From 1982 to 2005, I lived in the same house, on the same street, in the same neighbourhood -- Portugal Village. The idea of moving and starting my life over again was terrifying -- then again, there was no need for me to relocate as my ancestors did.
In 1953, the Saturnia arrived in Halifax carrying about one hundred Portuguese men. Fleeing poverty and the draft, these man settled mostly in Ontario, and began working to bring their families over from Portugal. Over the years, the number of Portuguese immigrants grew in Toronto. Many were attracted to the fact that there were people already in the city who could aid them in learning a new language and a new culture. They started to open up shops and businesses that resembled those from back home. This provided an income and created a community. Through living in a new land, the Portuguese transformed while keeping their traditions alive.
This work examines how the landed Portuguese have cultivated their Canadian neighbourhoods to sustain the lifestyle they were accustomed to in Portugal. I have used images from old family albums, Portugal Village, staged images of my family and myself, and visual investigations of my living space. I travelled to my parent’s homeland to see for myself the land that they long for; the one they gave up to provide me with a better life. The work speaks about the tensions surrounding translation, tradition and place. With these tensions in mind, I have visually explored the dynamic of the Portuguese Diaspora. It seems that the Portuguese did not assimilate into the Canadian culture. Instead, they bolstered Canadian multiculturalism with the creation of their diasporic community.
The work, comprised of five strips of photographs, reads as a narrative dealing with the issues that surround the culture. For example, the piece leave/remain/return #3 looks at the role of the working class men within the context of Portugal and Toronto. I also approached these environments from the viewpoints of their children. My family and myself are actors portraying a way of life, but we are speaking from within the culture.
This work is an homage to the sacrifices that were made by the first-generation immigrants in order to provide better opportunities for the second-generation Portuguese-Canadians.