On June 21, by invitation of the Proxecto Morada Atlântica, a structure that aims to foster cooperation and knowledge sharing in the Atlantic European coastal territories (Spain, Portugal, France, United Kingdom and Ireland), we inaugurate the itinerary of the exhibition "The Saga of Codfish", promoted by the Maritime Museum of Ílhavo, with photographs and a video of Alan Villiers. It will be on exhibition in three cultural spaces of the coast of Galicia until August 30.
Cod fishing is a multi-secular economic activity, although very irregular in Portugal. The condition of a large importer and the tradition of the consumption of dried salted cod are the most constant variables of a legendary heritage that defines the Portuguese identity.
The weight of cod in the trade balance and its effects on the Portuguese external deficit justified the New State's protectionist intervention in an industry that was organized through corporate institutions and economic coordination bodies. The conditioning of imports, the promotion of domestic production and the vertical control of supply were the key aspects of the intervention of the authoritarian State. Founded in 1934, the Cod Trade Regulatory Commission acted as a state cartel, directing all segments of product circulation, fishing, processing, from the importing business to the retail. The Cod Fishing Campaign had its ideological mantle and its political dimension, well evident in the corporate organization of fisheries and in its oligarchy. The production of popular rituals such as the blessing of the ships and other forms of reproduction of a project of "national economic development" established an self-sufficiency program that effectively promoted the import substitution. Advertising posters, current newspapers, radio broadcasts and films praised the renewal of the cod fishing fleet and the normalization of supply. With the end of World War II, propaganda reached its peak and in 1950 challenged Alan Villiers, an Australian Navy officer and National Geographic Magazine reporter, to live and tell a trip to Newfoundland's banks aboard a Portuguese sailboat. Fishing for cod with one-man dolphins was the last economic activity to make use of sailing on transoceanic voyages. Seen from a distance of time, their images are beautiful and invoke a certain harmony. In fact, it was a cruel saga, a very hard work that every year took about five thousand men to Newfoundland and Greenland to "bring to the Motherland the bread of the seas." After embarking on the Argus, Alan Villiers composed a triptych that ran the world: a book (with an original English edition in 1951, and a Portuguese translation months later), a film and a magnificent photo album that allows us to understand the multiple meanings of this singular heritage.