By Ligia Batista, Contributor(*)
When I left Portugal eight years ago, I did not think I would ever become foreign to my own country. But it happened with time. I now speak Portuguese with a slight Canadian accent; sometimes I forget words. Because I left on my own, without my family, there are very few opportunities to maintain a strong connection to my roots and saudade reveals itself often.
I find it crucial to celebrate this holiday to remind myself, and to teach others, that Portugal is peculiar – in its history, its location, its people.
It is important to celebrate June 10th so that when you come across the phrase ‘Little Portugal’ you can reassure others that we are far from being ”little.” Whenever you run into one of us, you quickly feel our warmth, genuine character, humor, and friendliness (and please correct those who think Portuguese is a dead language!)
Historically, the Portuguese trace back to the Indo-European people of Lusitania. The origin of the word Lusitania, some argue, combines the terms “play” and “frenzy”. I like to believe that today’s Portuguese are still characterized by those attributes whether they may be in Hawaii, California, Connecticut, British Columbia or as far as Macau. Where do you find yourself now?
So go and celebrate. Cheer for Portugal during the World Cup. Celebrate Portuguese achievements and the poetry of Camões. Sing. Go out and attend the various celebrations being held all around North America – check out Dundas St. in Toronto or greet your fellow compatriots at NYC restaurant Aldea on June 10th. Dance. And ultimately, get to know how being connected to your ancestry shapes who you are.
Ligia Batista left Portugal in 2006 when she was 16. She currently lives in British Columbia, Canada and is pursuing her Master’s in Theatre with a focus on mental health at the University of Colorado-Boulder, USA. She tries to take advantage of any opportunity to re-connect with her Portuguese roots, including baking pastéis de nata.