By Nuno Pinto de Magalhães
Director of Communication and Institutional Relations of Sociedade Central de Cervejas e Bebidas
I met Carlos Morais for over 20 years, for professional reasons, and I became his friend and admirer…
The owner of Mundo Português Newspaper, founded by his father and the Priest Vitor Melicias, was the great creator and promoter of the largest (and ever increasing) annual trade fair of Portuguese food and beverage, SISAB.
When about a month ago he died in a road accident, and I was still in shock with the news, what came to mind was that he died the way he lived, “like a force of nature leaving behind his marks”.
Just recently, at a time when he was very contagiously enthusiastic about a diet he had read in a book bought at an airport. He had started eating a vegetable-based diet and he had managed to lose weight… pleased with another achievement, he shared and confided to me in an emotional way, his life course and his projects… He was proud of the work he did and of the difficulties he has always overcome with determination and will. I suggested he write a book with his story, which would be a good legacy for his children and a good testimony for all, conveying that when you want and fight for it, you can win!
Carlos Morais was the first Portuguese to realize the relevance of the Portuguese emigrants from the 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century, throughout Europe, especially in France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as from the United States and Canada, an emigration with an earlier history, for the export and promotion of Portuguese food and drink brands, bringing to them “a bit of the way of living and consuming in their homeland…”. They stood out in these emigrant communities that launched businesses of import of traditional products consumed in Portugal, cod, olive oil, wine, beers, soft drinks, coffee, preserves, etc… This market was referred to as “mercado da saudade” (diaspora market).
Carlos Morais vision was such that in 1995 he organized the first SISAB, inviting the emigrants involved in the restaurant and beverage business in Europe, the USA and Canada to come to Portugal for a meeting with Portuguese companies and brands wishing to export to the communities of emigrants located there… I’m telling a detail that is very relevant and demonstrates the boldness and genuine consideration that Carlos Morais had for these businessmen, offering them accommodation during this event in the best hotel in Lisbon – the Hotel Ritz –, also being part of the program, a gala evening at the Estoril Casino. Imagine the great surprise, at the time, the vast majority of immigrants from the first generation, of humble and rural origin and who had to emigrate to seek a better life, then returning to their country and being welcomed and hosted in the best places… by someone who treated them and recognized them as true ambassadors of the Portuguese World!
SISAB has evolved over the years. It has gone from the “diaspora market” to the “Portuguese language market” and from this latter to the “global market”, with a focus on the Portuguese Freaks, and more broadly to other business sectors than just food and catering, although these remained the core.
I know that Carlos Morais had some struggles with public bodies, with cash & carries and international brands that wanted to be at SISAB and he had rejected attractive offers to buy SISAB, staying true to his project – in which he genuinely believed and for which he was in love. Despite his position, which he always assumed, on how the relationship with emigrants should be strengthened, in all editions of SISAB, the leading figures of the State, Government and Opposition were present.
As the deacon Vasco Avillez said during the funeral mass of Carlos Morais, “Carlos is already in heaven organizing an event and calling everyone into action.”