony and excellence, he smoked a cigar, wore a collision hat, with a tassel on the side, a vest with buttons on the sleeves made of pieces of five shields and gold pins, shirt without a tie that he wore buttoned around his neck and cuffs with tiny gold coins, shorts tightened by a silk belt and black leather boots with high pipes – it was his solemn attire.
Day-to-day life only differed in the coins he used which were silver.
He was a poorly educated but cultured person. Although not much for reading, he had a good library at the back of his stable. He often bought new books, but as long as they had a good cover, engraved in gold on the spine, to be seen on his library shelf. Once he was asked why he only bought from those books, to which he replied: “Well, it is so that everyone knows that I had money to buy them!”
One day he went to Lisbon, to the Ministry of Public Works to collect a debt for a construction project for the Eastern Railway, with his formal suit and the inseparable quince stick. As it was still very early, and with no banks nearby, Zé Peres took advantage of the presence of a shoeshine boy to wait for the ministry to open. The shoeshineman earned a good tip of 500 kings with his rest.
At that time, the time of entry into the Ministry was at eight in the morning. It was at this time that Bordalo Pinheiro, who worked at the Câmara dos Pares, came upon the entry of his work with the figure of Zé Peres who did not go unnoticed by the humorist’s critical and artistic gaze.
Bordalo Pinheiro will have approached and observed the figure of Zé Peres for some time, having then entered the Ministry building.
Some time later, José Peres’ neighbor, Ludgero Soares Moreira, received the magazine A lanterna Mágica, which, when browsing through the central pages, found a caricature that immediately resembled the image of his neighbor Zé Peres. After letting out a laugh, he opened the window that opened to the door of the store where Zé Peres normally was and loudly showed him the newspaper saying that his photo was there.
Zé Peres, showing interest, watched the caricature carefully, confirming that he was very similar to you. He then asked the neighbor for information about who drew it, thus learning that it was Bordalo Pinheiro, a caricaturist from Lisbon, and Ludgero also indicated his address.
After two days, Zé Peres returns to Lisbon, with his evening dress and quince stick in his hand as always.
When he knocked on the door of Bordalo Pinheiro’s house, the maid received him, who, after seeing that Zé Peres was accompanied by the quince tree, did not open the door for him and informed him that he did not know if his boss was.
Bordalo Pinheiro, realizing that he was the figure he had come across and that was his Zé Povinho, exclaimed to the maid: “We have trouble! Now this! Look, tell the old woman, tell her she’s already gone ”. To which the maid, without opening the door, says “Mr. Bordalo Pinheiro has already left”.
Zé Peres, who had heard, then replies “What did Mr. Bordalo Pinheiro go out with ?! Well, I hope here that he returns home! ”And so he sat on the stairs, blocking the passage and smoking his usual cigar.
Bordalo Pinheiro was thus prevented from leaving the house since he had no other way out. After half an hour, already close to eight o’clock in the morning, when Bordalo Pinheiro’s work started, Zé Peres was still undaunted and serene waiting.
Seeing that there was no other way out, Bordalo Pinheiro decided to face the austere man who was waiting for him at the door. When he opened the door, Zé Peres barred his passage with his strong body, leaving Bordalo intimidated when he was approached by that man with the quince stick in his hand and who in a slow but severe tone says: “Well, I knew that I was at home, Senhor Bordalo Pinheiro ”.
Bordalo, afraid, asks Zé Peres what made him want to talk to him, to which he calmly took the newspaper out of his pocket and opening the newspaper in the center pages asked, pointing in a stern way “Who did this? ”. Bordalo Pinheiro, already a little nervous, replied that it was him but that he would not have done it wrong. “These things are never done badly!” Was Zé Peres’s reply, as he folded the newspaper and put it back in his pocket. By this time, Bordalo Pinheiro was waiting for the individual to turn to him and use the quince stick. However, Zé Peres fixes his hat up to the back of his neck and keeps the quince in his right hand, opens his arms and says: “Now come from there, because I come here just to thank you.”
Bordalo Pinheiro was so relieved that he no longer even bothered to comply with the time of entry into the ministry, making Zé Peres enter his home. He established bonds of friendship with Zé Peres, who became a free subscriber to all the cartoon newspapers published by Bordalo Pinheiro.
That was how Bordalo Pinheiro was inspired by Zé Peres to create the symbol of the Portuguese People – The story of Zé Povinho.