History lesson by a compadre

Featured Academia Do Bacalhau

There are many organisations and clubs in South Africa with various roles, heritage, culture and tradition.

One of these combines the good will of charity organisations such as the Lion and Rotary Club with tradition as rich as that of Free masonary.

History lesson by a compadre

The Academia Do Bacalhau was started in South Africa on 10 June 1968 in Johannesburg. There could not be a more appropriate date as this is a day equivalent to America’s fourth of July in the Portuguse community. And there could not be a more appropriate person sharing this rich history with us than vice president of the Academia Do Bacalhau, Loao Pinto Fernandes.

“This is a day that we celebrate the 16th century poet, Luis de Camoes who celebrated Portuguese discoveries in the world during the 15th and 16th century,” Fernandes explained.


Back in 1968, three Portuguese friends got together and went for a meal. Over this meal it was decided that they needed an organisation that cultivated their heritage. Thus, the concept of Academia Do Bacalhau was born. It was decided that this organisation would not be a club and would hold no formality but they would have regular meetings.

But where did they get this name which translates as Academy of Cod Fish? Well, Cod fish is a traditional Portuguese meal and because the concept of the society came over a meal, it was hence where it drew its name.

“It’s a versatile meal which was also traditionally taken with red wine,” Fernandes said.

The drinking of red wine is one of the traditions that have filtered through as members, known as compadre, salute each other with a phrase after the president has rungthe bell to give the toast. This toast, called Gaviao De Penacho comes from academic traditions in Portugal as students from various universities would have their own unique style of toasting as they drank.

Fernandes makes us aware that there are three principles on which Academia do Bacalhau basis it’s foundation, that is friendship, which is the most important one, solidarity and not to discuss politics or religion. Anyone caught transgressing these rules are finned.


If you think the Academia do Bacalhau is only in South Africa, think again as they have 55 academies all around the world. Once a year they have their world convension which will be held in October this year after their regional convension in September. Here they will discuss welfare, culture and possibilities of opening up new academies.

Thinking of joining the Academia doBacalhau? Unfortunately, members are by invitation only.

Chilton Mellem
Editor, With a National Diploma in Journalism from CPUT and experience as a newspaper reporter, Chilton shares Dino’s passion for the Portuguese community in South Africa.