A post from a great blog by fellow Cape Verdean history enthusiast, Gerson Monteiro
In honor of Armistice/ Veterans Day this post will honor Cape Verdean veterans of American Wars.
The Cape Verdean community here in the States should be very proud of all the Patriots it has produced and lost in every American war since the beginning; fighting for its independence, it’s struggle to remain a unified nation and for the abolition of slavery. We have fought with her against fascists and saved millions from death camps all over Europe. We were there in Korea and Vietnam and every other time Americans have been called to serve this country, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here is a partially list of the thousands of Cape Verdeans that have served this great nation (info provided by www.thecreolagenealogist.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/cape-verdeans-and-americas-independance-day-just-as-american-as-apple-pie :
Documented Cape Verdean military soldiers in the Revolutionary war for Independence from England were collected by Jose dos Anjos in his research of Cape Verdean military soldiers
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In 1937, Mario “Marty” Rose, a Cape Verdean American from New Bedford filmed his trip to Cabo Verde and produced what is probably the first film ever made in Cape Verde. He set sail with Captain Benjamin Costa aboard the schooner, Stranger, owned by the da Lomba Family of New Bedford. This film was shown by Mr Rose and the Seamen’s Memorial Scholarship Fund in the 1940’s.
The significance of this film can not be overstated as it gives us a visual glimpse into how our ancestors lived. The footage of the men aboard the ship at the port in New Bedford reflects the daily activities of our ancestors preparing to leave port on whaling ships for whatever corner of the earth yielded the coveted whale oil. As the men set off, Mr Rose includes a clip of some rough seas and violent looking waves that was surely common on any voyage across the Atlantic and further testifies to courage our ancestors demonstrated each time they made these voyages.
They arrived in São Vicente and travel over to São Nicolão filming various aspects of island life. But for me, the moments in Brava, about 20 minutes in, were the most emotional to watch. In 1937, my maternal grandmother, Vovo, would have been 14 years old and living with my great-grandmother, Bibi, in the home built by her and my great-grandfather, Avelino, who died in Waterbury, CT just 8 years prior. My maternal grandfather, Raimundo, was 20 years old and living in Tome Barraz. His mother would have been living in Onset, MA for about 19 years at that point and his father Marcelino, was back in Lomba Lomba after spending many years in New Bedford.
My paternal grandparents were newlyweds having gotten married in July of that year and living in Figueral in the same home with her mother, Anna, while my great-grandfather was living and working in New Brunswick, NJ with his brother João. My father would be born two years later. The house that would be later owned by my great-aunt, Albertina, is shown in the port of Furna, as a large group of Brava men work to put a ship they had just finished building in the water. Those men pictured could have been the same ones who boarded the schooner, Mathilde, 6 years later.
Mr Rose filmed a wedding procession from Campo to Nova Sintra showing beautifully dressed men and women following an equally beautiful but somber couple to the church to be married. A group of men with guitars and violins escorted the group to and from playing mornas I’m sure I’ve heard before. I can imagine my grandparents walking the same paths in their wedding clothes with other members of my family following as the same musicians played a morna. Another procession depicts the da Lomba family burying one of their female family members.
Watching the feast on Emancipation day commemorating the abolishment of slavery in Cape Verde took my breath away. In the footage it looks like a group of men, women and children, who may have been descendants of the slaves freed in 1876, are seen eating canja at a long table flanked by whiter-skinned people with smiles. The gentleman at the head of the table looks like so many Cape Verdeans I’ve known in my family and in my community. It’s difficult not to feel some ambivalence and maybe outright abhorrence toward the “benevolent Portuguese Government” who footed the bill for this “magnificent feast” of chicken and rice soup while looking into the faces of our ancestors who endured slavery in Cape Verde. I can’t imagine that hundreds of years of slavery could be forgiven over a bowl of canja.
Mr Rose was right when they wrote that Bravenses frowned upon the “Sabe Colinha”, a dance brought to the islands by our African Ancestors. I’ve actually done this dance before when a popular artist, Gil, came out with the song, “Maria Julia” in the 1990’s. You see a group of people in a circle surrounding people pounding on tamboros as a black woman with an lenço on her head sings and claps. You can almost hear her singing;
“O Sabe Colinha!
Colinha manda rufa na portal figuerinha!
Quel qu’e suju, bu da cachor,
Quel qu’e limpo, bu da’M de meu!”
The film then shows various aspects of life for Cape Verdeans in New Bedford and Cape Cod. We see ordinary people taking part in normal activities, along with lawyers and business people in the community. There’s even a wedding! Except these people could be seen smiling through out whereas it would have been considered impolite to do so in Cape Verde.
You can’t help but pause as the film begins showing some of our ancestors as they crouched in the cranberry bogs for pennies a bucket. In the 30’s and 40’s, my great-grandmother, Joanna, could have been among the women hunched over on their knees, in the hot summer sun, picking cranberries or blueberries. Her children and grandchildren would have accompanied her on many of those days to help the family. My great-grandfather, Jose and his cousin, Anibal, were working on the same railroad tracks shown in the film. Seeing these people who could have been and probably were my own relatives made feel all the more appreciative for the life I have because of them.
This film is a treasure for Cape Verdeans and Cape Verdean-Americans. Mario “Marty” Rose filmed this over 80 years ago and it was recently posted on youtube by his grandson, Derek Rose, a writer who now lives in New Zealand and gave his permission to attach this video. Please tell your family and friends about this great piece of history. Share this with as many people as you can so that we can all learn about our culture as we take a glimpse of a day in the life of our ancestors.
Thank you Marty and Derek!
Early last year, I was fortunate enough to visit the Providence Children’s Museum’s Coming to Rhode Island exhibit that features the stories of real people who immigrated and settled in Rhode Island. One of the people featured is Antonio Jose Coelho, captain of the Nellie May, a native of Brava and an ancestor.
The first time I actually came across his name was while I was searching for my great-great grandfather with the same name who I knew visited the United States many times before he died in 1917 in Brava. I also knew that he lived and worked in Providence. My great-great grandfather had a wife and children in Brava so I wasn’t exactly excited to see an Antonio Jose Coelho married and living with his wife and two kids in Providence! A word to the wise- always pay attention to birth dates! My Antonio was born in 1879 while Capt. Antonio was born in 1851… And both are ancestors of mine.
Capt. Coelho is said to have first arrived around 1866 which may have been on a whaling ship. My Coelho ancestors in Brava include a very long line of mariners.
He was married to Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo, also from Brava and had two sons, Joaquim and Cesar, all of whom followed Antonio to the United States between 1894 and 1897.
According to this 1900 census, Maria is quite a bit older than Antonio but both have 25 as the age they were when they first married. This, then, had to be Maria’s second marriage. In 1900, they were living on Traverse St. The 1910 census shows only Antonio, Maria and Cesar living together. Joaquim disappears from the records and I have not been able to locate him. He may have died but it is also possible that he returned to Brava or perhaps took up the family trade of whaling.
Antonio purchased the Nellie May from John Waters from Newport, Rhode Island and sailed the ship carrying people and goods from the States to Brava in 1892 and again in 1893 when a series of mishaps resulted in the captain of that voyage, Jose Godinho, beaching the ship to have it classified as abandoned and then purchase it himself at auction. Antonio fought two years, making appeals to Presidents Cleveland and McKinley, to get his ship back. Antonio died at the age of 92 without any compensation. During his life in Fox Point, Antonio was a well-known figure, helping many in the community with housing and employment and serving as an interpreter. (Excerpted from Cape Verdeans in America: Our Story, ed. Raymond A. Almeida. Boston: Tchuba-American Committee for Cape Verde, Inc., 1978. Boston. Based on original research by Michael K. H. Platzer and Dr. Diedre Meintel, with additional information collected by Cape Verdean community scholars.)
Antonio Jose Coelho Genealogy
Antonio was born on May 7, 1852. (Records have him born anywhere between 1851 and 1853.) He was the son of Joaquim Jose Coelho and Maria de Senna from Sao Joao Baptista, Brava. He also had a brother, Bernardino.
Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo was born around 1842 in Sao Joao Baptista and was the daughter of Antonio de Jesus d’Azevedo and Genoveva Tavares.
Joaquim Jose Coelho was the son of Francisco Jose Coelho and Claudina Maria da Graca.
Maria de Senna was the daughter of Francisco Ribeiro and Rosa de Senna
Francisco Jose Coelho was the son of Manuel Jose Coelho and Domingas da Graca
Claudina Maria da Graca was the daughter of Manuel Jose Gomes and Maria da Graca.
*Francisco and Claudina were married on June 17, 1811 and they were 2nd cousins, probably on their mothers’ sides.
Manuel Jose Coelho married to Domingas da Graca and parents to Francisco Jose Coelho.
Manuel Jose Gomes married to Maria da Graca (first cousin of Domingas da Graca) and parents of Claudina Maria da Graca.
Teotônio quickly made his way to Ma Culinha’s house next door with a telegram in his hands. It had already been months since her husband, Joao Arcanja, boarded the schooner, Mathilde, with no word until that day, January 2, 1944. Joao Maria Nunes sent the telegram from the United States notifying everyone that the Mathilde still hadn’t reached its destination. Her worst fears were realized. As word spread from Cham de Sousa to every corner of the tiny island, Ma Culinha mourned the death of her husband and the island mourned the deaths of many of its bravest souls.
The island was in the grips of some of the worst years of drought and famine. Most of the world was focused on WWII and shipments of goods from the United States had come to a halt. A group of 51 men decided to take a chance and make the voyage across the Atlantic to America. It was the only hope for hundreds of families who were starving to death. Some of these men were American citizens who were answering the call to serve in the military for the United States. They were willing to risk their lives in an old schooner if it meant survival for their families.
No one knows exactly what happened to the Mathilde after it set sail from the port of Feijão d’Agu. There are stories that the ship was already in such disrepair that it started taking on water as soon as it set off. Others claim that the ship was seen somewhere off the the islands of the Caribbean. Lost ships were nothing new, unfortunately, in Brava’s history but this was especially brutal because these men were some of the islands best and brightest. They were mariners, merchants, island administrators, husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.
Ma Culinha was my great- grand aunt – my great-grandmother, Bibi’s, sister. The two sisters supported each other as they were now both widowed with children. My grandmother was already an adult but Ma Culinha’s 5 children were still very young. Her youngest daughter was born shortly after her husband’s ship disappeared.
The story of the Mathilde has been documented in terms of the toll it took on Brava’s population but it was something else to read the account of the telegram from America being opened in my great grand aunt’s home in the book by Artur Viera; Mathilde, Viagem do Distino (Mathilde, Voyage with Destiny). I imagine that Bibi was there when the telegram arrived at Ma Culinha’s house as she lived next door. I knew the both of them, grew up with them, and never really knew the grief that they had to endure.
I had heard the story of Ma Culinha’s husband but it wasn’t something that was really talked about much. Our family had survived the drought and made its way to America. Their children’s children were living the American Dream and thoughts of starvation and death was something we never fathomed. What happened to those men was nearly forgotten to us if it weren’t for the efforts of people like Mr Vieira to ensure they weren’t forgotten.
Today, the names of these men are listed on a memorial located near the chapel at the port in Feijão d’Agu.
The Mathilde was constructed in São Vicente and purchased by Abel and Daniel Ramos (Silva) from the town of Cova de Rodella.
Captaining this voyage was was Henrique Duarte Rosa, also known as Henrique de Lola, from Lem and Antonio Faria Balla, known as Toi de Nino.
Domingos Jose da Silva, known as Senhor Ramos, a business man from Cova Rodella, sold each passenger their ticket, along with three of his sons, Daniel, Abel and Jose, who accompanied him on the ship.
Artur Viera includes a list of the passengers of Mathilde in his book. What I like about his book is that he uses the nicknames of these men along with who their family is. It seems to give life to the names on the pages and makes them real. Many of the names actually identify who their ancestors are. For example, Aurelio de Maria Vitoria, is Aurelio son of Maria, daughter of Victoria.
Abel Silva- married to Natinha Aurora, from Cova Rodella
Antonio Faria Balla (Toi de Nino) – married to Anna daughter of Mr. Carlos,
from Santa Barbara
Antonio de Lelo (Totoi)- married to Candida Henrique Quilota, from Cova
Antonio de Niche- single, from Vinagre
Armando Anahory Azevedo- married to Jovina, from Nova Sintra
Augusto Nina Lepéu- single, from Cova Rodella
Aurélio Maria Chico- married to Lotinha, from Cachaço
Aurelio de Maria Vitoria- single, from Tras de Cova
Avelino Lopes – married to Eugenia de Jalca, from Nossa Senhora do Monte
Basilio Bicha, from Nova Sintra
Belmiro Libana- single, from São Pedro Lém
Daniel Silva- married to Laura Madalena, from Cova Rodella
Domingos Jose Silva, married to Dominga, from Cova Rodella
Francisco Anahory Azevedo-single, from Nova Sintra
Guilherme de Bita- single, from Lem
Henrique de Anna Carolina- widower, from Lomba Cumprido
Henrique Duarte da Rosa- married to Benvinda, from Lem
Jack Manuel Cochila- single, from Nova Sintra
Djila- from Cova de Joanna
Joao Arcanja- married to Carolina (Ma Culinha), from Cham de Sousa
Joao Henrique Silva- married to Maria Dominga, Cova de Joanna
Joao de Julia- married to Pequena Marcelino, from Cova Rodella
Joao de Sao Pedro, from Lem
Joazinho Julia de Laia- single, from Cova Rodella
Joaquim Henrique Velinha- single, from Vinagre
Joaquim Joao Sena – married to Alés Teofilo, from Nossa Senhora do Monte
Joaquim Nunes- from Mato Grande
Jose Djedjedja- from Pai Luis
Jose Faria Balla- from Santa Barbara
Jose Henrique Silva- single, from Cova de Joanna
Jose Joao Fernandes- married to Bibi Henrique Quilota, from C. De Joanna
Jose Silva- Cova Rodella
Laurindo Teixeira Balla- from Nova Sintra
Mano Gelina- single, from Campo Baixo
Mano Mariquinha Frisina- single, Lomba Cumprido
Manuel Mundinho- married to Rosinha Maria de Nana, from Paùl
Manuel Joao Fernandes – married to Aida de Cheta, Nossa Senhora do
Mario (the ship cook)- from Boa Vista
Nando Julia Nonó- single, from Mato Riba
Napoleão Julio Silva- single, Cova de Joanna
Nuno Palmira- married to Bai, Cova Rodella
Paulo Joao Fernandes- single, from Clara Goncalves
Pedro (ship cook)- from Boa Vista
Rapazinho nha Nacia, married to Bibi Rosinha, from Tapume
Raul Rodrigues-son of Marcellino Rodrigues, from Fogo
Roberto Baina (Boboy, born in the US), single, Nossa Senhora do Monte
Silvestre Pires-Nossa Senhora do Monte
Tchany de Djudja- married to Junina, daughter of Mr Ramos
Tómas Faria Balla – married to Alice de Mina Pulutcha, from Vinagre
Zeca de Manuel Lai- married to Bia nha Tancha, Cova de Rodella
* third captain only known by the surname Rodrigues.
Joao Arcanja and Ma Culinha’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in and around Massachusetts today as do many of the descendants of these brave men. I would love to hear their stories. If anyone knows of them, please feel free to comment or message me directly.
-Viera, Artur, Mathilde, Viagem do Destino, 2nd Edition, 1995
I can still remember the day when my uncle announced he was naming his new son “Avelino” after his grandfather. I was twelve and I remember imagining the years of torment my new cousin was going to have to endure. Avelino!?! Why?!? Why would my uncle name his only son AVELINO? Why not James? And who was this grandfather? I didn’t know anything about him.
My uncle reminded me of a picture I had seen a thousand times of a young couple in a frame in my grandmother’s living room.
Avelino Barbosa Rodrigues and Maria Coelho Rodrigues
This started my search for Avelino. My great-grandmother, Bibi, didn’t speak much about her husband in all the time I knew her. Except for a few stories here and there, we really didn’t know much about this man who my little cousin was named after, except that Avelino was born in the town of Pai Luis (Father Luis) in the parish of Sao João Baptista in 1900 and died in Waterbury, CT in 1929.
On the 25 of August, 1901, in the chapel of Santo Antonio in the parish of Sao Joao Baptista, a boy named Avelino, born in the city of Pai Luis on October 27, 1900, was baptized. He was the legitimate son of Rufino Rodrigues and Isabel Barboza. He was the paternal grandson of Jose Rodrigues and Guilhermina da Graca and the maternal grandson of Arsenio Barboza and Henriqueta Coelho. His godfather was Joao Antonio Alfama, a married merchant who lived in Povoacão, São João Baptista. His god mother was Maria Goncalves, a single woman from the town of Fundo. His godfather’s signature is at the bottom of the certificate.
On the upper left corner, there’s a notation under my great-great grandparents names. It refers to this record being extracted on 9/2/1917. I believe my great grandfather might have needed his baptism record which would have served as his only means of identity because he was coming to America. My great-great grandfather, Rufino, was a mariner and traveling back and forth between America and Brava. Rufino was living with his brothers, Manuel and Benjamin in Providence where they would have mingled with my great-grandmother’s father, Antonio Coelho. Bibi had told me that their fathers were friends and arranged their marriage.
My great grandfather’s time in America isn’t very clear. He was living in New Britain, CT for a time where he, his brother, Arthur, and cousin, Ernest, ran a store. Toward the end of 1922, after exchanging a few letters and pictures, he arrived in Brava with a white wedding dress complete with a veil and white shoes to marry my great-grandmother. They were married December 31, 1922
Bibi told me the story about the day Avelino left for America on the schooner Volante just a few months after they were married. I can’t recall whether she said the ship left from the port of Furna or Feijão d’Agu but I do remember how she sounded as she described watching the ship disappear over the horizon. It was the last time she saw him.
The Volante arrived in New Bedford on May 18, 1923. My great grandfather is listed as a crew member of the schooner. It says that he had shipped out of New Bedford in October, 1922, that he was 22 years old, a seamen, could read and was about 5’7″ and 140 lbs.
Immigration of Cape Verdeans to America pretty much came to a halt around this time due to legislation on immigration. Avelino never went back to Brava and Bibi and my grandmother couldn’t come here as easily. In 1924, Avelino and his brother, Arthur, moved from New Britain to Waterbury. In 1925 he started work at the Chase Metal Works, a brass factory in the heart of Waterbury. The money he made from his work was sent to Brava along with building materials to build a home for his family in Cham de Sousa.
I believe it was meant to be a two story, “sobrado” style home. But before the house was finished, Avelino was killed in an accident at the factory.
Avelino Rodick (Rodrigues), 29, of 189 Orange street was almost instantly killed yesterday afternoon at 3:45 o’clock at the Chase Metal Works. Rodick was squirting water from a hose into a revolving tumbling barrel when the hose caught on a nearby barrel and dragged the worker between the barrel and it’s foundation. Rodick was knocked unconscious and died shortly afterward, according to the coroner, John T. Monsani, who investigated.
The man’s left chest was thoroughly crushed. The body was removed to the Lunny funeral parlor on Central Avenue, from which place it will be removed to his home this morning. The funeral will take place Wednesday morning from the home to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where a mass will be celebrated at 9 o’clock. Burial will be in Calvary cemetery.
Mr Rodick is survived by his wife, Maria; a daughter, Rosinha, his parents, Mr and Mrs Rufino Rodick; a brother, Arthur of Waterbury; a brother and sister at the Cape Verdi islands. He has lived in the city for the past five years and was employed at the Chase plant for four years
Some years ago I had a chance to meet a cousin who was Avelino’s step nephew and lived in the same home when Avelino died. He told me he remembered Avelino leaving for work, as usual, that morning only to return a few minutes later. He watched him go to his room and pick up a small picture of my grandmother, look at it for a while and placed it in his coat pocket. My cousin remembered this because he always felt like my great-grandfather had a feeling that something was going to happen and wanted to see his daughter’s face one more time.
85 years, 1 daughter, 6 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-great grandchildren later I wanted to tell Avelino’s story. It was the house he built that gave shelter to our family for two generations before they finally came to America in the 1960’s. The money that was paid from the accident at Chase Metal Works was what sustained our family during some tough times in Brava. We never met him but his life affected ours in unimaginable ways.
I began searching for Avelino in earnest when I lived for a short time in Waterbury after graduate school in 1998. I spent hours in the library looking for an obituary unsuccessfully. I was living the same city but could never find anything to tell me what happened to him. It wasn’t until ancestry.com came a long a couple of years ago that I found one index entry for Avelino’s grave marker showing that he had died in 1929, something I didn’t actually know before. I contacted the Waterbury clerks office where they explained that records that old were in storage and not as easily accessible and would take a while find. I contacted all the cemeteries in Waterbury that would have had burials around 1929. It took a while but was finally given information on when he was buried but they had no information on why he died. I contacted all the churches that would have been in service at the time only to be told that all the records were transferred to the archdiocese of Hartford. The archivist there told me that they had no records dating back to 1929 for any churches that would have served the Portuguese community of Waterbury. So, on a whim, I contacted the very same library I had spent many hours at nearly 15 years prior. I explained to the librarian what I had been through trying to find my great-grandfather and she immediately found a city directory showing where he worked.
The next day, I received an email with the article above explaining, finally, what happened to Avelino. I cried as I read what had happened to him the day he was killed.
None of Avelino’s direct descendants had ever visited his grave. So on a trip back home from Massachusetts one day, I took a different route back to DC that went right through Waterbury. I drove to Calvary Cemetery to visit Avelino.
On a small hill under a tree I found his simple gravestone.
And I said, “Thank you”.
I wish I can go back to the day I complained about my uncle naming my cousin, Avelino. I understand now why he wanted to honor him by passing his name down to his only son.