Hi all! It’s been a week already that I moved to the USA and the walking can’t stop! I know I will be much busier with work very soon, but this month I want to get to know Boston and Cambridge as much as possible. Well, as long as the snow permits. I must think I’m a polar bear, since yesterday I just went for a 40 minute walk on the snow just to save money on public transportation. Nevermind. However, last Saturday, despite the cold, it didn’t snow. I went to a bloggers event that consisted of a brunch in East Cambridge and I had to digest the food before going to the gym. So I thought, why not explore a bit of the neighborhood?
I heard East Cambridge was the neighborhood with the strongest Portuguese community in the Boston area, so I decided to start by walking through the Cardinal Medeiros Avenue. Medeiros is a very Azorean name and a friend had already sent a link with his biography. In fact, Humberto Sousa Medeiros was born in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores and moved to Fall River, Massachusetts with his family when he was 16 years old. He was eventually ordained a priest of the Catholic Church and was the Archbishop of Boston from 1970 to his death in 1983 and a Cardinal since 1973. So, no wonder you’ll find some Portuguese references around this avenue. But let’s start with the lovely houses. If I had told in my previous post that my neighborhood (Cambridgeport) has the loveliest houses, East Cambridge gives it a run for the money!
From the little I’ve seen here in Cambridge, the intersection between some streets is called a square. Not a big square like I’m used to see, but these small reference points can be used to pay homage to relevant figures of the neighborhood. When I make a post about Cambridgeport I’ll be able to tell you about the squares there, related with WW II and the war of 1812, but now let’s talk of all the Portuguese people I learned about in my walk through East Cambridge. I couldn’t find information in all of them, but here is a small biography from the ones I managed to find something on.
- Amadeu Cruz da Quelha (born 1933) is originally from the municipality of Ponte da Barca (Northwest Portugal) and is an advocate for Portuguese culture in the area. He was involved in the creation of the Massachusetts Alliance for Portuguese Speakers, the Portuguese School of Cambridge, a folk group and of the Portuguese Day Parade in Boston. Among other recognitions, he was awarded the Portuguese Order of Merit in 1988.
- Alda Maria Couto (1930-2000) is from the São Miguel island and moved to East Cambridge with her husband. She had nine children and nineteen grandchildren and, despite her large family and working two jobs simultaneously, she still had time to help the local community, being involved with the Saint Anthony’s Church activities.
- Frank Menezes (1907-1963) is also originally from São Miguel and he was the owner of Don’s Lunch, a popular restaurant in the neighborhood.
I deviated a bit from Cardinal Medeiros Ave and found signs of Portuguese people. An image of Our Lady of Fátima in a backyard, some tiled image of the said lady too and a tiled house, and Portuguese family names.
It was time to start coming back to the MIT area to go to the gym, so I continued to finish Cardinal Medeiros Avenue and turn right to Cambridge Ave. In the corner of these two avenues, you will find the Portuguese Catholic Church. It is called Igreja de Santo António (yes, in Portuguese), which is quite appropriate since St. Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon and other Portuguese cities. Who knows, maybe I’ll visit this church soon?
Cambridge Street (at least the segment I saw) is full of Portuguese surprises too. The first was seeing a restaurant called Portugália. Not like the Portugália restaurant chain in Portugal of typical steak, but with other foods. I spoke to the waiters (they’re all Portuguese) and they let me photograph. It had a quite good display of Portuguese wines. When I get homesick I might come.
I continued walking down towards the river after the lovely chat in Portuguese and found a fish market like ours, a Philarmonic Society and a sports club. I heard that in the western section of Cambridge Street that I didn’t go to this time there were other clubs that make typical Portuguese food dinners with popular (a.k.a “pimba” music) parties. Maybe someday I’ll write about that, should be fun!
I then turned right onto Third Street to end my walk in this lovely neighborhood. While this street is not as “Portuguese” as the others I walked you through, I was in love with the pastel houses and the berries. Also, snow makes everything look much more charming. And, before I knew, I was back in Kendall Square, surrounded by tall tech corporation buildings, and feeling so happy for this little time I took to reconnect with my roots.
I am nothing but grateful for this opportunity to be here and this city is so nice! However, it’s unavoidable to feel homesick sometimes. I try not to think much about it by keeping busy, because I know this is a lifetime career and personal opportunity for growth. Anyway, it’s nice to know, apart from being with other Portuguese people, like I have in my group, that visiting places that reminds us of home offer a little comfort.
What did I miss in East Cambridge “Little Portugal”? Let me know where should I go next!
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