The pain and gain of growing up Portuguese

The daughter of two Azorean immigrants, I grew up in a city with the largest percentage of Portuguese descendants in the United States. One study published by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in 2005 reported that 49.6 percent of the city’s residents were primarily of Portuguese ancestry. Born and raised in the enclave of Fall River, I had no chance of sidestepping the obligation to walk in the annual parish procession for the Holy Ghost Feast, a tradition carried over from the islands.

In the sweltering August heat, the pine greens, yellow, hot pink, and turquoise flowers carpeted the streets in intricate designs adorned with similarly colored sawdust. The colors bled into a mixture on my cheap white Payless sandals and blistered feet. I itched around the wings strapped to my body that weighed heavily on my tiny back. “I hate this costume,” an elementary-school age me complained. “It hurts to walk. Mom, why couldn’t I just wear sneakers?” My mother didn’t hesitate. “Ay, Kayla, please,” she said in her thick Portuguese accent. “Angels don’t wear sneakers.” I had never said that I wanted to be an angel.

Continue reading by following this link to the Portuguese-American Journal.

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