Marcelino da Mata, black knight of Portuguese empire

One of the most famous and glorious Portuguese warriors ever, a commando, who had been fighting terrorists in Portuguese West Africa. He was decorated with five “crosses of war” — a record number for this decoration for the whole history of Portuguese army — and other medals and orders, amongst which — Military order of Tower and Sword.
After Apr. 25, 1974 military coup (“carnation revolution”) he was sent to Lisbon for curing his wounds. There he was treated with sadistic cruelty by revolutionary officers who suspected him to be a right-wing sympathizer.

During the transition period* Marcelino da Mata was in fact acknowledged as chief of all Portuguese negro commandos. “All the commados and militia obeyed my orders”, he says. He considers, he was sent to Lisbon after Apr. 25 in such a hurry just because new (revolutionary) government was afraid of his popularity amongst black Portuguese loyalists, and that new government betrayed loyal black militants in all aspects. Most of them were killed later on by terrorists that took power in former Portuguese overseas territories — in total 7,447 soldiers of native commando forces and militia were killed by revenging terrorists in Guinea since Apr. 25.

“If you were in service for Portugal, and then one day you just quit and surrender to enemy — is it a treason or what? And this is just what happened then! There was no referendum, no plebiscite in Guinea. In addition to it, all these men who served in native units and then came to Lisbon (after April coup), had to petition for getting Portuguese citizenship. But were we not Portuguese citizens before it? I’ve never denied my Portuguese citizenship. They denied us, betrayed us! When I was here (in Lisbon) in commando regiment in 1974 — and they just let me know that I have to beg for Portuguese citizenship. And before it — was I just some kind of a foreign mercenary or something?”
“That animal in Internal Affairs told me I had been colonized. And I replied I’d never been! My ancestor had been, not me. I was born in the country called Portugal. The way they treated me was all unjust and treacherous!”

Marcelino da Mata speaks of his misadventures in revolutionary Lisbon:
“For some time I’ve been an aid-de-camp of Presidential palace barracks’ commandant… By the end of 1974 I was transferred to commando regiment…
It happened two or three days after March, 11 (1975). I returned from hospital… and Maj. Jaime Neves told me: “Look, there’s an order that you should appear in Caxias (military prison)”. I saw what it meant…
I spent two months in Caxias isolated (in cell 41). On May, 18 they let me go… I went home. Next night, after midnight officer-of-day Capt. Ribeiro da Fonseca ordered Lt. Carronda Rodrigues to take me to regiment barracks. But, as I’d always heard on radio I was arrested “for being involved in terroristic fascist group ELP (Portugal Liberation Army)”, I left for the barracks.
There Ribeiro da Fonseca telephoned Jaime Neves, who said that I should be escorted to RALIS (1st artillery regiment)** because it was such an order of commandment. And he (Ribeiro da Fonseca) ordered Carronda Rodrigues to get me there, wait till interrogation’s end and get me back. But it all happened not in such a way exactly. He (Carronda Rodrigues) presented me to the officer-of-day (of RALIS) and left.”

On May 19, 1975 after he’d been arrested in RALIS, and then being beaten up and tortured for six hours long, Marcelino da Mata was sent to Caxias prison where he’d been incarcerated in incommunicability regime for 90 days, and then for 60 more days in ordinary regime. “Antifascist” revolutionaries called him “negro” and demanded him to sign a recognition that he was assimilado.

Portuguese Wikipedia reads so: “…He was arrested in RALIS and was tortured and beaten by Capt. Emiliano Quinhones de Magalhães, Lt.-Col. Leal de Almeida, Capt.-Lt. João Eduardo da Costa Xavier and other revolutionaries linked with communist movements in one of the most pungent, for its barbarity and violence, episodes of Carnation revolution.”

“On October 15, 1975 they let me go and I came home, but that same night they went for me — I learned afterwards that they were going to send me out to Guinea — and while they were still outdoors I managed to get out from my second floor by the rope. I caught a taxi to Benfica, met there a man I khew before, who gave me a lift to Coimbra and some money to get to Chaves***. I arrived there penniless, saw a custom guard, came to him and said I’d escaped from Caxias and wanted to get to Spain; he asked me if I had any money — I said no — and he gave me 2,000 pesetas and explained how to escape his colleagues. On the other side of border I got on the bus to Madrid, slept there in subway for three days, and then a Spanish asked me if I needed a job — and then I used to deliver “coca-cola” driving a truck… […] I returned to Portugal after Nov. 25, 1975**** and apeared in commando regiment.”

A special commitee investigated his case, but his tormentors were never brought to trial, because it could have a negative effect on image of young Portuguese democracy, as da Mata was told.
In 1980 he was forced to resign in captain rank.
He twice visited Guinea, where his mother stayed, — in 1976 and 1985. In 1993 he earned his living as a mercenary in Angola (pension fixed for him by “young Portuguese democracy”(c) was too low to feed his family — 14 children!).
In 1995 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of Portuguese armed forces dismissed.
*) а year-long period after April сoup till Portugal’s recognizing independence of her overseas territories
**) called “red” or “red one” for left-wing sympathies of its soldiers
***) a city in Northern Portugal near Spanish border
****) after leftist putsch was suppressed and the situation in country began to stabilize

materials (in Portuguese) used while writing:

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