RIO DE JANEIRO – This week we published a story about the FESTLIP festival and it took me back to last year when I learned a new word from one of our reporters – “lusophone”. It reminded me about the infinite potential of the human language, as well as the long-gone days of Portuguese power on the high seas.

Stone Korshak, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Rio Times.

A Lusophone is someone who speaks the Portuguese language. As an adjective, it means “Portuguese-speaking”. The word itself is derived from the name of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, which covered an area that is today Portugal.

Perhaps if you are Portuguese it is a more common term, as they recently held the 2009 Lusophony Games (the 2nd of these multi-sport events) which took place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 11 to 19 July 2009. This edition featured nine sports—one more than in the inaugural games in 2006 — comprising 65 events (Brazil took the most Gold and total metals).

Lusophone countries include Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Macau and others in various parts of the world, including India’s Goa and Kerala states, and the town of Melaka in Malaysia.

And I thought my hard-learned (e muito ruim) Portuguese would only be helpful in Brazil…

Learning about Lusophone was also a chance to refresh my middle-school social studies knowledge of the once mighty Portuguese empire. Between 1415 and 1542, Portugal discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Cape of Good Hope, discovered Brazil, established trading routes throughout most of southern Asia, colonized selected areas of Africa, and sent the first direct European maritime trade and diplomatic missions to China and Japan.

I think I’ve only meet one person from Portugal, that I remember, didn’t care for her much. I’ve also met someone from Angola, here in Rio – go figure. Irregardless, I’m a big fan of Portugal because they gave us what is now known as Brazil.

Portuguese discoveries, exploration, contacts and conquests (from 1336 claim for Canary islands to 1543 Tanegashima arrival), arrival dates stated; main sea routes to the Indian Ocean (blue); Territories claimed under king John III of Portugal rule (1536)(green), image by Wikimedia/Creative Commons License.