Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Reflection

I have learned about their food. I have learned about their work, their feasts and festivals, their space (Fall River), and their motivations for coming to this country. I have learned about their culture. I also think that in the process, as least a little bit, I have learned about the way the Portuguese think, their internal logic.

There is a term, saudade, that the Portuguese say resides in their blood. The word is roughly analogous to “longing” and comes from deep within the heart. I think this term has a lot to do with what is going on in the Portuguese mind, of the minds of those in Fall River. The first immigrants longed for a better life and left their beloved homeland in search of this. They arrived and established their own space in Fall River, a new home. Though they did not forget their native land. These new immigrants sought to establish new lives in Fall River incorporating Portuguese tradition. They brought with them their food, festivals, agrarian roots, and work ethic.

Feasts and Festivals

Feasts and Festivals are very much a part of Portuguese culture, in the Azores, Madeira, and right here in Fall River. These feasts, often lasting a week or more, are dynamic and bring together both religious (catholic) and secular ideas. They are something special, and are set off from normal space and time. Feasts will often begin with a week of prayer, rosary recitation, and preparation. The church and surrounding streets are adorned with flags, banners, colored lights and flowers. Often images of patron saints, Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, are highly visible as they are the ones for which many festivals are held. These saints are scene as intermediaries to God and are thus revered. After the religious ceremonies are held, those celebrating indulge in much food and drink. They socialize on the church grounds and in the streets while bands play, dancers perform, and fireworks light up the sky. As the festival winds down, the Portuguese partiers recall former feasts and those of neighboring towns. They compare and contrast and decide whether this years feast was traditional, yet memorable and exciting. The feasts are a large part of the group identity and a successful one assures admiration and esteem among the community and from other communities.

One such feast, the Holy Ghost Festival, occurs annually in Fall River. Revolving around the Espirito Santo Church, this festival shows the devotion the many Portuguese in Fall River, especially Azoreans, to the Holy Spirit.

Connection with class material-Space-Portuguese home gardens

Like many other communities, the Portuguese of Fall River have developed their own space, with distinctive spirit and character. This spirit comes from the interaction of the people living in Fall River and their surroundings. It is safe to say that the space influences the Portuguese of Fall River as they influence the space. This strong connection to their surroundings, their land, is reminiscent of their agricultural roots in the Azores and mainland Portugal.

One way that the Portuguese have changed the space around them, while also maintaining a continuity with the homeland, is through their gardens. Driving around Fall River during spring, it is easy to see the many cottage gardens that overtake many yards, back and front. These lush gardens are a mixture of flowers, fruits, and vegetables that seem to go beyond the typical suburban home garden. The bounty of color serves to liven the urban setting that is Fall River. Though these gardens are more than a pretty sight. They have roots in the traditional Portuguese agrarian life. The gardens contribute much to the home economy. Often, grapes are grown in the yard, used for homemade wine. This is the case with the grandparents of Kaitlin Mckenzie, a friend of mine, whose grandparents are first generation immigrants and make many bottles yearly. Also the various fruits and vegetables grown in these urban gardens are used daily as part of a meal.

The Portuguese have a long tradition of working the land and producing their own fresh food. This tradition continues in urban Fall River, where many Portuguese maintain beautiful, productive home gardens.