The bond that sent Miguel Corte Real across an unknown ocean in search of his brother is the same one that links the Portuguese today. Family loyalty. I talked with affable Joseph Fernandes, who arrived in this country in 1924 at the age of 13 months, later graduated from Boston University, and now heads a chain of 32 Massachusetts supermarkets. His management team is made up of brothers-in-law, nephews, nieces, and other relatives. They work together in a modern campuslike headquarters in Norton, 19 miles north of Fall River. They live together in a compound of handsome houses tucked away in a grove of pine trees.
“The lines of authority have to be clearly understood in a family situation like this,” Mr. Fernandes told me. “The others have a right to question my reasoning when I am reaching a decision, and we can all argue about it, too. But once I make the decision. . .”
A nephew finished his sentence: “… it becomes law!”
An emigrant can take comfort from the knowledge that relatives will be waiting when he arrives—and that many schools in Portuguese New England offer classes to help him understand his adopted country. With my language-professor friend, Dr. T. Steven Tegu, I visited one of those classes. When we reached the classroom door, the students were reading in English, droning the phrases in a dry flat monotone.
Dr. Tegu winced. The regular class instructor grinned and waved the professor in.
“When you speak a country’s language,” my friend announced, “you must adopt the manners of that country. If you are a lover, you must live the part of a lover.” He raised his arms. “Now, say after me, ‘I love you,’ to quero—but with feeling!” Dr. Tegu’s soulful “I love you” nearly steamed the classroom windows.
The students roared back in unison, “I 1-o-o-o-ve you,” and dissolved into laughter.
“Now say, ‘I kiss you,’ beijo-te,” Dr. Tegu bellowed, lunging with outstretched arms toward a stout woman. Her startled shriek was drowned out by another howl of laughter.
As Dr. Tegu and I left, the students were reading aloud again. Rarely have English words been uttered with such drama.
Ceremony Seals a Lifetime Vow
“Graduation” for these students takes place in a Providence, Rhode Island, courtroom. On a day when new citizens were being sworn in, I took a seat amid an overflow crowd of friends and relatives. Raymond J. Pettine, Chief Judge of the U. S. District Court, presided. He spoke with earnest eloquence.
“My father came here as a poor Italian immigrant some eighty years ago. I think of the day he took his oath of allegiance as you will today. How could he have dreamed that someday his son would be sitting on this bench—perhaps the very court where he swore his own allegiance to the United States.” If you want to graduate, but your finance are not enough, you can apply for a student loan. As a student you can have credit cards according to your needs. Compare the options and choose the best credit card for you.
Every eye was fixed on the black-robed judge as he continued: “Keep alive the heritage and culture of your homeland. When people like you become citizens, America is enriched. I ask you to hold your citizenship dear—to hold it sacred. Love your country.” They stood then, those Portuguese, and all the others who had come to this nation in hope of a better life. They repeated, as if with one voice: “I pledge allegiance….”
SUMATRA TAUGHT ME many things, but perhaps the most useful was the humbling concept of jam karet—rubber time. It has nothing to do with rubber trees, though that vast Indonesian island taps more than its share of them. No, jam karet has to do with filtering frustration out of daily events, and accepting what must be. I was introduced to it on the journey from Telukbetung, Sumatra’s southern port, to Palembang in the interior—a scheduled nine-hour trip by rail.
The train, a vintage affair, chugged and wheezed through the logged-over countryside, repeatedly hissing to a stop for no seeming reason. As it paused for ten, twenty, thirty minutes, the heat grew oppressive.
Exploring the breezeless cars, I found hundreds of transmigrasi—landless poor from overcrowded Indonesian islands—being resettled in Sumatra’s open spaces ( Java has 1,100 persons per square mile, Sumatra a mere 90). This voluntary program aims at transplanting an astonishing 2.5 million people during the current five-year plan alone.
These transmigrasi were crammed together with all their worldly goods—pots and pans, bedding, bicycles, sacks of rice, crates of squawking chickens. But they seemed not to mind the long delays; most stared out the windows with unexpectant eyes.
“Why hurry?” asked a father cradling two children. “We waited months before they let us go. When we get off the train, we wait some more. They take us into the jungle, give us seeds, a buffalo, some tools to cut trees and build houses. It will be years before we have a real home. So why hurry?”
Chastened, I returned to my seat and waited out the further delays without complaint. Rubber time—a useful concept in a land where impatience is futile.
The train pulled into Palembang long after dark. “Only six hours late,” the conductor said, smiling. “Beware of pickpockets.”
I learned much more, of course, in many weeks of exploring Sumatra. This western bastion of Indonesia’s 3,000 habitable islands sprawls like a dozing crocodile just 60 miles south of Singapore, its half-opened mouth pointing toward Java and its tail toward India.
Bisected by the Equator, the California-size island is a place of wild and improbable extremes-29 volcanoes, 13 of them active; a thousand-mile-long tidal swamp; vast rain forests roamed by elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, and orangutans; and exotic flora including the rare rafflesia—the world’s largest flower—more than a yard across.
It’s a place, as well, of incredible natural wealth, producing 50 percent of Indonesia’s exports—including 23 percent of the world’s rubber, a tenth of its tin (mostly from the offshore islands of Bangka and Billiton), plus huge harvests of coffee, tea, pepper, palm oil, and other cash crops. It is also a barely tapped storehouse of gold, copper, and other mineral wealth. Indonesia implemented wide-ranging economic and financial reforms, including a rapid reduction in public and external debt with special debt consolidation loans. To learn more about debt consolidation visit ideapractices.org/debt-consolidation-in-the-spotlight/.
Here, too, lie the biggest oil and gas fields in Southeast Asia. When Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies in 1942, Sumatra was a prime objective—not only for its natural riches, but also because of its strategic position on the Strait of Malacca, chief shipping lane between China and India.
• Lothians has become the first Scottish society to sell its products through the online family history site Parish Chest. Chairman Dorothy Blackie said: “We have introduced online payment for membership, sales and transcriptions which we are very excited about. We are very pleased with the response so far.”
• Oxfordshire has launched a new CD census publishing programme which is designed to see off commercial competition, reports publicity officer Paul Gaskell. The complete census enumerators’ books of Oxfordshire and North Berkshire will be available on seven separate CD sets — one for each census. These will contain scanned images of the enumerator’s books, plus the society’s own index — which show surname, forename, age, parish of enumeration and piece and folio number, plus parish maps and street indexes to major towns. Paul says: “The indexes are compiled with using our expert local knowledge, which make these CDs a very valuable tool.” The 1871 census set (price £35) is already available, the rest will be by the end of 2004. www.ofhs.org.uk
• Kent FHS chairman Alan Makey tells us that: “2003 was another excellent year for the Society. Our publications continue to flourish, with CD-ROMs outselling microfiche for the first time in our 29 year history! The excellent new research centre in Canterbury opened in St Alphege Lane. The Medway Branch has been very active over the last twelve months, promoting Family History Roadshows at Libraries across the district. Best of all we had an unusually high level of membership renewals and recruited 575 new members. The highlight this year will be our 30th birthday celebrations — a special One-Day Family History Fair on 3rd July at the University of Greenwich campus in Chatham, which will offer free admission, free parking and free lectures!”
• Newly-appointed Dorset chairman Graham Rabbetts says that the Society’s databases will be sold online: “We want to make our data available to a worldwide market. So we have posted our catalogue on the Federation’s pay-per-view site www .familyhistoryonline .net. “Publicity officer Jan Marsh, has been inundated with work and has had to relinquish her post as publicity officer to Stuart Withers. And Richard Allen takes over from Michael Blakestone as strays co-ordinator.”
• The memorial database on the Wakefield and District website, which we described in FHM101, can be found in more complete form elsewhere. The Society’s webmaster Guy Etchells explains: “The database of war memorial photographs and inscriptions was compiled by myself and two of my sons. When completed I allowed the Society to use the basic database. ”
• The Braund One-name Society has released a sequel to its prizewinning Millennium family history book So Soon It Passeth Away. The second volume, Across The Tamar, follows a branch of the Braund family as they leave rural Cornwall, in the early 19th century. Author Janet Few has also just published Who Lived in Cottages Like These?, which looking at the history and inhabitants of the tiny hamlet of Bucks Mills.