The New Wave
up today, I remembered that it was time for the start of the weekly Portuguese
shows. They came on one after the other, each 30-minute show giving a different
flavour and perspective on the diaspora continuum.
with host João Vicente, showcased two professional Portuguese women. The first,
a very dynamic, articulate, and sophisticated business woman who founded two companies
with celebrity chefs among her many other successful projects. It wasn’t until near
the end of the segment that she acknowledged growing up Portuguese in her
perfect English. She praised her hard-working parents and the sacrifices they
made for their children. When she read that Portuguese students were the number
one ethnic group not to pursue higher education in Canada, she devoted her time
to support and encourage youth of Portuguese background to pursue post-secondary
learning. She believes these students can be anything they want in life by
thinking outside the box, while at the same time embracing the strong work
ethic learned from their parents as the best tool for their success. I got the
impression that this motivated entrepreneur probably no longer speaks any of
the Portuguese she would have learned growing up. I was watching a fully-integrated,
the only item that indicated her Portuguese heritage.
Portugal, her Portuguese sounding only the way someone who lives in the
homeland could speak. Her interest was in literary journalism and writing. She
had published a book about women in the Portuguese penal system as well as a
photobook on hospitals seen from the patients’ point of view. She was engaging
and just as articulate as the first woman, yet their experiences of being
Portuguese were as diverse as their interests.
Portugueses, with Bill Moniz, dealt with the "nova vaga de emigrantes." He asked, "Quem são os novos pioneiros?" It turns out that the new pioneers,
are professional and educated people who want to continue their careers as
doctors, lawyers and engineers in the countries that receive them. They are
leaving Portugal these days, from "todos
os cantos" from every corner, for the same reasons that the old wave of
immigrants left: economic instability, the hope of a better life for families, and
better career opportunities. But this is the only common ground they have with earlier
generations of immigrants, who, unlike the "nova
vaga" had been poorer and less educated. In those days, this country still
needed a working class so the benefit to both the immigrant and Canada was enormous:
construction workers, railroad builders, farmhands and cleaning women. Today, Citizenship
and Immigration Canada is only willing to accept the highly educated
professional applicant and without these skills, people from my parents’
generation would not have found the same open door they did over 50 years ago.
The "carta de chamada" which was the popular
way so many were allowed to come to Canada no longer exists, so to be advantaged
in today’s new immigrant market, you must have higher credentials than a
willingness to clean houses or build skyscrapers.
their two young daughters. The husband found work similar to what he did back
home and he is already doing well. The wife, however, a lawyer by profession,
still needs Canadian certification. Until she finds her way into accreditation,
she opted for the traditional choice of previous generations of women who
worked as cleaning women "na limpeza"
albeit with a twist. In this young lawyer’s case, she has not spent too much
time cleaning bathrooms but has put her higher education to good use by forming
her own cleaning company. That’s the difference between her generation and the
older generation: EDUCATION! Even the children of these new immigrants have
different aspirations from my generation. For example, one of their daughter’s
dreams of going to New York to become an actress, having already experience
performing in Portugal.
in a nondescript suburb; the garage is the prominent face with the house hidden
behind it and there are two cars in the driveway. They sit in a living room
watching a big TV monitor, the walls are blank and a stark white. Perhaps they
haven’t been here long enough to put up what’s important to them, but I wonder.
The living room looks like so many other living rooms I have seen in the
suburbs. So different from the homes of first wave immigrants who covered their
walls with old black and white family photos and religious images. I see no
similarities between the old and the new immigrants. They might as well have
come from different cultures which makes me think that it’s not only a shared language
and a way of life that keeps us similar, it’s in part a generational divide. Coming
from Portugal in the 1950’s was very different from someone coming in the
2000’s. It surprises me that it was only watching this show that I became
conscious of the role of specific "time spans" in determining how you experience,
and acclimatize in, the diasporic world.
da Nossa, with host Nellie Pedro. Her program is more about documenting the
weekly social events of the Portuguese Community, mostly in Toronto and
surrounding area: the various club dinners held in local church halls or
community centers which always include local entertainers with music for old
and young to dance to while children run between the dancing partners. Others watch,
sitting around large tables where an entire family can be together and eat caldo verde and other traditional
dishes. Today she announced the "tourada
à corda" happening (not in its native island of Terceira) but in Cambridge,
Ontario and somewhere else I can’t remember because this is when I turned off
my TV. I can’t relate to this way of being Portuguese in Canada either. I
realize that the old generation of immigrants still clings to traditions and
ways that help them keep their past alive. Even had I stayed in the Azores I
would not have been someone who enjoyed club dinners, folkloric music and
dancing or any form of bullfighting. I must go my separate way without judging.
diversity, each trying to define and explain the Portuguese immigrant experience.
My sense is that the new wave is made up of very different people than those
who came during the old wave. The new generation of immigrants are accustomed
to social redes, mass media, YouTube and
iPhones and other trappings of imposed globalization. They will not miss these
things from home because they find them right here, too and so they will adapt seamlessly,
already familiar with the North American way of life. They will probably not
gravitate to the existing cocoons of old world nostalgia, just like most recent
generations of Canadians don’t go into old-timers’ legion halls, except at
voting time. Ultimately, the new Portuguese immigrant’s experience of saudade will be quite extraordinarily
different from earlier generations.
yet I found myself in none. I have been wrestling for several years with the
possibility of finding a place to belong within my ethnic community, looking
for a place of re-entry. In recent years, I have fumbled my way back through
the world of art and literature. I have tried hard to find a connection, and
I’ll keep on trying. Yet the more I try, the less connection I seem to find, and
the connections I make are, at best, tenuous. It’s always just a little bit not
the right fit.