Author Álamo Oliveira, translator Diniz Borges and scholar Carmen Ramos Villar discuss
Já não gosto de chocolates [I No Longer Like Chocolates]
Translator Diniz Borges and author Álamo Oliveira at the autograph table during the Sacramento presentation of I No Longer Like Chocolates (behind table at right, Dolores Silva Greenslate)
ÁLAMO OLIVEIRA: “Women in Já não gosto de chocolates.” Paper presented 20 Sep 2003. Published in Proceedings of the 1st International Conference, “The Choice and Voice of Portuguese Immigrant Women” ["A vez e a voz da mulher em Portugal e na diáspora"] pp. 68-71. Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Abstract: In I No Longer Like Chocolates – a text of narrative fiction dealing with Azorean emigration from the island of Terceira to the state of California in the 1950s and ‘60s – women play a significant role in the novel’s plot-development. Their entrance into the society of Central California, along with their inevitable acculturation, does not occur without noteworthy socio-cultural conflicts. The rearing they brought from their island seems to have been reduced to traits of a merely folkloric nature, not useful in achieving successful admission into North American culture.
Narrative fiction is universally filled with portraits of women reflecting their socio-cultural importance, especially in the inevitable contexts of history and, above all, class. If in many works (and taking into account the writing styles of different eras) the woman appears imbued with a certain inferior status and subservience in the face of male attitudes fostered by unenlightened behaviors, in others – many of them written from the female perspective – the woman is, through the presentation of recognized conflicts, elevated to equality of opportunity by placing her into the position that naturally suits her.
Although the author considers it inadvertent, the women in I No Longer Like Chocolates wind up carrying significantly more weight in the development of the narrative plot – each in her own way, to be sure. But by being able to serve as the prototype for entry and assimilation that are dictated by a new reality which collides head-on with values and principles, each woman seems unassailable. This conflict results from the circumstance to which the women in I No Longer Like Chocolates are subject: being natives of the Azores (specifically, the island of Terceira) and immigrating at differing ages to the United States of America (specifically, the state of California). Their culture shock was inevitable.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, when emigration from the Azores turned into a hemorrhage, the Terceiran woman was still performing specifically domestic functions. Rare among them were teachers, doctors, public employees, who were always born in the city. Rather, emigration was filled with people from rural areas, where a woman’s situation was different – as were their circumstances compared to women from other islands, namely São Miguel, Pico and São Jorge. It is important to make this observation to achieve a better understanding of the women who figure in I No Longer Like Chocolates.
On Terceira, the rural woman in her role of wife occupied herself with childbearing, housecleaning, washing and ironing, weaving, embroidery and lace-making – chores she was expected to teach her daughters. Only in case of excess work or lack of male labor would she help out with field chores, specifically the harvesting of potatoes, corn and grapes. No self-respecting man would subject his women-folk to labors that required a man’s strength, or cause them to suffer from the cold or heat – although embroidery and lace-making were remunerative tasks (albeit poorly paid), and money could be saved by cooking, washing and weaving using their own homegrown materials.
On other islands in the Azores, women were not this frugal. It was even said that the Terceiran women was a bit of an impoverished noblewoman, accruing to her the advantage of nobility while not ignoring the fact that women on other islands were poor, too. The curious thing is that, despite this type of domestic cloistering, the Terceiran woman was far from being pent up like so much chattel. Her social life was quite open. We find her at Holy Ghost festivals, Carnaval festas, roped bullfights and, above all, participating in collective chores like corn-husking, grape-harvesting, evening spinning bees and preparations for social functions like weddings, funerals, baptisms and so on.
Upon immigrating to North America, the Terceiran woman was confronted with another set of social, economic and cultural realities, necessitating that she change her mind-set and behaviors. Domestic activities no longer sufficed to provide sustenance. The family machismo was quickly diminished by the necessity of bringing home another paycheck. The woman who formerly embroidered and made lace on a platform on the floor, washed clothes in basins at the public fountain, and kneaded and baked bread in the home oven, now had to get up early in order to go to the factory or places to be cleaned, where she would enter into the production scheme for eight hours, never mind that being a woman might be an excuse for possibly less pay.
In this new reality, the Terceiran woman had to adapt and acculturate herself, discarding values sometimes considered basic assumptions in favor of others which not infrequently were their polar opposites. Cases of disorientation were frequent – cases which disrupted not only the family unit but their own community. The journey assigned to each of the women in I No Longer Like Chocolates seeks to depict, even if in condensed and metaphorical form, these transformations of mind-set and behavior. (Note, however, that these transformations no longer resonate significantly for those who remained in the Azores – that is, the social, economic and cultural evolution of Azoreans completely eliminated the traditional ‘50s and ‘60s concept of a woman’s place. Like elsewhere in the world, the Azorean woman is now found in all professions, puts her children in their cradles and her elders in nursing homes, marries, gets divorced and divides up the domestic chores with all the other members of her family unit).
The women of I No Longer Like Chocolates thus belong to an anthropological time and space. They no longer exist – or, if they do, they are surely isolated instances unlikely to last much longer.
When José da Silva decided to emigrate to California, he brought with him three female and two male family members. They settled in the rural area of the San Joaquin Valley. In terms of work, the shock was not devastating. If not for his younger son’s homosexuality, José da Silva would not have faced problems of any major importance among his male children. António’s passivity in the face of the authority of Maria de Lurdes – his wife in a proper Catholic marriage – did not torment him to excess early on, and José’s grandchildren attested to this son’s manhood.
Worse, however, according to the conservative view of Terceiran men of his day, were the women’s behaviors – behaviors which, after all, could be inferred if observed in photographs they sent back to the islands from America: heavy makeup, generously low-cut sleeveless dresses, the wearing of shorts – and in the pieces of clothing that Terceirans received in sacks they had requested. In the islands none of these outfits would be permitted: a revealing neckline and sleeves would be filled in with strips of fabric cut from the facing or hem of the skirt: shorts, under ideal circumstances, would be altered into underwear.
In I No Longer Like Chocolates Maria/Mary continues to be, in her roles as wife and mother, very much a woman of the island. But she is not inattentive to the changes in her children’s behavior. She even tries to swallow the “live whole toads” of her preconceptions with a stoicism formed by her deep love for them. She will indeed be the story’s capital-W Woman, despite avoiding making waves by utilizing all her conciliatory abilities. In the dramatic finale, she is thankful for the presence of her younger son – the one who, by using his sexual differentness, better knew how to deal with her capacity for love. Maria/Mary is thus like so many other women who left the island and were able, guided by instinct and affection, to extricate themselves from social and moral shipwrecks – and so, by sticking to their principles, were better able to bear the cultural shock of America.
Almost the same thing can be said of daughter Lúcia/Lucy. It was just that she preferred to shield herself in the grayness of a life that in time rendered her stagnant, shifting her most realizable passion to money. She was doomed to fade into the community without leaving a trace or a name. Her children, however, do not follow her example. The day after the presentation in Tulare of the Portuguese version of I No Longer Like Chocolates, a countrywoman unburdened herself to me: “I didn’t sleep. I read the whole book. I’m so angry with myself because I identify with Lucy, and I don’t know if I still have time to change.”
Margarida/Maggie has a rebellious streak. She cultivated it whenever she could. Her horror at the paralysis and stagnation she encountered led her to defy all barriers, even to sink to her lowest depths. She is the only one who tries to integrate herself into the spirit of the American woman, without knowing how, but exceeding what is acceptable in the Lusa community. She was called a prostitute because she did not accept the passivity and hypocrisy of others. She had the courage to develop her capacity to love and also a sense of justice. She was therefore able to avoid situations of ridicule and of pure prejudice. She weighed anchor from her community’s moorings at the expense of good judgment, committing errors – although never the same one twice – and touching the wisdom of a life more in tune with the time and place where she was living.
The book’s fourth woman is not entirely what she appears to be. She came from the island with the purpose of marrying António/Tony. And everything seemed right with her. She was the daughter of poor people, working-class and honest. But upon consenting to marry António/Tony, she exacted a price. Maria de Lurdes/Milu did not want to be merely a dairyworker’s wife. Her ambition led her to employ remarkable strategies. She made herself noted and notable, even though in so many cases she had to resort to rather unorthodox methods. Without falling into social disgrace she wound up succumbing to the perceived misfortune of having a child with Down syndrome, which sucked from her all her will to succeed in the community. Lurdes/Milu is not animated with the same courage as Margarida/Maggie. The geography of her vanity was limited to the confines of the Portuguese-American community.
A fifth female figure also appears in this book, with significant influence: Rosemary, born in a Mexican city just below the US border. She wed an elderly American, with the premeditated intent of making her way to California. Marriage provided her a passport and a small divorce settlement, which she used in order to study Geriatrics. It was she who was chosen to take care of Joe Sylvia during his residence in the old-age home. Beyond being a consummate professional, Rosemary proves to be a lady of great heart, creating bonds of affection that sometimes seem like those of daughter and father or mother and son, but at other times more like wife and husband. In the undefined terms of this relationship, qualities become apparent of a woman who discovered how to use her heart as a gift of solidarity, not specifically feminine, but the sort that every human being ought to develop. It is also important to make clear that Rosemary’s exemplariness does not result from the fact of her being Mexican, but indeed from the manner in which she developed her affective potential.
In I No Longer Like Chocolates, the woman merely appears to have a subservient position. Her importance, despite the situations of resignation that have been recounted, is earned precisely by her capacity to stand up and confront a daily existence that would not hesitate to push her down into a state of social inferiority. And this is not only by virtue of her upbringing, but also because the milieu she has entered is so hybrid on all levels. Fundamentally, they all seem to bear a sense of guilt for their understanding and use of liberty. That is, each one uses liberty for his or her own gain, resenting that others use it as well, particularly when in a form that is more realistic, open and honest. It is a type of envy that, in the long run, proves that being a man or woman is really only a question of gender. They all seem subject to the same social, economic and cultural barriers. “The Choice and Voice” of the woman of the past was a learned behavior, even when this choice and this voice necessitate struggling for visibility in order to be recognized. In I No Longer Like Chocolates this also happens with the men, ranging from the patriarch Joe Sylvia to the masculine passivity of Tony and opportunism of Alfredo, to John, branded by his sexual differentness. It is thus with Joe Sylvia that the book closes:
He had lived under the superficial symbol of the immediate, doing with the body what the heart was denying him. He always had many more responsibilities than rights. He had gotten away from the island where there had been insufficient bread and freedom of speech. In America he had sought the most absolute freedom in the entire world, consecrated in a statue of concrete. His greatest anguish was recognizing the thousand chances he missed while he was alive and so many others he would miss after he was dead. And that fear was transformed into a pluperfect loneliness.
It is from this loneliness that choice and voice ought to flee. The right to happiness knows no gender.
DINIZ BORGES: “Portrait of a People: Álamo Oliveira’s Já não gosto de chocolates and the Saga of Azorean Emigration to California.” Adapted from a paper presented at the colloquium Portuguese-American Literature: The First One Hundred Years, 14-15 Apr 2001. Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. An abridged version appeared in the Tulare Voice, 19 Jun 2013:
Immigrants will never be Americans
but gradually they will be less Portuguese
– Onésimo Almeida
L(USA)Lândia the Tenth Island
The great migratory outflows from the Azores to the United States date back to the 19th century. People from the Azorean archipelago have long been trying to remake their lives in the land of the “melting pot.” Bringing along their roots, which sometimes serve as a cushion, Azorean-Americans rarely return to their homeland and, as Puerto Rican poet Francisco Alarcón tells us, bit by bit they undergo the inevitable metamorphosis into those who came to stay.
In the literature of the Azorean archipelago, emigration in general – but more particularly emigration to America – has enjoyed a place of prominence. One of the most complete works, and the first great novel on this topic, is I No Longer Like Chocolates by Álamo Oliveira. A writer profoundly linked to Azorean emigration, particularly to the state of California, Álamo Oliveira has been focusing on the dilemmas of emigration for some time now. From the start, his texts – in the theater, in poetry and narrative fiction – scrutinize Azorean experiences in the land of Eldorado, whether from the perspective of those who leave or through the chimera of those who stay behind. In his creative world there is a firmament of allusions to the Diaspora, and to what it signifies in the culture of the people from the islands – the inhabitants of the nine islands in the mid-Atlantic, and the “tenth” one on the North American continent. In I No Longer Like Chocolates the multiplicity of missteps and triumphs that constitute lives in L(USA)land is made manifest.
All the mysteries that ever afflicted anyone who one day had to leave his land in search of a new life are found in this novel. One encounters the anxieties, distastes, fluctuations, jubilations, aspirations and futilities of the Azorean-American world. In this narrative we come face-to-face with the disillusionment of those who, having been raised in a small community on a small island, now feel violated by the immenseness of the society that revolves around them, and thus need to reinvent themselves by clinging continually to their memories of times past. In language that is highly metaphorical and continually surprising in its stylistic discoveries, the author presents us with all the scars left by emigration.
Chocolates are this book’s grand metaphor. They represent the sweetness of the American Dream: He loved American chocolates, yet ironically he had never eaten one. He could only imagine their flavor. And they are a metaphor for disenchantment, or disillusion: He had lived in that land like a stranger. It is through this symbolism of the chocolates which José coveted before leaving the island – then tossed into the trash, still in their box, at the end of life – that the drama and tragedy of emigration are brought to life, because he is that archetype of Azorean emigration to the United States who, in the words of Onésimo Almeida, brings the island with him and clings to it here in this ocean of land in order not to drown.
This is the story of a plain man born on a distant island, where he learned a simple existence and the harshness of work. It is the story of one islander, but likewise of so many island victims of a sociopolitical system that condemns them to labor practically from birth. That is where the narrator sets us down in time and place, the Azores of the 1950s and ‘60s:
As a child he learned to turn the soil, give it seeds and reap its fruits. On the lands of others he earned his bread in exchange for work without schedules, without contracts, without the right to strike. Trapped in the tight space of his village, he could not even imagine what the rest of the island and the world were like. At school he learned how to string together a few letters, but never to calculate financial accounts.
This José Silva is from an island whose inhabitants were long ago seduced by American lands. Earlier, an aunt by the name of Quitéria Salvador had left – who, in one of this novel’s many ironies, became the savior, at last, of an entire family that in California took advantage of opportunity – an aunt who long ago embarked upon the land which poet Pedro da Silveira masterfully describes as Californias lost in abundance. It was she who sent José the much-coveted visa letter that would give him the right to leave his island and cross to the other side of the ocean of his life, on the other side of the American continent, his American Dream. And I say “his” because the entire saga of this family is recounted to us through the eyes of this principal protagonist, the patriarch, whose name José Silva is Americanized and feminized into Joe Sylvia.
The family's sorrowful departure is described somberly by Álamo Oliveira as a major event in the emigrants’ life:
Along the way they gazed at the island’s hills, at its trees and enclosed fields, at the houses with their gardens, at the churches and impérios, at the people and animals, with that odd sensation experienced by those who only now see what has always been before their eyes and for whom suddenly one feels a life-or-death passion.
These goodbyes – the waving of the little white handkerchief on the wharf, as a song in Azorean popular music tells us – were a daily part of Azorean life in the 1960s and ‘70s. Besides being a literary celebration of Azorean emigration this novel is, as poet Emanuel Félix noted, a superb sociological study.
As a faithful portrait of a people forced to leave their land due to economic adversity, this novel reflects upon the dichotomy of hunger vs. abundance. Back on the island, José Silva’s daughter Margarida confronts us with her desire to have more than just kale soup for lunch and dinner:
When we’re in America we’ll eat steak and French fries, and chocolates, and chew gum, and eat that cold thing that makes my teeth ache and that’s better than the açucrins we buy from Uncle Repolho at the bullfights.
Once they settle in America, there materialize in their lives new automobiles, spacious houses, refrigerators filled with more than they need, extensive wardrobes and many festas. It is the same in many emigrant families, where little by little the inescapable transfiguration occurs – which in this family, like so many of our emigrants, starts with names. Although these characters are not yet totally American, neither are they any longer Portuguese. Each time they identify increasingly with a world apart, those Azorean-American spaces they create for survival – a universe between two worlds which, as the poet Urbino San Payo described, is a physico-cultural-moral space we occupy in the middle of the bridge. We catch sight of its two moorings, but do not stand entirely on either one.
Even with the transmutation of his name, Joe Sylvia is not yet American, but he is not solely Portuguese anymore, either. And he is well aware of the eradication he sees of his children’s roots, and his own incapacity to stop it. Piece by piece the family dissolves into the American “melting pot,” left with mere traces of Portugueseness. But the protagonist knows that these transformations are essential and that, despite all his efforts, his Portuguese island is infiltrated by the powerful American world. Although Joe Sylvia may not have perceived the sum total of the world revolving around him, [h]e was unable to accept the idea that his most sacred values were being patiently subverted, torn to shreds and thrown out in the social trash. And although he may have needed this world in order to affirm himself, the Portuguese world in America was extremely ephemeral, at times a caricature, yet obviously a pragmatic one which made survival possible. This conviction is patent in his description of the largest of the popular festivals among Portuguese in California, the religious festa of Our Lady of Miracles:
A replica of the village of Serreta on his island of Terceira... In Gustine everything was an imitation. But it was a passable imitation. Many hundreds of people came there drawn just by the slender strand of saudade, smothered in hugs and kisses..., leaving behind the bitterness of their endless labor in factories, on farms, at construction or cleaning firms, wherever their bodies were punished in the pursuit of the dollar... Gustine transformed itself in the most accurate formula for measuring the island’s poverty. Gathered together during their time off, they would tell one another of their successes and adventures, of boasts more dreamt-of than realized. There they would divulge their recent acquisition of a sumptuous new home – uma bigue ause com simãopul, three kitchens and two stories – of the business launched or purchased, children who got married and those about to, new cars and prosperity.
The Sylvias’ drama is a convergence of the complex worlds of emigration in North American lands. This is a saga of frailties, successes, fears, tears and laughter. Joe Sylvia is permanently wedged between a rock and a hard place, and his two visits back to the Azores cannot help him to confront the reality of these two cosmos. The first trip with the family, taken only five years after they left their land, is a sentimental journey. This is the other side of hunger-abundance dichotomy. He is now compelled to say that he is doing well and that America is a veritable cornucopia:
The relatives and friends would receive dress-lengths of fabric, shirts forested with Hawaiian palm trees, alvarozes, lacy panties, nightgowns with silk bows and shoes. Also boxes of talcum powder, lipsticks, nail polish and even tubes of toothpaste accompanied by their own toothbrushes... You could not arrive from America empty-handed.
Whether on this first trip to the island or their second, they are beset with poignant situations where they try to camouflage the reality of the actual world of emigration. While Joe Sylvia may know that his daily life is far-removed from “mainstream” US existence, he must boast about his new land, a country that has fields without end and abundance the size of the sea that encircles our island. On his second visit the schism with his native land occurs. Joe and Mary go to their land alone, and it is on this trip that an enormous disillusionment is born, more like a bitter chocolate of confirmation that:
...[t]hey had felt they belonged to no land, unwilling expatriates, sedentarily sedentary. The island had been firmly dispelled from their imaginations... They gave in. They were still mere island peasants by reason of misfortune. And they stopped liking the sea.
They were defeated, not only by the differences they saw in the islands, a difference that they did not know how to accept, but also essentially because they did not belong to the great America which was already the land of their children. In a kind of catharsis the protagonist himself, now in an old-age home, tells us, I came to this country at a later age. When a man has lived over half of his life, it is best to let go of dreams soaked in ambition.
The world of Joe and Mary Sylvia consists of the local Portuguese community, far from all the other worlds that surround them. But while they may be in a completely separate cosmos, they are not immune from the unavoidable transformation of the pervasive and colossal American society. The destruction of this family’s roots does not occur solely in relation to their native land, but also in relation to the family itself. Joe Sylvia is disenchanted because, at life’s end, despite having attained financial success, the only thing he has left is the memory of his land, his people, his family – but all as lost to him as his island. Ironically, he receives only sporadic visits from his children, almost always on the weekend, and always with an eponymous box of chocolates to remind him of the bitterness of his choice, because [h]is life had dissolved in the overlapping of the two worlds that in vain he had tried to reconcile.
Throughout this narrative, Álamo Oliveira reveals himself to be a profound expert on our Portuguese communities, of their turns of events and the costs of emigration. Within the story of the Sylvias reside the daily occurrences and minutiae of our community experiences in America. Without resorting to gratuitous stereotyping – even though it would be extremely easy in a narrative of this nature – the author enters into the reality of Azorean-Americans. He enters the lives of Joe and Mary’s four offspring and tells us how out of vanity Maggie became Queen of the Holy Ghost festival; how Lucy married Alfredo, who needed her as a passport to establish residency in the United States; how Tony married Milu, a girl from the island, who soon discovers the perverse ways of self-promotion so peculiar to our communities. Full of preconceptions and presumptuousness, she attends Mass at Tulare’s Portuguese church, not for reasons of faith but to show off her dresses. She sets out on the hunt for government medals and – speaking a ghastly Port-English pidgin where each sentence is preceded by Uel – basks in glory upon being seated beside the President of the islands when he makes a visit to her city. Finally we have John, the couple’s youngest child. He is the only one to make a break from the narrowness of life in the community ghetto and, ironically, he winds up dying of AIDS in San Francisco, shaming his family to their very core in the community where they live. They all try to lock away his secret with seven keys, a clear and unequivocal indication of the pettiness of their refuge, their only citizenship – in the local Portuguese community.
In a sumptuous dialectic, Álamo Oliveira tells us of the lives of a family who, like so many Azorean families, out of economic necessity one day exchanged the placidity of the Azores for the roiling of the “melting pot.” This is a narrative of emotions, culture shocks and linguistic challenges that wind up toppling some taboos and provoking in each reader an amalgam of feelings and issues – a novel that treats the loss of identity not as mere schism with traditions, but indeed as the result of unshakable forces of assimilation of new ways that wind up being indispensable to the survival of life in exile.
I No Longer Like Chocolates is a novel where Azorean immigrants’ daily life on the North American continent, with all its dramas and glories, is portrayed and afforded dignity.
DR. CARMEN RAMOS VILLAR (University of Sheffield): “Travelling, the Traveller and the Journey Theme in Azorean Literature.” Revised 2009 by author from paper presented 9-12 May 2001. Originally published in Actas do IV Congresso Internacional da Associação Portuguesa de Literatura Comparada, Estudos Literários/Estudos Culturais, Vol. I: “Relações Intraliterárias, Contextos Culturais e Estudos Pós-Coloniais.” University of Évora, Portugal.
There is an underlying preoccupation in the literary production of the Azorean archipelago with emigration, and the ensuing search of an identity that incorporates the many realities emigration brings, which is not as prevalent in the rest of Portuguese literature. Azorean literature, a branch of Portuguese literature, explores themes such as the effects of emigration in a more extensive way than mainland Portuguese literature. In Azorean literature, emigration as a theme implies as journey, both mental and physical, which causes transformations in the character's personality, their outlook, the way they view the world around them, their development as a person, and ultimately the way in which they define their identity (or identities).
We will begin by describing why emigration is such an important part of the Azorean cultural identity, examining the historical and literary factors that gave rise to the importance attached to it in Azorean literature. We will then move on to analyse how the Azorean novel depicts the theme of journey and the figure of the traveller, developing from the theme of emigration, as one of the marks of Azorean cultural identity.
Emigration forms part of what shapes Azorean cultural identity because of the social, economic and historical factors that shaped this society in the first place. The Azores played a key role in what can be defined as a key factor in Portuguese national identity; the expansionism era (also known as the period of discovery). The Azorean the archipelago participated actively in Portugal’s colonial enterprise from its beginning, either as recipients of emigration so as to populate the islands, as emigrants to other parts of the (Portuguese colonial) world, or as hosts to travellers. Due to their geographical position, the Azores quickly became instrumental for the sea voyages, providing bases and supplies, in terms of crew and material goods. The Azores' strategic position in the Atlantic also became instrumental in the commercial system between Europe and the American continent, providing an obligatory stopover in the ocean crossing for both ships and aeroplanes. This has made for a society in some of the islands akin to a crossroad between places, where cultural interaction happens in a similar way to what James Clifford describes as the hotel in his hotel/motel analogy. Clifford categorises the experience of travel in a given society through the interaction and contact processes of different cultures which create a more cosmopolitan society, or shape and affect that society’s culture in a specific way.
The archipelago's role due to the strategic position meant that there was a lot of contact with other cultures, as well as a way out of the islands in passing ships, either as replacement crew or as stowaways. The destination of Azorean emigration changed following world emigration patterns that began in the nineteenth century, reducing the number of people that went to the Portuguese colonies in favour of North America, the more popular destination. These migrants initially went as crew on board of whaling ships, establishing communities in New England, California, and Hawaii. The end of the nineteenth century also coincided with the rise of the nation state in Europe, which created an awareness of national identity in which people drew from language and history for its expression. The Azores, although isolated from Portugal due to their position in the Atlantic, still received contact from the outside world in the form of books and newspapers from the passing vessels. As European anthropologists explored the link between climate, geography and the individual's character and identity at the turn of the twentieth century, Azorean intellectuals and writers also began to express an interest in identifying a specific Azorean cultural identity. Poets like Roberto de Mesquita (b. 1871, d. 1923) can be said to have been influenced by these ideas as, in his poems, he explored the effect of nature, climate and geographical surroundings, as well as the feelings of isolation and neglect, on the psyche. Mesquita has also been pinpointed as being the first literary and cultural representation of an Azorean cultural identity. However, Azorean critics such as Pedro da Silveira have argued that the cultural identity of the archipelago became sufficiently defined from that of Portugal since the beginning and, thus, not solely as a result of the processes of historical cultural contact.
The ideas about Azorean cultural identity can be seen as central in the generation of Azorean intellectuals and authors in the 1930s, who would add also the historical role of the islands and the effects of emigration to their definitions of Azorean cultural identity. These intellectuals, mainly educated in Coimbra, came into contact with the literary influences of Brazilian Modernism and Portuguese Neo-Realism, which would later be central in the formation of the Cape Verdean and Azorean literatures. It is important to highlight here the significant relationship and exchange of ideas between the Azorean and Cape Verdean writers and intellectuals of the 1940s which, in the case of the Azores, contributed directly to the formation and expression of a distinct Azorean regional cultural identity expressed through literature. This generation of Azorean writers became known as the Geração Gávea.
For this generation of Azorean writers, there is a preoccupation of highlighting a defined and differentiated Azorean cultural identity from that of mainland Portugal through literature. This differentiation is based on the depiction of the island environment, which can sometimes take the shape of using specific literary imagery, such as the feeling of confinement in the island, for instance, or of seeking to reproduce an approximation of the way Azoreans speak. Within the Azorean cultural identity proposed by these authors, one can also find the idea of Man being a product of a particular society, influenced by its environment and needing to break from its constraints. In so doing, the Azorean writers, like their Cape Verdean counterparts, used emigration as a theme so as to depict its effects in the Azorean society, and explore the sense of displacement in the individual's construction of the self in the society around him/her.
The next generation of Azorean writers is situated in our period, and is headed by writers such as Onésimo Teotónio Almeida, Álamo Oliveira, or João de Melo, to cite a few. This generation builds up on the imagery and themes of the Geração Gávea generation and incorporates elements of Post-modernism in their depiction of what constitutes the Azorean character. The use of Post-modernism seeks to produce, through the text, alternative versions and perceptions of the world around us. In literature, this might translate itself through features like the fragmentation of the self within society, the idea of the self as fluid and subjective, and also the examination of what constitutes identity in a given setting. Azorean Post-modernism, in literature, looks at issues relative to the perceived cultural condition of being Azorean, such as the effect of migration, society, climate, or relationships with other characters and societies. In so doing, this generation of Azorean authors produce a dialogue with their Azorean counterparts in Portugal and in the Azorean emigrant community in North America. This creates a body of literature which is concerned with examining their perception of what it means to be "Azorean" in all the different contexts; in the archipelago, in mainland Portugal, and in the emigration setting of North America. In effect, the generation of Azorean writers create a web of writing where a symbiotic relationship between authors appears, enriching the literary search to portray Azorean cultural identity.
The theme of emigration, thus, is a constant preoccupation for the generations of Azorean writers who use the archipelago’s history to highlight their Azorean cultural specificity through literature. Emigration as a theme in Azorean literature is thus examined for its social impact on not only on those who leave, but also on those who remain in the islands. This theme explores the development of the islander and its dependency on social conventions and behaviour, which is also linked to the way the islander defines him/herself, or is defined by others. The result is the depiction of a personal journey that embodies the cultural manifestation of sociological and historical factors that a shape an emigrant society such as the Azores, and the emigration experience of its members.
Álamo Oliveira’s novel, Já não gosto de Chocolates, centres around the decision taken by an Azorean family to emigrate to California in the 1950s. As the novel develops, we see not just the fragmentation of the main character’s self-perception following the decision to emigrate, but also that of his family's perception of each other. In the novel, this is exemplified, for example, in how the characters’ names are changed after they emigrate, each shedding their Portuguese names in favour of adopting the American names in order to fit in and make sense of who they are in the new society. For instance, José Silva, the father of this family and the main character of the novel, becomes Joe Sylvia, Maria da Fátima, his wife, becomes Mary, and so on. In a sense, the idea presented in the novel is that of the confrontation of the fragmented self with an idealised idea of what that self should be in their new situation. Following on from this idea, the novel could also be seen as an exploration of coming to terms with a fragmentation borne out of a perceived loss on many levels after emigrating; loss of the familiar island environment and social customs in the new setting, loss of a island behaviour and moral code of conduct that is perceived to be better than that of the new setting, loss of a feeling of belonging in the island society, with its implied displacement in temporal and mental terms, and the perceived precariousness of belonging in the new society, and loss of the personal and family interactions with each other as they assimilate into the new society.
Reading the novel as an exploration of the many levels of fragmentation and loss undergone by the Azorean emigrant, José/Joe’s narration of the family’s story, weaving between the reminiscences of the past and his present, reads as an examination of his family’s adaptation to the new society which leads him in a growing state of powerlessness, where he convinces himself that his authority and position within his family was gradually stripped after emigrating. As he undergoes this examination, he analyses his attempts at preserving island customs and behaviour through exercising tight control on all the members of his family, thereby reducing the many levels of loss posed by the new culture. In so doing, however, he further contributes to the fragmentation process in the remaining family members, which he later concludes that it results as much from his own actions, as from what he sees as the corrupting effect of the new society.
Coming back to the way José/Joe narrates the family’s story, interweaving between the past and the present, we could also describe the novel’s construction as fragmented. As readers, we are accompanying the father of the family as he tells us the family’s story, contributing to the many interpretations of the theme of journey that can be derived from this novel; the family’s emigration story, the story of how each character changes and develops, the idea of the journey (cycle) of life ending with death, etc. However, it should be borne in mind that what we read is the account of one family member, José/Joe, who reminisces and analyses the past to make sense of the present. It is here that we can see the growing gap, the fragmentation, between the family members as a result of José/Joe being the only family member to have resisted full adaptation after emigrating. This resistance explains a disappointment at having found material wealth at the expense of having lost emotional wealth.
The story José/Joe tells us, supposedly gives each individual member of his family an equal opportunity to have their story heard, so as to analyse the effects of conflict and loss experienced after emigration from all the members of the family. Although an attempt is made to provide a forum for all the family member’s perspectives, no solution is found to the generational conflict – partly because all the family members have had their stories told on their behalf by José/Joe, who cannot, even at the end of the novel’s narrative, find a solution to this conflict. In this way, his account of his children's acts of rebellion against paternal authority echo the powerlessness their father feels – because it is the father that tells the story and, thus, we see how José/Joe is placed, and placing himself, in a never-ending search for answers. The children’s perceived failure to mediate between the island customs and the demands for assimilation of the new society are seen as, in the father’s eyes, an inability to place their Azorean origins in an appropriate context of the emigration society. The way the family’s story is told through José/Joe’s perspective, thus, also accounts for the negativity surrounding the emigration experience for each member of the family. In José/Joe’s account, his negative perception of life after emigration colours how he sees his children’s lives. For him, the act of having emigrated is the logical explanation for the failed, or failing, relationships that each family member has with each other and also with their partners.
As each member is examined by José/Joe, it is interesting to note that the only relationships that seem to have worked, and stood the test of what the new society has supposedly thrown at them, are those who have a tenuous link to the island. In this way, José/Joe’s marriage to Mária de Fátima/Mary, and João/John’s homosexual relationship with Danny are seem as being successful because both father and son are searching for a island – which we increasingly perceive to be mythical – to act as a spiritual replacement of the island they have left behind after emigrating. For the rest of the family members, therefore, the inference is that they have somehow come under the negative influence of the new society. The new society, therefore, is seen as somehow corrupting; each child is seen to be either "punished" by death, illness, degradation in their relationships with others, and even an implied corruption to their personalities. The degradation has either come about because they have become "seduced" by the perceived materialism and superficiality of the new society, or because the new society interferes somehow with the individual’s relationship with the island, thus creating an internal spiritual conflict.
The only member of the family that cannot be seen to come under this category of having been "punished" or "corrupted" is the Down syndrome child that is the product of the marriage of António/Tony (the oldest son) and Milú (the dirt poor Azorean turned ambitious socialite in the U.S.). Far from the symbol of the degradation of the family relationships when faced with the perceived corrupting effects of the new society, this child could also be seen as the inheritor of the inability of the second generation to assimilate to the new values whilst still preserving the old island values, presenting this condition as a flaw or deformation on the innocent. The close relationship between the child and José/Joe is also a symbol of José/Joe's acceptance of his limitations and powerlessness to the change effected by the new society.
José/Joe’s death at the end of the novel is also presented as the acceptance of the events, and consequences, of the decisions that took place in life, and also as the beginning of yet another journey to another state of being. Thus, the conflict between island past/emigration present, the non-equation of the romance of the life of the emigrant and the non-romanticised reality of emigration, becomes the symbol of how the emigrant struggles constantly with various spatio-temporal changes that contribute to the construction of a self which incorporates these changes. The spatio-temporal changes come at a price; like the aforementioned name change when entering the US, or the act of shaving José/Joe’s moustache upon entering the nursing home, which takes away the last element of virility in his construction of self, and also constitutes the first of the final personal surrenders, and acceptance, that he has lost everything he had tried to preserve. The narrative's play on the many levels of loss experienced by José/Joe and his family enables an examination of the losses experienced by the emigrant in the new society, losses which are caused by the decision to emigrate in the first place, and which begin a process whereby the emigrant is locked into a situation where, on return to the island, the emigrant feels as no longer fitting within the island environment because the island society encountered no longer matches up with the imagined island.
José/Joe’s narration, as it moves to and fro the past to the present in its search for reconciliation or unification between the fragmented self that has emerged since emigrating and the perceived and idealised island self that has been left behind, echoes the mental and physical dimension of the journey theme in Azorean literature. However, what we see is the observation and analysis of tiny pieces of a life, by an individual author who contributes to the construction of a whole, of Azorean cultural identity. Like a mosaic, the single events and episodes, the contributions of an author, like the individual pieces of the mosaic, are important to construct the whole picture. However, you only perceive the whole picture drawn by the individual pieces when you stand back and take it as a whole. In this way, emigration as a theme in Azorean literature, thus, forms a backdrop in which the social drama of this historical and social fact is explored in order for the author to show how the experience of it shapes the Azorean islander’s sense of self, and how this sense of self contributes to the construction of the mosaic of Azorean cultural identity.
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