For the past 100 years, millions of people from literally every corner of the planet have made a compromise based on three principles and used a scarf around their neck. For half of my life, I’ve been one of them too.
Initially grounded to support the rear side of a war fought by Baden-Powell (BP) in the siege of Mafeking in South Africa (1900), the young boys idealized by the British colonel evolved in the following years (especially after 1907) and decades to a worldwide movement by the time it became an organization towards the ideal of peace and fraternity between mankind.
The influences from the military are still there, when we look at many scout uniforms. The rest are codes and symbols that are not original at all and often come from tribes with whom Baden Powell has contacted throughout his life.
The principles of the scout movement are similar for everyone in a movement with more than 40 million active members nowadays. The respect and contemplation of nature, the understanding that all men are and should treat each other as brothers no matter how different believes and cultural backgrounds they might have. An individual proactive attitude towards oneself but at the same time to everyone’s benefit. The development of the idea that there is a superior power in the world, whatever it is or how we call it.
To work all these ideas into the minds of the young boys and girls, there is a method. At the same time scout patrols are playing, camping, singing, discussing, swimming, hiking, cooking they are not only learning the basic structures of our competitive societies as they’re also developing individual skills. Founded within the structures of fantasy and imagination as means to reach greater goals, the scout movement has a strong educational side, historically fighting against political influences of many kinds.
The scouts’ existence can be highly controversial. Unlike what many think, the scouts organization is based on hierarchy but at the same time on strong democratic principles, from the small groups to the bigger movement. And indeed scouts’ existence has been compromised by most authoritarian regimes: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco or Stalin strongly repressed the existence of scouts in their countries. Nowadays, Cuba and North Korea still forbid their activities and are among the only very few countries in the world where it is impossible to find these weirdly dressed happy kids wearing scarves around their necks.
Meanwhile, scouts in Portugal have been active since 1912 and the country counts nowadays more than 70.000 members distributed by two major national scout organizations. The oldest one (1913) is Associação dos Escoteiros de Portugal where everyone can be a member. Then there is the biggest, Corpo Nacional de Escutas (1923), which is somehow controversial for the fact that it was founded by the Catholic Church, and therefore accepts only catholic members.
The Portuguese scouts are the main visual object of these photographs that shall take you into a young land of educational fantasy.