Borders – where does it start you? Where does it end me?
There was a time, a place, a reality. A long long time ago, when some Irish people found a home in a huge, green place called Brasil. It might not have been their Hy-Brasil, their Tír na nÓg, nor their Avalon. It might not have been their promised land, or their place of eternal youth. But that place’s beauty was intrinsic of hope and prospect for survival.
Was it possible that those fire-haired white people, with the language nobody understood, were just buying some time on Earth? Was the monitor in their brains, just so prominent and determined to survive, that it kept them from simply letting the Atlantic Ocean swallow their dreams? Or did they survive because they had a good bit of coin stashed back home? It surely wasn’t a time for rainbows. What was the story with them freckled souls? Even with all their riches, facing their stolen dignity, all they could get was a final attempt in a tiny boat. In a cyclic sort of mind-fuck, how did we end up here? In a present with too many similarities to cite and no learning from our continuous destruction of lives?
In the 19th century, when the Famine killed innocent people in Ireland, approximately 300 Irish people crossed the sea in small sailboats. They arrived in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, and it is said that these people were mostly farmers from County Wexford. The colony was named after Portuguese dude, the last monarch in Brazil: Dom Pedro II.
In Brazil, at least for a period of time, not only could the Irish eat, they could build their own houses, something so important for the Irish people (or any oppressed/colonized society for that matter).
According to the log book of supplies offered to these settlers, the arrival of the Irish would have occurred on February 7 and March 7, 1852, in the port of Rio Grande.
Travel expenses were duly noted for subsequent return. Information from the Book of Acts of the Helping Association of Colonization in Pelotas, shows that even “a bundle of iron pins” supplied to Eduardo Wynn to nail the lining in the coffin at his daughter’s funeral were recorded and collected. All expenses were divided into promissory notes that could reach five years of payment.
The lots, with approximately 100,000 square feet, ranged between $600 – $700,000 – varying according to their benefits (watercourses, for example).
Although paid, there is evidence that many settlers engaged in work similar to temporary servitude. Ricardo Yates, according to data from Ufpel (Federal University of Pelotas) would have worked for more than four months for Diogo Bent, Guilherme Bent and David Walsh, who were also settlers, without receiving any kind of compensation for it.
A few years later, the colony was over. In the end, only about 30 families inhabited the region. The economic difficulties were diverse and a good part of the immigrants went to other neighboring countries, especially to the capitals Montevideo (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). Some people went to nearby cities in Brazil, such as Pelotas and Jaguarão.
It sounds to me much like settlers pissing on other settler’s corner, or coloniser’s trying to colonise other coloniser’s territory, and then Brexitying out of it. Where I am from, that is like stopping the match before you lose, and taking your ball home crying.
Dom Pedro II was one of the three agricultural colonies formed by Irish in Brazil. Could that have been the old version of Gort?
What is the connection to this land? To that land? Why do we have to leave? Why are we forced to stay? Is it that hard to make the process more Humane?
Be it a boat or a plane.
Today it is still possible to find some marks of this history in Pelotas. Some families remained in the country: Sinott, Staford, Monks, Brian, Ennis, Carpenter, among others. Currently, about 80% of the territory is in the city of Capão do Leão.
And then, somewhere, sometime in the present there is Scodeler.
My dad’s name. Where does it really come from? My granny said its from the border of Italy and Austria, where a love story that brought my great great grandparents together, she from Venice and he from Trieste, got interrupted with their fleeing the war, on a ship to Brazil.
Does it really matter what sort of name I have? and what path I walked on? If here in Europe, the colonisers of my people, the exploiters of my land, see me as a number, behind a form, behind so many violations of my privacy, my human rights, with every wound they open up?
I got asked so many times why I’m here in Ireland.
It’s a connection that can be only felt and not understood.
It is instinctual. It is synchronicity.
Maybe it has to do with Myth, maybe it has to do with genetic memory. Who claims to really know the whys and whens of things?
It could be just a hint. Maybe I’m just buying some time, right here, right now, to let the answers come to mind, to the questions your borders have for me. Have you ever felt like some place was the exact place where you were supposed to be, at that precise moment?
Maybe it just has to do with something imprinted in my unconscious.
I found a shamrock the other day in a box. I had forgotten about it.
It came from my dad’s wallet some 18 years ago, after the police in Brazil returned his belongings – without ever investigating his murder.
I had no clues. He left no final advice. He didn’t tell me go study this, go learn that. He never told me to go travel.
He just used to travel with me, since I was a baby, with my mum and my sister, on boats, for weeks.
We had no time to discuss my options. Or never had I, a chance to talk to him about who I was.
I had only 2 lucky charms, that belonged to him: one American dollar and the old shamrock, that mysteriously were carried every day by a man who did not believe in Religion, who never talked to me about faith, never told me about Ireland nor saw me graduate. He did have a mad love for Whisky.
He used to call me ‘passarinho’ or ‘little bird’.
He helped me build the wings that got me here, to this land, to this grass, to this earth. The very wings that have been clipped slowly by bureaucracy.
He loved the sea. More than anything. He wanted his ashes scattered in the water.
I did not have time to give him the sea, but I crossed it for him.
Some of the Irish surnames that lived in Dom Pedro II:
(info from the blog “Capão do Leão History and Culture)
Hogan: Irish surname, from the Gaelic “O’Hógáin”, from the archaic “og” meaning young. It initially appears in the County of Tipperary (south-central Ireland) in 1281.
Yates: English surname, of Gloucestershire, whose meaning is “porter”. It dates from the 11th century.
Deverich: surname with several changes over the centuries. Initially, it is one of the noble families that accompanied Guilherme, the Conqueror (1066), known simply as De Evreux (Evreux is a French city of Normandy). There is contraction for Devreux, later Deverel and, still in the late Middle Ages, family strains are Anglicanized arising from Deverick (north of England and Scotland) and Deverich (Ireland). With the Thirty Years’ War, in the seventeenth century, another lineage emerged that established itself in Croatia: Deverić.
Parle: Irish form for the original term “Barley” – English town of Lancashire, which dates back to 1266. However, the Parle County of Wexford, Ireland, originated in France and settled before the seventeenth century and, three sailor brothers who settled in Carnsore Point.
Kerwin: Irish surname, from the Gaelic “O’Ciardhubhain”, junction of the words cost “ciar” (friend) and dubh (black). Originally from County Galway, western Ireland.