Celeste Caeiro, 90, holds a bunch of red carnations, in...

Celeste Caeiro, 90, holds a bunch of red carnations, in Lisbon, Thursday, April 25, 2024, during the reenactment of troops movements of fifty years ago, part of anniversary celebrations of the Carnation Revolution. Caeiro handed out red carnations to rebellious soldiers then, thus unwittingly naming the April 25, 1974 army coup that restored democracy in Portugal after 48 years of a fascist dictatorship. Credit: AP/Ana Brigida

LISBON, Portugal — Military vehicles and red carnations returned to the streets and squares of downtown Lisbon on Thursday as Portugal reenacted dramatic moments from the army coup that brought democracy to the country 50 years ago.

Tens of thousands of people attended the celebrations of the so-called Carnation Revolution, which ended a stifling four-decade dictatorship established by Antonio Salazar. It also paved the way for Portugal’s 1986 entry into the European Union, then called the European Economic Community.

At the time, the turmoil and political uncertainty in Portugal, a NATO member, caused alarm in Western capitals as the Portuguese Communist Party appeared poised to take power. Moderate parties, however, won at the ballot box.

Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Luis Montenegro presided over the colorful parade of troops and armored vehicles with many onlookers holding red carnation flowers, the symbol of the revolution. One child could be seen on top of an armored car holding a carnation.

Red carnations were plentiful at Portuguese stores and in street stalls in the spring of 1974 and people stuck them in the gun barrels of the insurrectionists.

Paulo Simões, 71, who took part in the uprising, said he was “living with a sense of duty fulfilled.”

“I have 2 children," he said. "I tried to instill in them the ideas of freedom, democracy, truth, honesty and I succeeded.”

A couple hold red carnations while embracing each other after...

A couple hold red carnations while embracing each other after thousands sang the folk song Grandola, Vila Morena, in the first minutes of Thursday, April 25, 2024, at the Carmo square in Lisbon, as the country celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Carnation Revolution. The song by Zeca Afonso was broadcast on national radio as a signal to the troops that the coup was starting and became an icon of the April 25, 1974, revolution that restored democracy in Portugal after 48 years of a fascist dictatorship. Credit: AP/Armando Franca

Maria Monteiro, 68, the wife of a soldier who took part in the uprising, said she felt immensely emotional “for the freedom that we conquered, but we have to know how to defend it very well.”

During the day, troops and armored vehicles moved into a downtown square as part of a reenactment of one of the early stages of the uprising, when units took up planned positions at key places in the capital.

Soldiers also reenacted the insurrectionists' convergence on a paramilitary garrison in a jacaranda-dotted square called Largo do Carmo. That was where Marcelo Caetano, the Portuguese leader at the time, holed up and was surrounded by troops and jubilant civilians before surrendering.

Tens of thousands of people gathered for the annual afternoon march along the city’s main thoroughfare, the Avenida da Liberdade, or Freedom Avenue.

People use their cellphones to take pictures of a light...

People use their cellphones to take pictures of a light show projecting the word Freedom on the arch of Lisbon's Comercio square, Wednesday, April 23, 2024, as the country celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Carnation Revolution. The April 25, 1974 revolution carried out by the army restored democracy in Portugal after 48 years of a fascist dictatorship. Credit: AP/Armando Franca

Simmering frustration with prolonged colonial wars against independence movements in Africa spurred the junior officers’ revolt, which succeeded in toppling the dictatorship in around 24 hours, with only five deaths.

Salazar, who died in 1970, clung to the African colonies long after other European powers had withdrawn from the continent and resisted modernizing his country amid Europe’s cultural changes of the 1960s.

Salazar’s rule ran through roughly the same period as Gen. Francisco Franco’s in neighboring Spain, though his time in power was far less bloody.

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