Growing up Azorean-Canadian, mainland Portugal was foreign to me until my first visit several decades ago.
I did not go to the Algarve then. It was only when I met my partner that the Algarve became a place of destination one March Break. His aunt, who had been spending the winter months there with her husband, spoke so enthusiastically about its charms and beauty when she returned to Canada that we finally went to see it for ourselves.
And we liked the visit so much that we have been back twice already. On both return trips, his aunt, already there again before our arrival, played a major role in helping us discover new places to see and restaurants to eat in. She took delight in introducing us to her favourite haunts and beaches and, as always, she was surprised that I had no idea about the places she showed us.
“But your family is Portuguese,” she’d say to me in disbelief. It took time for her to accept that my Portuguese roots were Azorean and, as such, I had no special knowledge about the Algarve.
“In fact, you know more about the Algarve than I do,” I’d said to her. Yet, her eyes showed me that she didn’t quite believe me, but simply humoured me in my impression that I was more of a tourist in this land than she was.
One night she took us to a poetry reading. One of the poets read, “Nesta Hora, Agora, Nesta Hora,” a rhyming poem about time in the here and now. I had to translate the words for her, but that did not matter. She had taken pure delight in the sounds and cadence of the poem, and she luxuriated in the words without knowing their meaning but was thrilled, nonetheless, that I was there to share in the discovery.
The last time we went to the Algarve we visited Aunt Cathy and her husband Ron, and my partner’s mother with her husband. The four of them had rented a house in a very tiny seaside place called Burgau. It was through their eyes that I saw the Algarvian coast and towns. I walked everywhere with these fair-haired, fair-skinned people who had accepted me as one of their family members, and who took so much pleasure in assuring me how much they loved my culture.
I take delight in this humble truth: that it wasn’t “my people” but my partner’s family, who showed me and gave me a love for this part of Portugal that I had ignored on my own.
That last visit in the Algarve would later become more significant than I could have ever imagined, for it was the last time we were all there together.
A few years later, we lost my partner’s stepfather and his aunt to the wretched cancers that have taken so many others from our lives, including my father. That the three of them all went in different Aprils lends painful credence to T.S. Eliot’s classic line that “April is the cruellest month.”
And I must remember how warm and welcoming and loving these four Anglo-Canadians had all been towards my father. “Antonio, how are you, Antonio?” they would utter with genuine warmth in their anglicized pronunciations.
All this to say that there is no such thing as a monoculture in my private world. Regardless of my Portuguese connections, with family in both the mainland and the Azores, it was the Anglo-Saxon Canadians who gave me the Algarve.
In memory of
Catherine Moore Edward Wells
Ron Moore, April 2017
Church near Estoi
House near Estoi
Abandoned house near Luz
House near Monchique
Market in Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Praia do Mós
Praia do Mós
Oh, Emanuel! Such a lovely story! I had forgotten that it was your partner who first introduced you to the Algarve!
Thank you dear Emanuel – love of my life – for helping me understand ‘saudade’ and its intersection with my Anglo-Canadian, lived-experience of love and loss in this – to quote the late-Canadian writer Margaret Lawrence – “dance on this earth”.
Hi Emanuel: it’s very beautiful what you wrote and the photos are achingly beautiful. Sometimes it takes a “foreigner” to take us back to our roots, although yours go much deeper into the Atlantic and only tenuously connected to the mainland, having come to Canada so young.
I haven’t been there since 2010 and your text inspired me to go back.
You made me wanna travel there! Very inspiring writing and beautiful photography