Ele dobra o Cabo da Boa Esperança.
He is rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
— Portuguese proverb
The Cabo das Tormentas, or Cape of Storms, as it was originally known after being named by Bartolomeu Dias was a monumental place for Europeans, and especially the Portuguese. But, before delving further into this story, I will note that I am not a linguist of the language nor do I have that good a sense of their culture or life — I am, quite simply, a master of conjecture. And, my mastery could be entirely misled. 🙂
The meaning of this phrase is something I’ll return to before espousing this wild conjecture I have in my mind. Namely, it signifies that the person in question is in the final phase of their life and that nothing else of significance will happen for them.
João II, o Príncipe Perfeito, decided to rename the cape from the Cape of Storms to that of Good Hope — his reaction, no doubt, signifying that for him the passing of the cape was the signal of divine providence he had hoped and looked for. He had been financing journeys to the distant lands for a long time, hoping to hear that the ships made progress towards India and yet thus far, all they had been able to do was to make their way further south. Yet, where they really had to go was north. This cape provided the first base after which they were likely to move further north, and hence this was a sign.
The rounding of the very same cape, therefore, was one of the most important moments ever. Who could guess that another few thousand kilometres remained before their carracks could reach the Malabar coast, and who could even guess what sort of difficulties they would find when they got there. Fortunately, when that time came they were up to the challenge as they had men of sufficient quality to lead in those troubled times.
So, my conjecture: what seemed to be an easy task would be such in the eye of the person in the old country. For them, the rounding of the cape made for that final stretch, even if unknowingly the stretch could take twenty years to conquer and be a few thousand kilometres long. They were *almost* there. And, with that mentality, the rounding of the cape was defining moment.
And, as such, it has remained in the language even though history shows otherwise for the country as a whole.