Comunidades

“I never felt like I was only Portuguese, or only Canadian” Nelly Furtado

“Nelly Furtado's inspiring and powerful words carry a strong message of community, heritage, and culture.” Luis Pacheco

“I never felt like I was only Portuguese, or only Canadian” Nelly Furtado


I would like to thank Luis Pacheco for bringing to my attention this inspirational piece written by his dear friend Nelly Furtado. I thank Nelly for allowing me to publish it  on Comunidades RTPAcores, and, therefore, to be shared by thousands of readers worldwide.
Irene Maria F. Blayer

-----------------------------------

“Nelly Furtado's inspiring and powerful words carry a strong message of community, heritage, and culture.” Luis Pacheco



“I never felt like I was only Portuguese, or only Canadian”
Nelly Furtado

I was born in Victoria, B.C., where my mother and father always made certain that my siblings and I saw our Portuguese ancestry as a blessing and never a burden. They saw our heritage as Portuguese-Canadians as something to be built upon, something to cherish, and most definitely something to share with others. They had humble but important jobs, my mother running the houskeeping department of a busy motel and my father owning a small landscaping and stone masonry business.
     We lived a modest life, but my parents always made sure we had everything we needed. My mother would get up very early, packing our lunches and making us breakfast, and then she would drive me to concert and jazz band practice 5 mornings a week, shuttle us to Portuguese school or Portuguese marching band on weeknights, and drive us to Portuguese folk dancing and band performances on the weekends, at the festas that peppered our busy schedule. I loved playing the marchas on my trombone, something I took up at the age of 9, right around the time of the passing of my grandfather, Maestro Virginio Neto, the conductor and sometime composer of the Lira de Ponta Garça, in S. Miguel, Acores. Whenever I performed and practiced with the Lira, I did it as a tribute to him.
     My mother was never limited by the stereotype of an immigrant working in the labour industry. She never let her circumstances define her. Although her family in Ponta Garça, did not have the financial means to send her to higher education as a child, once she immigrated to Canada at the age of 25, she taught herself to speak, write and read in English, which she loved practicing at home with us. To this day we share our love of English literature, trading novels and laughs together. Growing up, my mother was a real stateswoman, offering valid and poignant arguments in her role as secretary of the church council. She always exuded class, sophistication and plenty of fire. She raised us to be intellectual, to be creative, to indulge our fantasies and most importantly, to believe in our dreams.
     My father, a whimsical and artistic man, instilled a love of performance in me. He used to bring me with him to watch cancoes desafio, improvisational singing events, in the villages on our vacations to S. Miguel. Sometimes he would spontaneously decide to join the show, and he'd jump on stage and sing. I was mesmerized by the drama, the humanity, and the uniqueness of this very rural offshoot of fado. The raw, folk quality of the Azorean fado desafio style very much influences the way I write songs today. I call it free-singing...and I make it up as I go along.
     As luso-descendants living in Canada, we have a long way to go and more mountains to conquer. We can achieve this through a shift in our ideology. We need to refuse to accept stereotypes for ourselves. 
      If my parents had prescribed to stereotypes, I would have never been able to see myself outside of a certain bubble of society. I would have never been able to go after my dreams with confidence.
     It is clear and documented that the current problems facing our youth with regards to education are ideological and systemic. There are also socio-economic barriers. However, I believe that there is an old guard in our culture that we need to intentionally and consciously shake up.
     As a youth, I was lucky to adopt a personal identity that I was "pan-ethnic," that made me feel connected to many other first-generation peers beyond the Portuguese community alone. This saved me, as I never felt like I was only Portuguese, or only Canadian. I felt like I was part of a new and improved identity that belonged to the broader world, and this was key for me in finding my own voice.
Growing up, I visited my own catholic church community, but I was also open-minded about exploring other religions, identities and cultures, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Presbytarianism, Spiritualism, Taoism, Sufism, and beyond. I refused to believe that being Portuguese just meant being Catholic, or that being Portuguese just meant being heterosexual or that being Portuguese just meant belonging to a "traditional family" or a "traditional lifestyle."
     Throughout my life, I have chosen not to pigeon-hole myself into the boxes and labels of my Portuguese-Canadian culture. Let's remember that a stifled Portuguese culture was imported to Canada and left to ferment at a time when Portugal itself was undergoing revolution and real change.
     Overall, let's admit that our Portuguese culture sometimes still prescribes to the old-world fear of being outcast for being different. Our culture does not always honour individuality. Our culture still suffers from extreme gender bias. All of these ills can create a poverty of the mind for young people that is excruciatingly difficult to overcome.
     We need to push past generalizations about our culture for the sake of our youth. We should not be limited by religion, gender, sexuality, race, or lifestyle. Our doors need to be wide open for opportunity. Inflexible viewpoints on how to be a "real Portuguese" will only limit us in our achievements.
     We should focus on what makes us unique and reveal in what I believe is our true nature - unbridled creativity, adventure, passion and inventiveness! These are the ingredients of a truly potent and rich sense of identity - not an identity limited by the categories of antiquity.
     Last fall, I was bestowed with the honour of Commander of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Portugal. It was an honor to perform that night, singing in Portuguese along with Antonio Zambujo. As I stood on that stage, I tapped into another world and I felt it way down in my bones. It was a personal moment of reflection, because I realized that being Portuguese truly made me who I am.
     I would never want to be anything else. It's so comforting to know that 600 years of my bloodline can all be traced to S. Miguel. It's my spiritual home, and I've enjoyed passing on this connection to my daughter who has visited S. Miguel every year since she was born. It has supplied me with so much inspiration. My grandfather, when he played his marchas, spoke to the depths of the souls of the musicians who came before him on the island. He spoke to me and continues to speak to me, and he has left me with a musical legacy that I am proud of and grateful for.
     But let's make tonight about the future. Let's save our judgement, and accept with love and compassion, all luso-descendants, not only in this country, but in our worldwide diaspora. We are all LUSO, we are all Portuguese, and we should all want to live in the fearless spirit of our ancestors.
     Let's tear down the walls that separate us, and become stronger, better and ultimately, more brave.  Because, as we all know, the future belongs to the brave.
     
      Obrigada!

       Nelly Furtado







Published by Dr. Irene Maria F. Blayer 
Full Professor - Brock University- ON- Canada




NOTE: Photo Credit: Camoes Radio