Conference Sons/Daughters of Portuguese Emigration/Immigration

on 6:24 pm

This Thursday, the 24th of February of 2011, the Conference Sons/Daughters of Portuguese Emigration/Immigration co-coordinated by yours truly (João Sardinha) will take place at the French Institute of Portugal (former Instituto Franco-Português) from 14:30 till 19:00. If these issues are of interest to you, entrance is free of charge.

Besides my co-coordinating duties, I will also present the paper: 'In this Country, being Portuguese is also being Canadian': the Identity Negotiations of Luso-Canadians in Multicultural Canada'.

For more information on this event you can look here:

More on dogs and cheese

on 10:08 pm

Ok, last week I gave you fine Serra da Estrela cheese and ever-so-cute Serra da Estrela dogs, two symbolic as well as socio-cultural centre pieces of this mountain region known as ... yes, you guest it, Serra da Estrela.

Although no mountain range in Canada is synonymous with cheese and dogs, this does not mean that Canada itself is not synonymous with cheese and dogs. In fact, one of the most beloved breed of dog here in Portugal is Canadian - the labrador. Straight out of 19th century Newfoundland to the upper class suburbs of Lisbon, is it just me or does it seem that the labrador is the prefered dog of the 'well-off' here? Whatever the case, the Saint John's Water Dog (its former name before they started shipping them to England where they were then named after the region they came from in Canada) is certainly capable drawing a lot of 'awe, how cute!' comments, am I right?

Now concerning cheese, well ... as if I have to tell you. Does anybody know where we can get a fine cheddar here? This is the cheese we're raised on in Canada. Canadian kids are basically given cheddar cheese singles at birth. Ok, but now your thinking to yourself: "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Cheddar cheese is not even Canadian, it's British". Yes ... true ... but in Canada cheddar cheese is Canadian cheddar cheese like this classic Black Diamond:

But beyond cheddar cheese, perhaps even more Canadian when it comes to cheeses, is that of marble cheddar cheese. How they were able to bring together this delightful combination of orange and white cheese curd was one of the biggest mysteries to me growing up. Beyond the mystery though, there was also the challenge - that of trying to get only orange cheddar out of one bite and then white chedder from a second bite, this as a way of trying to tell the flavour of the two apart. Growing up Portuguese in Canada, I remember it would often get placed on the table along side chouriço and tremoços. The creation of a true multicultural table. Such is Canada.

Marble cheese, if we are to think about it, it's what Canada's all about - a coming together of colours, textures and tastes you just can't separate. I could go for Saskatchewan and Manitoba right now.

Serra da Estrela

on 12:28 pm

Do you like to ski? If you do, and you live here in Portugal, you probably miss "serious skiing", as in "serious hills", that is unless you get the opportunity to wisk away to Switzerland or Andorra or something like that every once in awhile.

Now in Portugal, this is what skiing looks likes:

Yes it's Serra da Estrela, the only place you can slalom your heart away in the 'land of Camões'.

Ok, it looks treeless, it does have a chair lift and buildings with round-shaped tops. Those are known as The Towers - old military observatories. In 2008 the Portuguese Ministry of Defense had wanted to put them up for sale. Unsure of how that turned out - if the listing ever went ahead, and if so, if it's still up for sale. Here's a closer look.

So maybe Serra da Estrela may not offer up the best skiing, nothing like what we may get at Grouse Mountain, if you're from Vancouver ...

... or Mont Tremblant if you're from Quebec.

However, does any ski resort or mountain range in Canada produce a cheese as delicious as this Serra da Estrela cheese?

Or a breed of dog as cute as the Serra da Estrela shephard dog?

I thought not.

Hey, skiing isn't everything.

Crisis? Maybe ... but we're still far from becoming Greece

on 9:57 pm

My father, who still lives back in Prince George, British Columbia, listens to a lot of Portuguese radio while he works. When we talk on the phone he always starts talking about the economic crisis Portugal is going through. He tells me about phone-in shows on Radio Renascença and how everybody that phones in speaks of how the country is going from bad to worse and how the lives of the Portuguese is following suit.
From the perspective of someone like my dad, Portugal is in deap dire straits - we're all in deap suffering and there's no way out of it any time soon. Of course in our day-to-day lives here we don't really see this - the cafés are still full, the cars on the streets are newer and newer and, lets face it, everything still looks the same. From the passivism of the people here, even if unemployment is at 10%, it looks like we're still a long way from turning into Greece.
I am, however, fascinated with how the foreign press sees what is going on in Portugal, economically speaking. On the 23rd of January a story in the (Canadian) Globe and Mail stated: "the (Portuguese) government has enacted deeply unpopular austerity measures amid fears that the financial crisis spells economic crisis for Portugal". Well surely any austerity measure is bound to be unpopular, theoretically speaking, but how did the Global and Mail reach the conclusion that it was "deeply unpopular"? Is it the daily protest marches? The sit-ins? The vandalising of storefront windows? Besides a day-long strike and the half-day ones in certain labour sectors, I don't see any deep displeasure with what's going on.
Much has been written about the IMF bail out and how, even though Portugal claims that it won't be necessary, the country (and above all P.M. José Sócrates) sits in denial. A January 12th Reuters news piece entitled 'Bailout Would Hurt Portuguese Pride, Again' pointed out that: "Wounded pride (caused by the coming of the IMF) could give away to another Portuguese trait, a tradition of resignation to a sad fate summed up in its fado music". Yes, so true - denial, leading to reality sinking in, turned to 'we're used to it; it's in our blood'.
So is it so bad, this crisis? Maybe, but we're trying not to look it in the eyes. We're all just sitting back waiting on 'the super powers', and only when they come will the mighty evil crisis be overthrown. It might get messy but the capes await us.