This article is about Portuguese descendants, like myself, and non-Portuguese people that find a home away from home in Azores, Portugal. It speaks about how we grow up asking questions until we realize for ourselves that Portugal is the homeland we can never lose touch with.
“Why did you leave?”
That’s a question posed by many second-generation descendants of immigrants, including myself. Recognizing our parental homeland is not always a common thought but sometimes a forced one. Many of us heard the tales. Immigrant children are often reminded of the struggle. The sacrifice that our parents made for a chance at an opportunity elsewhere. It’s something that could be taken for granted if forgotten.
It’s not lost on me though, the irony of it all, that when we go back there is a feeling of sentimentality. How ‘saudade’ can be inherited across generations. It only makes sense when we were raised with that constantly around us. Some of our parents never lost touch and go back often, even retiring there. Back where it all started.
For some, going full circle was always the master plan. They left their homes to build a new life with every intention of going back eventually. Maintaining long distance relationships with their loved ones still on the island. The life of a Portuguese immigrant was a hard one and the decisions that led to those choices were even harder. We can never lose sight of that.
“What was it like when you left?”
Needless to say, it was nothing like how it is today. Electricity, plumbing and a strong infrastructure has improved the life of the islander. Nowadays, the motivation to emigrate is not as pertinent as poverty or civil unrest but more of a preference. When the next generation, myself included, romanticizes about going back it’s more of a pipe dream than anything else. The idea of willfully leaving for an exotic destination is something what dreams are made of. With the added benefit of that being a place where we feel a kinship, how could you not want to live there?
Many of us had been raised to understand that desire, even seeing it come to fruition. When some of our parents eventually retired there, we tagged along for vacation. When they stayed back after we left, we desperately wanted to stay too. They later brought us back a taste of the island, but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. So it’s easy to understand how we would chase that same feeling.
“Portugal is still our home.”
It always was. That long distance relationship was something that our ancestors maintained, and, in turn, we did too. Our broken comprehension of the language was no barrier to the infinite love that our families had for us, nor that affection that the country showed us. There was always an adoration regardless of how we communicated with each other. We are Portuguese at heart. That stands to this day while learning the mother tongue is inherently within reach. It’s been downloaded subconsciously for us. Like something that can be activated from cognitive memory. She is as benevolent as ever.
For those without family ties, it’s just as easy to fall in love with Portugal. Thousands already have. Its booming tourism industry is evidence that the world is mesmerized with the country. One kiss from the fertile land is all it takes, and of its lush, bodacious territories, the islands are most alluring. When you find the Azores, you will understand clearly how some people could visit the same destination incessantly – it’s where you feel at home.
Once you find that spot, it’s easy to go back. Then, after touching down so many times, you develop a kinship with the land that leaves an imprint on your heart like branding flesh. Forging a relationship that conciliates the soul as much as a kindred spirit. That’s how we endorse an adopted heritage. That’s how you get smitten by an island. To find Azores is to find love.
“Portugal is my home away from home.”
By Devin Meireles