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LIVING HISTORY Maria Lusitano


Filipe


No, I don’t want to be photographed. My opinions about Goa are very controversial. For me, Goa wasn’t invaded, it was liberated. At that time I was studying Medicine in Panjim.


I used to live in a street called Rua Heliodoro Salgado, with my father and siblings. No, my mother was no longer alive. She died when I was two or three‌ We all knew that the invasion, or the liberation, was going to happen at any moment.


Two days prior to it, my father was warned. So we left Panjim and went to the countryside.


On the morning of the invasion, I switched on the radio in the hall and heard: “This is Radio Goa, the voice of Portugal in India�. Then, there was an explosion and silence.


In Goa, Portuguese soldiers were captured but were treated very well. After all, there were only a handful of them! Later, everything calmed down very quickly.


Didn’t you know? It was a scandal! Salazar had given instructions that they were to fight to the last drop of blood. He wanted to mine and destroy the entire territory. But the governor, Vassalo e Silva, didn’t obey him. When he was later handed over to the Portuguese, he ended up in jail.


Isabel


One can relive a lifetime looking at photographs, isn’t that so? Look, this is my great-grandfather, who was a soldier in Goa during the last century. But my father was born in Mozambique already. My mother got married by proxy and in Lisbon, her father took her to the altar. Then, she embarked in the docks at Alcântara and away she went, to another continent. I was born in Mozambique and I loved my country! But I don’t want to return there.


I went out with this boy for over twelve years. We met while we were in the scouts, I was thirteen years old. Look, this is a photograph of my scouts group, there he is winking at me... I’m here...hidden away! But when this other photograph was taken, he was still doing his military service. He was in the army for 24 months and they sent him to the forward posts, because they thought he was tough. He went to the worst war zone in Mozambique. As soon as he finished his military service, we got married straight away! And seven days later, the tumult began.


I didn’t exactly live in Lourenço Marques, the capital, but instead in Mochapa, a town in the suburbs. And the revolution began on the seventh of September! When clashes broke out among the population, the town authorities thought it was best to protect all the women and children together, inside a church. And that’s where we went, in a line of over 100 people, escorted by soldiers. But I had no news of my husband’s whereabouts, he had gone to the city in the morning and had been detained there. The Frelimo were now in charge and they didn’t let anyone get through. But I convinced some soldiers to take me to the city hidden in a jeep. And I found him.


After the seventh of September, things calmed down, but gradually the exodus began. My parents and uncles were amongst the first to leave. In the end only two young couples remained, us and my cousins. We lived on the seventh floor, in my uncle’s apartment, in the centre of Lourenço Marques. And we almost never left the house. The same question always hung in the air: where would we go? To South Africa? Would we stay there? Would we go to Portugal? We ended up by coming here. I arrived at six a.m., and my cousin, who was pregnant and had arrived a few months before us, came to pick me up. I came to live in Odivelas. I’m still here...


And here we are, all of us, in these photos... my father and his brother as young boys, in Mozambique, my great-grandfather in Goa, here I am as a little girl in school, my children, my grandson... Photographs last longer than the moments themselves, don’t you think? But photographs also don’t last forever. Perhaps I will go back to my country with my grandson. Who knows.


Beatriz


I have very few memories of Mozambique. But I remember some things with a creamlike intensity: I remember being on a motorbike clinging to my father, driving by palm trees. I remember nestling in my mother’s arms.


When I arrived in Portugal, it was raining and very cold. It was February.


At the airport, I went directly from my father’s arms to the arms of my aunt, who I had never met until then.I only saw my mother again 30 years later.


Yes, my father was in the War. No, he doesn’t like talking about it. He can’t.


Zito


Timor was an exotic paradise, a holiday cmp for the Portuguese soldiers. It then became a war training camp for the Indonesians. And they were the ones who killed my parents. I went to Indonesia to study,and that was where we decided to invade the U.S. embassy.


By taking this step, all of us knew that from that moment onwards it was prison or death. We spent days sitting on the ground around the embassy. Until they put us on a plane. I never thought I would land in Portugal.


But Portugal was precisely where we landed. They enrolled me in a course in Coimbra. Now, I´m here, and ten years have already passed. No, it wasn’t difficult adapting. But you Westerners are very complicated.


I miss my homeland.


Humberto


The happiest day of my life to date was the day on which I saw my wife and daughters (Timorese) getting on board a ship at Dili harbour, when the civil war began. I was prevented from embarking. I was on the blacklist. I did my military service in East Timor, and when I got there I fell in love with that land. It was exotic and beautiful, but extremely poor. The roads weren’t even tarred. And everything that I knew about Timor was what they had taught me in primary school: that Timor had coffee and buffaloes!


It was so poor that the officials of the Ministry for Overseas Affairs who were posted in Timor earned far less than in any other overseas territory. It was full of Chinese. In fact all the trade was in the hands of the Chinese. As an army, we did some good things in Timor. For example, establishing schools to educate local children! Classes were held every day from two o’clock to five o’clock. But we also did other, less pleasant things, and let’s leave it at that.


Well, I ended up by marrying a Timorese woman and went to live in Dili, as a state official. And life continued, the days passed by slowly. We had a ramshackle house, like all the others, where I built a lake and installed some ducks. And it was then that the 25 April Revolution happened, when I was in Angola. When I returned home, everything had changed. The people were in an uproar and positions were already being defined. Some wanted independence immediately while others wanted to take things more calmly, and then there were those who favoured Indonesia.


I was never one to keep quiet. And so I spoke out. I wrote an article in the “Voz de Timor” loudly proclaiming my opinions. Above all, I lashed out against the military. Well, when things began to heat up there and the gunfire started, everyone fled to Porto Cais, the harbour in Dili, like I said. But don’t think that there was an airport and ships leaving all the time! Getting out of Timor was very complicated! It was in Porto Cais that I found my four daughters and my wife. One of my daughters was still a baby and when I returned home to get some milk for her I noticed that my ducks were all dead.


And I returned to Porto Cais. Well, that was how they all got on board, but I didn’t, because I was on that list of people who were not allowed to leave. I will never forget my middle daughter’s face, turning around and looking at me. Believe me when I say that when I saw them on the boat, when the vessel began to depart, it was the happiest day of my life. And I remained there a few more days. We had nothing to eat. One of my companions washed a rubbish bin and managed to cook some rice in it, which we all ate, using our hands, with a piece of plastic improvising as a plate.


And the soldiers (Portuguese, of course! Who else?!) strutted around before us, with their combat rations and sausages under their arms, which they had obtained from a sausage factory, which incidentally I had set up. I even lost my clothes! I took them off to wash and in the meanwhile wore a pair of shorts borrowed from a Chinese, which were so tight that I couldn’t button them up.


But I managed to escape, by hiding under a tarpaulin on a boat. There, underneath the tarp, keeping quiet and absolutely still in the dark, was where I heard the typical sounds and manoeuvres of a boat setting sail from the docks. And I knew I was safe. No, I wasn’t scared of dying. We all have to die one day, don’t we?


A.


No, I can’t tell you anything about my mother, because I don’t know anything. Well, you could say that she got lost. My mother got lost in Angola. 30 years ago.


In 1975, we were already here, me and my sisters, studying at the university, but my parents lived in Sรก da Bandeira. You know, my mother was a very special person, she was an idealist. She was Angolan, and she loved her country. So, during the revolutionary period, she got involved with a party. She really wanted to contribute her best efforts to that young nation, which was at the dawn of its history.


Very often, families get divided because of wars and revolutions. And my family did not escape this tragic fate. My father disagreed totally with my mother’s political opinions. And we kids were no longer there to balance the situation. Everything happened on that day when Så da Bandeira was occupied. My father was absent, he had already left, supposedly for two days, with a small suitcase, on work. My mother had stayed behind.


In 1975, we were already here, me and my sisters, studying at the university, but my parents lived in Sรก da Bandeira. You know, my mother was a very special person, she was an idealist. She was Angolan, and she loved her country. So, during the revolutionary period, she got involved with a party. She really wanted to contribute her best efforts to that young nation, which was at the dawn of its history.


Mรกrio


It’s not worth talking about the war. I was chosen for the special troops and ended up in a commando unit, in Guinea. That says it all. I came back to Portugal and was here for a year. But you know, anyone who has spent a few months in Africa finds it very hard to shake it off. There is no doubt that Africa has a hypnotic magic.


Then, one fine day, I decided to buy a ticket on a boat, to the end of the line. That way I could get off at any port. I stopped in Luanda but I didn’t like it, perhaps because it was a rainy and sad day. So I continued on to South Africa…I almost stayed on there. But I ended up by finally disembarking in Lourenço Marques (Maputo). In fact, Lourenço Marques really was a spectacular place! I began to date a Mozambican girl and I set up a painting company. But I used to come to Portugal quite often. As a matter of fact I was here when 7 September happened. I immediately caught a plane to Mozambique.


I didn’t decide to come back right away: and I only came to my senses when they called me to a labour court. I remember turning to the judge and asking: “But what am I doing here, all my paperwork is in order” and the judge, who was a painter, called Malangatana, looked at me and said: “You may be right, but here it is the workers who are right because this is a revolutionary tribunal!” “Stuff it!”, I thought. And that was when I realised that I did not belong there. When I decided to leave they went to fetch me from the plane. They were calling my name on the loudspeaker, the plane was about to take off. I grabbed a cigarette box full of dollars and gave it to my friend Dário.


But those were turbulent times, things were happening every minute. Since it was not safe to go out into the streets we stayed at home, playing cards and drinking beer. One day the cops banged on our door, because somebody had told them that we had weapons. “But we don’t have any weapons at all!” I answered, absolutely sincerely. Little did I know that my father-in-law had hidden some rifles there at home. Then the policeman turned to me and said: “Come on, let’s go and bring a blanket…” and I answered: “Why should I bring a blanket? I’m not cold!”


When we were 21 they filled our heads with a whole heap of ideas…they inculcated in us a sense of the fatherland, of love for our flag… If it was today of course I would think twice and perhaps if I had deserted today I would be a minister or something like that! But I was lucky, I had a better fate than the sad fate of the Guinean commandos, those honourable soldiers, who were born under the Portuguese flag in Guinea, who swore to defend their country to the death and who ended up being shot by a firing squad because we handed them over to the troops on the other side as soon as the 25 April Revolution was declared in Portugal. Suddenly they were no longer Portuguese. And the “terrorists” were now liberators.


One day, when the real truth is told I would like to know who were really the martyrs of this entire mess. But life is like that - a fairy tale story.


Ludovina


I’m Angolan. I was born and grew up in Angola, my house was in Vila Alice, in Luanda. When I was a youngster I loved sports, just like my father, and I was a competition level swimmer. I won several medals and even a first prize at the national level! But I had to quit when I was a teenager. I didn’t really mind… I had already decided by then that I wanted to study Medicine.


When I entered university, many things changed within me. At the time we were all very politically aware and we secretly criticised the regime. Sometimes we even did so openly. My colleagues and I were even very well informed about the atrocities committed by Portuguese troops in the name of the colonial war. We were all leftists and once, at a commemorative lunch for the college choir, of which I was a member, we all stood up and began to sing the International! My parents were present and I will never forget the look of surprise on my father’s face.


When the war broke out, I didn’t leave the hospital for two weeks, there was an unending stream of patients with injuries, we would sit in the corridors and amuse ourselves by making necklaces out of bullets.


Then I came to Portugal, to finish my studies, but my parents stayed on in Angola. There was even one gentleman who later gave my father a present for me to thank us for our services in the hospital. When I opened the package, I couldn’t help but laugh: it was a giant bullet! One of my childhood friends was shot by a firing squad. As kids we used to go up and down the hill where my house was situated, each one of us riding red bicycles. She got involved in a coup, which went awry. As she was pregnant, they let her have the baby first.


I have never been able to understand why, but people become very radical in wars. People change.


Valentino


I was a boy in Goa when India invaded the territory. I was in high school, although I was not really interested in my studies. Who would ever have thought that I would become a historian! Along with a friend I saw the Indian tanks entering Petim and the village emptied in a trice. I also saw the battle between the Portuguese warship Afonso de Albuquerque and the Indian warships. No, I wasn’t scared at all! We used to like watching war movies and it was essentially entertainment for us! I never believed that they would shoot at us. Imagine the scene: the tanks advancing and us walking towards them. But they didn’t even look at us!


You know, in my heart of hearts there was a contradiction: I wanted the Portuguese presence, yes, but at heart what I really wanted was for Goa to be independent. I don’t believe that India really wanted to invade Goa. But they were pressurised into doing so, it was quite obvious: India was part of the NonAligned Movement and it was absolutely unacceptable to have a region in the subcontinent that was still under the yoke of colonisers. Portugal was also to blame since it never wanted to have a dialogue. It never allowed a peaceful transition from Portuguese sovereignty to Goan sovereignty.And if the 16th century was a brilliant age for Portugal, it was thanks to the wealth that was derived essentially from Goa!


A year after the invasion I decided to come to Portugal. I sold my wardrobe to pay for a train ticket to Bombay. When I arrived in Lisbon, I stayed at the Cordoaria with some friends, all of us stayed in a dormitory for youngsters. The government housed all those who had decided to go to Portugal in the aftermath of the invasion in the Cordoaria. Later, they decided I was physically fit and sent me to the War in Angola. I went to war convinced that I was defending my country. And that’s what made me a good fighter. I say this and I will repeat it. Today, I know that I was wrong! I was misinformed. You know, in a war the rules are very simple, either you kill or you are killed. In this kind of scenario there aren’t many options. You have to fight, in order not to die. And I was a good warrior.


When I was demobbed, I went to visit my mother in Mozambique, planning to later go to Portugal to study. But I ended up by getting a job and marrying in Mozambique. In Mozambique, the level of exploitation was very evident and they were predicting huge problems in the process of decolonisation. I began to study History and in August 1974, taking advantage of some leave, I came to Portugal. I had nothing, just two suitcases, my wife and two children. We came here so I could finish my degree.


I think I did the right thing by not staying in Goa and coming to Portugal. It was a choice, just like any other. It was a quest for happiness. I came here and my life changed completely. My son married a Portuguese girl, my daughter married a German. I think that in a little while the nation state is a concept that will no longer make sense. I’m sure of it. And we are condemned to live in peace with each other.


Filomena


It’s been 32 years since I left my hometown, but I still think about it almost every day. But I don’t want to return to Mozambique. I’m scared of what I might feel. You know, it was in September that everything began…look, it’s been almost exactly 32 years!


In September 1974 I was in the downtown area when I was caught by surprise in the midst of a shootout. Without knowing how to react, I heard a man say: “You there, get out of the car!”, “But it isn’t my car!”, I replied ridiculously. Shortly thereafter, I decided to get married, but there was almost no one at my wedding. My parents couldn’t attend, they had already left for South Africa, and it was the same with my uncles.


Immediately afterwards, I left for a Lisbon I had never seen. And my husband returned to Mozambique. In Lisbon, it rained all the time, and I felt very cold. The house in which I lived was enormous and very old. Portugal seemed to be an old, sad country. People dressed in black and were very serious. Suddenly, my clothes were out of place. And I couldn’t go to the café in my husband’s village alone, because it wasn’t appropriate.


I was pregnant, and spent my pregnancy lengthening skirts and dresses. I missed everyone terribly. I was very close to my parents, but had chosen to get married and come here. When I think of my mother crying in the kitchen on the seventh floor of our building, torn between where she should go, I get a lump in my throat.


It was then that my daughter’s father returned, just before she was born. She was born in the Maternity Hospital in Coimbra.


Conceição


You’ve never been to Timor? Then you won’t know those tangerines... I’ve never seen them here, hung on a stick. I have many memories of Timor, but they are fragmented. When I think of Timor I think of a colourful paradise, with lush vegetation and unforgettable smells. I don’t know... perhaps it’s because I spent my childhood there. I remember going for a walk with my father at night, with my sisters, all of us holding hands, looking at the starry skies over Dili, in the middle of total darkness. There was no electricity, power cuts were very common in Timor.


I was ten years old when my family left Timor, so my memories are scattered impressions. But they are a thousand fragments of memories! I remember jumping over bushes at night, I remember sleeping in the bathtub because of the bullets, I remember how my mother managed to escape with our gold - by hiding it in my baby sister’s soiled nappies.


While escaping to Porto Cais, I ran a stick over an iron grille to hear that familiar sound, as I always used to do... and I thought: is this the last time I’m going to do this? And at Porto Cais I stole food from Portuguese soldiers, they would never give anything to anyone! Not even to the children... But what I can never forget was when all of us were on the boat, everyone except my baby sister, and I thought in panic: she’s not coming… But the Timorese man who was holding her on his lap handed her over to my mother and said: “Here she is. Good luck”.


I once met a man from my birthplace here, at school, where I now teach, and we talked for a while. He recognised my surname, he had worked as a nurse for my grandfather. In the middle of the conversation he turned to me and said: “You had two aunts, didn’t you? And one of them had many Amália Rodrigues records? I held those records in my hand, I went through her drawers…one of your aunts was very organised, everything was impeccable…the other aunt wasn’t so tidy.”


Do you get it? After we left they had been there, in our house, they went through all our things, down to the last detail. My smile froze on my face...


2006


Living History