First published: Summer 2016
Jaime Fernandes came from peasant stock, from a village in the hinterland of Portugal, and he lived a life that was common for small crop farmers whose livelihood depended on whether each year’s harvest was good or bad. The first of three children born to farmers Joaquim Fernandes and Maria de Jesus, he was born on May 8, 1899, in Barco, a small village in the Covilhã district some 300 kilometres north of Lisbon. In 1923, he married Evangelina Delgado, who bore him five children. He died in Lisbon on March 23, 1969.
Untitled, Jaime Fernandes, n.d., ballpoint pen on paper, 12.8 x 9.8 ins. / 32.6 x 24.9 cm
In January 1938, Fernandes was interned in the Miguel Bombarda Psychiatric Hospital, Lisbon, the first psychiatric hospital of its kind in Portugal, which was founded in 1848 and closed down in 2011. Throughout its existence the hospital was housed in precarious conditions, in a building which had withstood the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It had once been a friary belonging to the “Mission Congregation”, founded by St Vincent de Paulo, and then, later, a military barracks. According to the hospital records, Fernandes was booked into the Sixth Ward on January 7, 1938, after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He experienced hallucinations, delirium, incoherent thinking and amnesia. At the end of his first year of internment, and as a result of his ongoing agitated state, he was transferred to another ward.