Lúcia Noia: A phenomenal woman
“One’s life has value so long as one attributes
value to the life of others, by means of love,
friendship, and compassion”
Simone de Beauvoir
Our lives are all touched by people who make a difference in the world. In all facets of the human experience, throughout the ages, we have been touched by unique human beings whose love, friendship, compassion, commitment, vision and wisdom, have made our lives, and our world, both near and far, a much better place. There are people whose mere presence are inherently a call to action, an abundance of hopefulness, an embrace of empathy and solidarity, a voice for the voiceless, a bouquet of affections, or as poet Maya Angelou would say: a rainbow is someone’s cloud. Lúcia Noia is one of these unique people, who like Susan Cain believes deeply that: given the right light, everyone shines. Lúcia has lived a life of making sure that everyone, independently who they are, where they came from, and what cards have been dealt to them, must have the right light and everyone, everywhere must shine, for as Virginia Woolf wrote: as a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.
Lúcia Noia is a native of the islands of the Azores. Born the same year that Margaret Mitchel published Gone with the Wind and Bette Davis won an Oscar for best actress in Mutiny on the Bounty. The year that the Boulder Dam, which created the largest artificial reservoir in the U.S. and provided power to 1.5 million people, was completed; the first successful helicopter flight is made; Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt (fittingly for Lucia) is reelected to a second term in a landslide election; the Oakland-Bay bridge is open to traffic; in her homeland the same year that dictator António Oliveira Salazar created the Mocidade Portuguesa (a Portuguese fascist movement for young people) and also appropriately Carlos Saavedra Lamas, an Argentinean defender of social justice and equality is honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. These aren’t simple consequences but events and movements that came to shape the life of Lúcia Noia, whose fight for human dignity, equality for all, freedom, including economic freedom, has been an integral part of her life, including the turbulent years in high school, whether they be in Horta or Angra do Heroísmo, where through her unequivocal passion for justice and equality she was able to portray to herself and those around her what Eleanor Roosevelt once persuasively said: “a woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” Indeed, by getting in “hot water” with a closed and fascist regime, Lúcia proved what Simone de Beauvoir coined that: one is not born, but rather becomes a woman.
In 1959 Lucia left these beautiful, peaceful, but yet very closed islands, where she was denied a teaching position because she was going to marry a non-Portuguese citizen, and emigrated to Canada. This was the same year that Pope John the 23rd proclaims the Second Vatican Council; that the Cuban revolution began; that Hawaii became the 50th state; that A Raisin in the Sun was hitting all records on Broadway; that Ella Fitzgerald won the first Grammy awards; that Indira Ghandi, was elected President of the People’s Party in India and that Eleanor Flexner published the history of the women’s movement in the United States, A Century of Struggle. This life changing decision continued to shape the Lúcia Noia that we know and admire. In the country that has the most beautiful lakes in the world, the best maple syrup and some of the nicest and politest people, Lúcia served her community well, dedicating countless hours to assisting the recent emigrants, she embodied what our Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotto Mayor wrote: don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength. Indeed, mixed in that well-mannered, soft spoken, sweet and loving person, is a woman who, and paraphrasing Oprah Winfrey: stepped out of the history that was holding her back and stepped into the new story she was willing to create. In Canada, Lucia although with a few adversities, was able to follow what another great woman and poet, Sylvia Plath wrote: one should be able to control and manipulate experiences with an informed and intelligent mind. Lúcia, till this day, continues to utilize her experiences, her intelligence and her commitment to information and education to not only make some of her most important business decisions, but also to assist and improve the lives of those around her and all of society.
In 1963 she traded the cold winters of Canada for the warm California sun. As she was making the Golden State her new home, Russian Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space; Elizabeth Taylor was setting record with her role in Cleopatra; the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law by President John F Kenney; Maria Goeppert Mayer became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics; Betty Friedan published the ground breaking book: The Feminine Mystique; Alicia Patterson wrote the academic thesis: Equality Between the Sexes; Judy Garland became one of the first women with her own television show o CBS and federal Judge Sara Hughes became the first, and so far only woman to swear in a US President, Lyndon Johnson.
Soon after her arrival in the valley Lúcia started a Portuguese radio program, that she produced for 16 years and one that not only took pride in the beauty of the Portuguese language but offered an amalgam of services to our community. She stood up for injustices and ruffled a few feathers in our Portuguese-American male dominated world. She certainly echoed what writer Nora Ephron said at a commencement ceremony at Wellsley College in 1996: I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little difference out there. And I hope that you will choose to make some that trouble on behalf of women. Lúcia made a bit of trouble and thank God she did, for she helped shaped a better world for many people. In the field of mental health, in community services for the elderly and the vulnerable, in information for the recent emigrants, because during the 16 years she had her radio program, the valley had the largest influence of emigrants from the Azores in the 20th century with dozens of families arriving every month. Lucia through her radio program was able to find many of the incoming emigrants jobs and services. She personified the words of poet Maya Angelou: if you get, Give. If you learn, Teach.
Lúcia’s trajectory in California has been one that certainly equates to a true American success story. Not a story of bulling or climbing the ladder at anyone and everyone’s expense. Since her business began almost 30 years ago Lúcia, as she built a successful and social responsible enterprise, she also continued her commitment to social justice through her involvement in progressive causes; her cultural affinities where continued through sponsorships and generous gifts; her Portuguese-American community connection through her presence in Os Portugueses no Vale at KNXT Channel 49 and her sponsorship of many Portuguese community media outlets and Portuguese language and cultural scholarships. Lúcia’s involvement and her contributions continue to be a relevant part of our Portuguese-American legacy in the Valley. Her feminist perspective is still refreshing and exuberant. I’m reminded of what the former Texas Democratic governor, the outspoken Ann Richards once said: after all Ginger Roberts did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels. And although Lucia is respectful and cognizant of her past, the traditions and the cultural heritage that embodies who she is, she certainly has prescribed to the words Hillary Clinton, whom she has met and spoken with, just recently said: every moment wasted looking back, keeps us from moving forward…In this world and the world of tomorrow, we must go forward together or not at all.
The world has changed immensely since Lúcia Noia arrived in California in the 1960’s, but there are some things that still haven’t changed as much as progressives like Lucia would like to see, for as the writer Margaret Atwood once said: we still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly. However, strong, committed, dedicated, visionary women like Lúcia Noia have changed the paradigm. For as Marge Piercy affirmed: a strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not to be done. The world, our country and our area are certainly better off because of the determination, the hard work, the community spirit and the commitment to social justice that is espoused by people like Lucia Noia. Indeed, poet Emily Dickenson is correct in writing that: forever is composed of nows. The many ventures that Lucia has Lucia has accomplished, personally and publicly will be with us forever. For as the television broadcaster Rachel Maddow recently said: if you are someone people count on, particularly in difficult moments, that’s a sign of a life lived honorably. Lúcia certainly lives an honorable life.
As President Barack Obama just recently reminded us that we are, and will always be a nation of immigrants, that we too as the Bible says: were strangers once, and that we all are here on someone else’s shoulders, I would like to end by citing part of a poem by Maya Angelou appropriately entitled Phenomenal Woman:
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Ladies and Gentlemen that is who we celebrate today. The friendship, the smile, the love
of a true phenomenal woman Lúcia Noia.