Genealogy isn’t only about discovering forgotten ancestors.
It’s also about remembering and preserving the life stories of people you’ve known your whole life.
The absolute hardest thing I have ever had to do is to put an “end date” to a loved one’s profile in my family tree. It seems so finite and almost cruel to summarize a human being with just two dates. It took almost a year for me to open my FamilyTree program and add my step-father’s death date. I remember thinking “What now? That’s it?”. What about the 66 years in between? Was this all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to ever know about him? I wrote a post about him after his death as a way to personalize his profile on my family tree. That was in 2011.
On January 30, 2017, my Titia Stella died. (I wish I could stop crying because it makes it so much harder to see the keys). Her breast cancer had metastasized into Paraneoplastic Syndrome and took over her whole body. She was 70 years old but, for at least the last 20 years, she was only 49 🙂. She was the first daughter of Raimundo F. and Rosa R. Lima, mother to Charles, William Jr., and my late cousin, Stephen, grandmother to Kayla, Jordan and Aaron, and great-grandmother to Tayla.
To me, she was Titia Strella (Star in Portuguese). You couldn’t help but smile with her no matter how you were feeling before. She made it her mission to make everyone feel happy and loved. I truly believe that when God made her, He took a bit of the sun’s warmth and the brilliance of the moon and stars to create her. When you saw her or even heard someone say her name you couldn’t help but smile. She was the embodiment of a true Christian. Whether it was visiting someone who was sick or in jail, providing a place to stay for anyone who needed it, or simply lending an ear to listen to your problems to which she would respond “Oh Honey! It’s gonna be OK”.
Her fashion sense was second to none 😋 and she always had some interesting stories to tell. It was a treat to hear her tell the story af opening a bank account with $25 to buy a house. Or the dream she had of a Portuguese-speaking black dog who told her that she should move to Brockton from Wareham. She wasn’t afraid to wear white shoes to Thanksgiving dinner and I can’t recall anyone having a bad word to say about her.
She loved her sons, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved her brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. And we all felt it.
She always said that I was her favorite niece… she apparently said that to my cousins as well. So a few days before she passed away, as the family was gathering to say their goodbyes, me and my cousins, Michelle and Sindy (the other supposed favorite nieces😏) decided to get to the bottom of this … just which one of us was her favorite?!? She couldn’t move or speak at that point so we gathered around her bed and whispered in her ears to give us a little signal to let us know who it was. In the middle of the smiles and tears, I felt the faintest squeeze of my hand…. and then she gave each of us a smile.
(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading) 1. Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African? …
(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading)
Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African?
Both terms are factually incorrect. A dialect infers mutual intelligibility. Portuguese and Kriolu are not. Secondly, Portuguese is a language and Africa is a continent! “African” is not a language… it’s crazy that I even have to make this distinction! It’s a continent…!!!!
Most Cape Verdeans understand Portuguese because it’s taught in the schools and is the language of business and commerce. It’s a second language for them. Unless Kriolu is being taught in Portuguese classrooms somewhere that I’m not aware of, it’s a safe bet that Portuguese aren’t referring to our language as a dialect of their own, as they would the Portuguese spoken in the Azores, Madeira or Brazil.
As a matter of fact, we only have to read historical texts, that they wrote in their own words, to see depictions of Kriolu speakers as dumb and uneducated. They ridiculed our ancestors and the way they spoke! It was a “nonsense” language. They NEVER attempted to identify it as a “dialect” of their language. We, Kriolu speakers, are the only ones making this argument. They don’t claim it so why are we holding on to an idea that only perpetuates colonization of our minds and identity.
Why do we insist on calling the language that embodies our “Caboverdeanidade” something IT IS NOT!?!?!
Even if we hold on to the false narrative that we speak a “dialect”, why can’t it be a dialect of Wolof, Fula or Serer? Those were the mother tongues of the majority of the blacks that set foot on the islands as enslaved captives.
So much has been done to erase our black history and ignore the contributions that our ancestors made. Can we really continue to ignore that they made significant contributions to the language we use to identify ourselves?
Kriolu is not a dialect but a “Creole language”. It basically means that vocabulary from various contributing languages were combined with a grammatical set of rules that some believe we are all born with (Bickerton). In our case, the grammatical system is primarily based on the Mande language and other West-Atlantic languages, according to Dr Marlyse Baptista, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan and Cape Verdean American. This (very simple) definition implies and demands that there is more than just Portuguese contributions (or Spanish, Italian, etc for that matter) in Kriolu.
I am very sure that Blacks weren’t a literal “silent” majority in Cabo Verde to the extent that their native tongues were not an integral part in the creation of Kriolu. To ignore this fact is to perpetuate an already egregious insult to our ancestors. They deserve to be remembered just as much as we remember AND celebrate our European ancestors.
What we speak is a LANGUAGE… it is NOT a dialect, nor a slang and definitely not some nonsense jargon.
I understand the legacy of colonization is to blame, I just don’t agree with perpetuating my own colonization.
When I speak the language of my ancestors, I honor them.
N ta papia Kriolu, e bo?
When I’m not doing genealogy, I’m a Speech Pathologist. A few months back I had a conversation with a patient and her family about genealogy and started helping them with their family tree. I traced them back to a former slave named Charlotte who bought a bunch of land after Emancipation and the civil war. The family still lives on this land today.
Part of this research traced back to a place called Piscataway.
While trying to find my way to a new patient’s home the other day, my gps brings me down a wrong road and guess where I find myself???? … The historic village of Piscataway!!! So I figure “What the hay” and drive up one of the plantation looking driveways and knock on the door.
A sweet looking lady answers the door and after I tell her what I was researching, she invites me in! Then she gets on the phone with the president of their small historical association and has me speak to the person so I can find the plantation where Charlotte once lived. And would you believe she knew exactly where it was!!!!
After I get off the phone, the sweet homeowner apologizes for not having offered me anything to drink. She says she had just gotten home from the hospital after suffering a stroke and her memory isn’t so good. I point to my scrubs and tell her that I’m a speech therapist and I see patients like her in their homes and that I will be there next week for her first session.
I always knew speech therapy and genealogy went together perfectly! 😊
The morna is synonymous with the concept of Caboverdeanidade. The melancholic melodies and lyrics full of sodade has captured the essence of our culture for at least two centuries. Some might describe the Morna as a musical form that expresses the sadness and isolation of our people but I’ve never perceived it that way.
The Morna is about “Sodade” which is defined as a “nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”. But it also about “the love that remains”. For me, Morna is exactly that. One of my favorites, “Nos Morna” by Ildo Lobo, says the Morna is the “inspiration of our poets, the princess of our serenades, on a quiet moonlit night, under the window of your love, and the quiet cry of my violin”. Cabo Verde without Morna would be “a land with sun, without heat, a bride without lace, victory without glory”.
The Morna is truly who and what we are.
The love for the country and culture of our ancestors is ingrained in my DNA. That love has remained and been passed down through generations of Cape Verdeans in Cabo Verde and throughout the diaspora, alike. The melancholic tunes immediately triggers the same reaction in me today as it probably did in my ancestors in the 1860’s when the oldest known morna, Brada Maria – Composed by Jose Bernardo Alfama and lyrics added later by Eugenio Tavares, was penned.
Our cousin, António Germano Lima, professor at the University of Cabo Verde, has written that the origin of the Morna is the “Lundum”, music of the Bantu people that spread from Angola to most of West Africa. It is believed it that was brought to Cape Verde by enslaved Africans to the island Boa Vista.
The Lundum has been preserved in Boa Vista and is traditionally heard during wedding festivities as the bride groom dance for the first time as a couple.
Musicologists point out the connection and relationship of the music of Cape Verde and Brazil, especially as it pertains to Lundum. Today, it is taught and celebrated among descendants of enslaved Africans in Bahia, the northern part of Brazil.
Lundum em Belem do Para
The essence of our Caboverdeanidade, the thing that makes us who we are, is difficult to put in words so our ancestors put it to music.