Friday, September 15, 2006

Dutchaguese Dreamer

I love having a very diverse heritage. Half of my family is Portuguese/Catholic, and half of my family is Dutch/Protestant. It is really cool to be part of both worlds.

As a child I was much more immersed in the Dutch/Protestant part of my heritage, so much so that at that time it felt like being Dutch/Protestant was “normal” (that’s what EVERYBODY was) and being Portuguese/Catholic, for reasons too many to fully list here, was exotic and romantic. (To illustrate this, I really should post a picture of my cousin as queen of the festa – pronounced “feshta.” My grandfather’s stories about his parents returning to their village to fulfill a “promesa” to God seemed romantic as well.)

The picture above is of the Azore Island of Pico (pronounced “peak”). My dream as a child was to visit the Azore Islands, where my Portuguese ancestors came from – sort of an Atlantic version of Hawaii. I’ve recently heard it described as a combination of Hawaii and Ireland. Beauty aside, as a child I wanted to go there because it seemed like a hidden part of myself was calling me there to find some secret half of me I didn’t fully know.

Growing up, I felt I didn’t entirely belong in either world. Imagine having the last name Fernandes and attending a church entirely populated with Dutch people. Imagine visiting Portuguese relatives and being Protestant. (Back then I didn’t want to celebrate being different. I just wanted to fit in, as I think most children do!) In these settings I felt at times like I was only half of what I should have been, but now, instead of feeling halved, I feel doubled – doubly blessed.

As an adult I see and revel in the richness and romance in both sides of my heritage, but the little child inside Dutchaguese me still dreams of visiting the Azores someday. Given this picture, can you blame me?

(For a post with other images, click here.)


Amy said...

Where did you find that photo? I think that is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen. I too can relate to your sentiment.

Heidi said...

It was kind of serendipitous, actually. I am putting together a team of professors to oversee my grad program, and one of the professors I approached was born and raised in the Azores and visits every summer. (His last name is the same as Grandma Fernandes' maiden name). The picture of Pico was a screen saver on his computer, and I asked him to send it to me.

Anyway, talking with him and seeing that picture inspired me to write this post. Thanks for sharing that you can relate. :-)

Ellen said...

Wow...that picture is stunning. I think that you do need to visit Azore Islands someday.

Being half Swedish and half Dutch, I didn't have such a distinct difference in culture between the two sides of my family...the biggest differences were how "frugal" Dutch people are and Arminianism vs. Calvinism. :) I will say, though, that my Swedish side of that family had really retained a lot of their culture while the Dutch side seemed more...American.

Aaanyway, I'm just babbbling. All that I really wanted to say was that I loved the picture and that it IS cool that you have two such distinct heritages. (Can heritage be made plural? Not sure....whatever, you get my point. :))

Heidi said...

I wondered about "heritages" too and was too lazy to look it up, so I avoided using it! :-)

I got my shot at Arminianism vs. Calvinism being raised in the CRC but having gone to a Christian school with a Pentecostal base. I learned my Calvinism better in the Pentecostal-based school than in CRC catechism through "arguing" with my Bible teachers in school! (There too I was kind of the odd one out but didn't mind and held my ground!)

As to retention of culture, on both sides of my family it was pretty much my great-grandparents who immigrated, and at that time the prevailing attitude was, "We're in America now. We speak English." That assimilation is so important, but I wish a bit of the language could have been preserved and passed down.
Besides being a beautiful way to retain culture, wouldn't it be great to be trilingual?!

antonio said...

Hey, partner, that is a cool picture of the other islands. Of course, by the time one sees the whole beauty of Azores, one is bound by 'saudade' for the rest of one's life. You really need to visit those islands, and be sure to not skip S. Miguel (Saint Michael) and Flores (Flowers). These hold the climax of the natural beauty.

By the way, having been born and raised full-blooded Portuguese(whatever that means) into a Catholic family, and over the decades built many good friendships with Protestants, I feel at home anywhere, but always never anything but Catholic.

Great shot, to whomever must be credit due.