The magazine “Houses of the people”

While doing research for my PhD, I came across this peculiar publication: the “Houses of the People Monthly”. This magazine was the official publication of the JCCP, the institution responsible for managing the “Houses of the People”. Created during the Estado Novo regime, these houses were built throughout the country with the purpose of functioning as focal points of rural life, providing all the associates with professional representation, social protection and instruction, acting simultaneously as cultural centers. The “Houses of the People Monthly” mirrored the principles of the regime, and it was a space reserved for the “discussion of the problems that are of interest to our countryside, the examination of the solutions given or proposed and the education and recreation of the associates”. The magazine has been published between 1946 and 1971, reaching 306 issues.

There’s a couple of things I find bizarre in this magazine. First, it has an unconventional combination of articles, something between a thematic magazine and an almanac: background texts regarding the rural life and its problems, mixed with smaller items addressing the phases of the moon or the best months to seed and crop particular plants and vegetables. In the end, the leisure section provides games and visual enigmas. Secondly, it presents an odd contrast between the appealing and light aesthetic of its covers and the conservative tone of its contents. We can find articles that speak about the importance of civility (like saying hello and thank you or not spitting on the floor) or why women should stay at home instead of working outside the house.

This magazine is a privileged tool to analyze the values of the regime, specially the intricate relation between the moral values and the aesthetic ones. There’s a set of advices on how to decorate the house: what materials, furniture and decorative objects should be used for a proper Portuguese house. Through several numbers, the magazine endorsed a campaign in defense of the Portuguese furniture, stating that all the houses (private and public) should be equipped with it. Some years later, it was the defense of the Portuguese crafts that occupied most of the longer articles. The magazine mirrored the regime’s trend of refusing all that had foreign origin and praising the “uniqueness” of everything that was Portuguese: materials, products, language, and, in the end, habits, as stated in the famous stance of “re-portugalising Portugal”. Regardless of the magazine content and its primary propagandistic goal, I have to say I find its covers absolutely appealing.