Visiting the Island of Madeira, Portugal, along with my mom, aunt, daughter, cousin and husband, I quickly came to realize that this was an opportunity of a lifetime. To visit the place where my grand-parents were born and generations before them an overwhelming and memorable experience. Touring the Island the question arose, "why would my grand-parents leave this tropical paradise?" The mountainous terrain rose abruptly and majestically from the ocean floor creating breathtaking sea views from every angle. Tile roofed houses scattered about seemed to hang in suspension from mountain terraces, red the color of choice. It was the month of September, the tropical climate hovering around 82 degrees everyday of our nine day visit, the climate compared to that of Hawaii. The air permeated with sweet smells of the sea, invigorating, a warm breeze always to grace yet cool our adventuresome spirits along with that of the flesh.
An awesome group we were, appreciating everything this Pearl of The Sea had to offer. The food and wine incredible, tile paved streets and sidewalks a sight to behold, swept and scrubbed It was everything European one could possibly imagine.
Beautifully manicured rows of grape vines graced the mountain sides. Banana farms mostly on the west side of the Island flourished from the warm Atlantic breezes. There was no way that heavy equipment could be utilized here, everything must be done by hand, I thought. How ingenious to have figured this intricate maze of an agricultural phenomenon. Flat land in Madeira almost non-existant and every free space utilized and put to optimal use.
My senses were overindulged and my heart sang a song of joy and adventure. What could we discover next our only care. We hired a tour guide and thus our adventure less complicated. We met up with our cousin Anibal who lives in America and visits Madeira on a regular basis to care for the family home which belonged to our grand-father's sister. We also met several cousins on my grand-father's side who greeted us with open arms and a bountiful feast fit for a king!
Food is fresh and their garden busting at the seams with vegetables and plump colorful fruit. It was harvest time and they allowed us to stomp grapes with our feet, new rubber boots a must. I have to say that it was a great deal of work stomping those grapes, their vines producing about forty gallons per year. Enough for family consumption only they explained. I watched a video of Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes with my grand-daughters hoping to learn a couple of tips before I left. Luckily our cousins broken English was understandable for us, although mom speaks and writes Portuguese fluently if a translation issue arose.
Why then would my ancestors leave this beauty and abundance with five children, board a ship and travel across the ocean to seek a new life? What courage, tenacity and spirit of adventure, I thought, such a hearty and robust people.
All of the stories I had heard over the years came to light and seemed more real, I must write them down I thought, a legacy for our children and generations forward. My family is on board and I will share their memories, stories and photos to the best of my ability and anyone's recollection.
Grand-father sired fourteen children and married twice each wife bore him seven children, there were seven boys and seven girls altogether. All have passed except for the four youngest daughters all in their eighties now. The aunties four, will be a great source of information and I can't wait to record their knowledge!
Our journey begins.......