The Azorean brought with them a deep-seated interest in farming and derived prosperity where there was only untilled soil. This is a glimpse into their character, their ability, their culture, and their resolve.

 

The Azoreans are seen as possessing a character that is deeply religious, good-natured, submissive, indolent, sensitive, pacific, orderly and family oriented, industrious, nostalgic and somewhat sad. That character is deeply endowed with a strong sense of family responsibility, one which transmits to children a worldview calling for adherence to a hard-work ethic and to well-disciplined.

 

Azorean culture is family based. Family means survival to the Azorean peasant because everyone is needed to work the land in order to provide food, shelter, and clothing for everyone. Raising healthy children mean a continuation of the family and hence the culture. This cultural tradition was transferred to Bermuda with the immigrants.

 

The Azorean family is strongly male-dominated which causes stress in the immigrant family. Divorce is not uncommon because of it. There has always been respect for the elderly in the Azorean culture. Kissing the elderly person's hand and asking their blessing is traditional as well as addressing them as sir or madam. No back talking is allowed from children. These Azorean practices have been largely discontinued in Bermuda.

 

Azoreans are generally friendly and each individual will have several personal friends. A relative is trusted before a friend because "blood is thicker than water." The Azorean Godparent system provides security for children. Godparents are selected to be sponsors of children by the parents.

 

They can be a friend or relative. The Godparents are expected to help Godchildren in times of need if the parents are deceased or are incapable. In Bermuda, this system disappeared quickly after the first generation because the need for aid is not as great here.

 

To be Azorean is to be Roman Catholic. It is part of the culture. Portuguese Jews are accepted, and Portuguese Protestants are tolerated but arose suspicion.

 

The church gives the Azorean peasant security because of its conservatism. A peasant wants things to remain the same because a static society and steady economy means survival.

 

The ritual of the Catholic Church is important for the stability of the peasant class. From a peasant perspective, it was not necessary to understand the tenets of the church as long as one had faith and followed the religious dictates of the priest. Bordering on mysticism, their religion combined the inordinate faith in the power of the saints with a strict devotion to the ritual and ceremony of the mass.

 

Women are the spiritual motivators in the Azorean culture. Men are basically inactive church members but expect their children and women to attend. Male Azoreans are anticlerical. They are suspicious of the devout priest and his lack of world practicality.

 

They do expect him to remain moral and to teach their children. Priests are referred to as "mother-in-laws" by the men because of their seemingly nagging disposition. The negativism of the Azorean man towards the priest is no much so that to utter the word "priest" aboard ship is to bring bad luck.

 

The church however is the nerve center of the traditional Azorean society. It provides not only spiritual aid but social and cultural support as well. Many of the Azorean celebrations are church-related and church gatherings are contacts for people and especially children who will someday marry. The illiterate Azorean also needed someone who spoke the language so he could understand the
faith.

 

Azoreans have little reverence for family names surprisingly. They will take their mother or father's surname at will. Some are even given a nickname and are saddled with it the rest of their life. For example, Antoine Joaquim Souza had a head that reminded someone of a cantaloupe. He became Tony Melao (Melon) for life.

 

The names of many Azoreans were changed when they immigrated. Mostly illiterate, they couldn't write their names so when an immigrant official asked for a name he usually wrote what he heard or changed it to something recognizable in English. Teachers and census takers did the same thing.

 

Joao became Joe or John. Mello became Miller; Rodrigues became Rogers; Pereira became Perry; and Madeira (translated wood) became wood. The most frequently cited example was the man whose name was Joaquim; he changed his name to "Joe King" because it sounded like Joaquim.

 

Immigrant Azoreans would give their children typical Portuguese names, such as Joao or Maria, but some wanted to “Americanize” their children quickly by giving them standard English names, such as Charles or Alice. Second and subsequent generations gave their children English names dropping the Portuguese forms altogether.

 

Language is the backbone of a society. It allows societal members to communicate their needs and opinions. It acts as a symbol of the society, and its mastery by individuals leads to higher status. Azoreans in 1900 were 82% illiterate.

 

This high percentage of illiteracy is revealed in the drastic drop in Azorean immigration when a literacy requirement was put in effect. The immigrant needed only to read forty basic words in Portuguese, but many were completely unschooled and consequently couldn't meet the requirement.

 

The first generation immigrant will speak some of his new country's language. The second generation is generally bilingual while the subsequent generations will not speak the old country's language at all. The second generation is then the buffer between two languages and two cultures.

 

He must communicate to both sides. When the second generation was with his immigrant parents, the old country's language was used at home, while outside the home, the new country's language was used.

 

It was common for the first and second generations to speak with each other mixing the two languages in the conversation. The second generation will not teach his children the language of his parents because of the stigma associated with accented speech. Normally in his home the old language is not used.

 

When languages come into contact, they influence one another. A word, a phrase, or pronunciation is adopted. The Portuguese language took on a new look in the Bermuda as it did in Brazil, America, Canada and elsewhere. Occasionally, there is some adaptation too such as these examples: carrot is "carrota"; cellar is "cela"; truck is "troque"; somebody is "samebari"; and to farm is "farmar".

 

Most Azorean parents stopped sending their children to school once they reached the age required by the government. Not only did they want their children to work, but they also considered public education injurious to traditional Azorean culture and values. The purpose of public education is to prepare students to function in the surrounding society. Wiser immigrant parents knew of this purpose and its benefit to their children and consequently supported public education.

 

Mutual aid societies are unique to the Portuguese. It began in the 15th century as support groups for widows when fishermen were lost at sea. In the North America, these societies were formed again to be beneficial to those fellow-countrymen who needed help in time of need. They provided a life insurance policy that paid burial costs and other expenses. But their purpose went much further.

 

They provided forums for communication to the immigrant at their meetings and celebrations. They also kept the Azorean culture and Portuguese language alive. It gave the new immigrants programs that would help he or she settle in their new country. At first, the Church was against these organizations, especially when they organized and promoted events, which had Christian connotations but didn't have church involvement.

 

The church felt that these were lodges and would corrupt the faith of the people and secularize Christianity. The organizations demonstrated their strong beliefs in the church and invited church sponsorship. Some priests accepted this compromise and others didn't, but before long the organizations and their programs became traditional and fully acceptable.

 

Most anyone can join these organizations, men, women, children, Portuguese, and non-Portuguese. They are family-oriented where everyone gets involved in their programs.

 

In the spring and summer, Azorean communities have traditionally staged festivals to honor patron saints, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Ghost, and Jesus. There are processions with bands and floats. There is a Mass followed by a feast, music and dance. It is a time for the Azorean ethnic group to share, worship, and entertain.

 

In Portuguese it is called a "festa." In the Azores, the various islands and villages will have their own festa, but everyone is invited. The celebration festivities are more primitive in the islands than in Bermuda, but the tradition is the same. Many of the festas in Bermuda are modeled after the Azorean ones.

 

The most common festa is the Holy Ghost Festival or Festa do Divino Espirito Santo which has its roots in medieval Hungary or Aragon depending upon which version. Elizabeth of Hungary in 1296 honored the poor in a celebration. Queen Isabel of Aragon did the same about the same time. The idea was to make the poor royalty for a day where they could eat and dance escaping from the drudgery of being poor. This celebration has been continued annually and was brought to the Azores by either the Portuguese or the Flemings, maybe both. In the Azores a crown is placed on an emperor or empress, and he or she is escorted through the streets followed by a parade to the local church where Mass is held.

 

The entourage goes to a designated area where there is a feast and a dance. This has wide variation depending upon the tradition and monetary support. Anyone is invited to eat as it is free following the tradition of feeding the poor or the masses. The food is soup and sweet bread called "sopas" and "massa sovada" or "pao doce" respectively. On the crown is the symbol of a dove representing the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Christian Godhead.

 

Most immigrants, regardless who they are, are looking for an opportunity to improve their prior condition with the feeling that there will be some compromising to be able to function in the new environment. With this in mind, how did the Azoreans fare? The Azorean immigrants didn't speak English, were Catholic, and had a culture different from their hosts.

 

The transition would not be easy. It would take one or two generations for real acculturation to occur in the genealogy of the family. Learning the English language would be their most important endeavor.

 

Today, Azorean emigrants returning to the islands, and Bermudians with Azorean heritage, who are essentially tourists and who are visiting the islands, are educated, and business owners or professional people.

 

The Azorean is a composite of many nations, and they are very tolerant of other peoples because of it. Politically the Azorean is connected to Portugal, but their interest and love is for the Azores.

 

One looks at the Bermudian society today and without question the Azorean has assimilated. He or she has blended into the Bermudian society still though keeping something Azorean.

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