Together again: a family reunion for the ages
What wouldn’t you do for those you love? Alfredo Cardoso left his family behind in 1962 and travelled from the Azores to Bermuda for a better life.
Seven years later, the news that they could join him was bittersweet: local law would allow only his wife, Maria Jose Cardoso, and their youngest to immigrate; three of their seven children were left behind.
The family never reunited.
“It was all for a better life financially, for a big family,” explained Maria Cardoso, whose husband, Luis, was 11 when he moved here in 1969.
Meanwhile, his siblings — Maria, 21, Olivia, 19, and Alfredo, 17 — stayed in São Miguel. Alfredo joined the army; the sisters had a joint wedding on April 14, 1969.
For their 50th anniversary, Luis insisted Maria, Olivia and their respective husbands, Antônio Machado and Gilberto Machado, celebrate here.
The couples had visited Bermuda in the past, but never together. As both had big families, the demands were constant and they were also travelling from different parts of the world. São Miguel was still home for Maria but Olivia had moved to Toronto, Canada.
Luis organised their trip here for the last week in March, aware that Maria and Antônio planned to renew their vows in the Azores on April 14 before their ten children, 38 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Meanwhile, Olivia and Gilberto had planned a celebration for the same day in Toronto, with their ten children, 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“Our families have never been together as a group. I brought them in to celebrate with us,” Luis said.
Similarly, it was with his family in mind that his father accepted work with farmer Raposo Alvarinho 57 years ago.
“He used to do farms on Happy Valley Road, where the Bermuda Plant Nursery is,” Luis said. “He had a small dairy farm and a vegetable farm.”
In 1969, Alfredo presented his wife with a choice: he could either return home or she could come to Bermuda.
“My oldest brother was 17 at the time. He couldn’t come,” said Luis. “They wouldn’t let him leave the country because he was ready to join the army.”
The Cardosos had four more boys — Luis, Augusto, 15, Carlos, 9, and Gilberto, 6.
“My dad said, ‘We should leave before we lose another one. We should move before they get our second son.’”
The boys enrolled at Central School, now Victor Scott Primary School, in Pembroke, and got to know Bermuda.
“As for the sisters, they felt very emotional and were very saddened by the separation,” Luis’s wife Maria said. She explained that long-distance calls then were so expensive the family had to find other ways to stay in touch. “They communicated by mail and recorded on cassette tapes, which they played over and over again, [the whole family] listening to [each other] for many years.
“As for the children here, Bermuda used to have a Portuguese programme on the radio three nights a week and they all sat around it listening to it, which only made the siblings cry for the longest time because they missed the rest of their family from the Azores.
“One day their dad got so mad and told them to stop or else they would all go back home and no longer listen to any radio.”
It was 20 years before a phone call was made. The sisters had to deliver the news to their parents that Alfredo had survived a terrible motorcycle accident, but was seriously injured.
In 1989, their father retired from the parks department, having worked there for 25 years. After his death, in 1994, their brother, Gilberto, moved back to São Miguel, leaving their mother here with Luis and Carlos. She died two years later, in 1996.
Olivia had been to the island by then, for Luis and Maria’s wedding in 1978.
Her sister, Maria, whose son Luis Machado lives here, did not visit until years later, in 1999.
“It was very nice,” Maria said. “There are a lot of differences [between here and the Azores]. I always find the people very friendly. I cannot believe how everyone says ‘hello’. We hardly see that.”
She and her sister were both surprised when their brother called asking if they would like plane tickets here for their golden anniversaries.
“I was not expecting the invitation,” Olivia said. “I had no time to think about it. I immediately said ‘yes’. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
While here, they revisited Hamilton, Flatts, Tucker’s Town, St George’s, Devonshire, Dockyard and their family’s former Spanish Point home, “The House That Jack Built”. The pictures taken on the trip will be part of a slide show at their respective anniversary celebrations on Sunday.
“They just love how we’re surrounded by beautiful blue waters,” Luis said.
After 50 years of marriage, the women agree the most important part of a relationship is having respect for your partner.
“It’s a fact that you’re going to have bad days and good days but you fix what’s broken as the years go by,” Olivia said.
“Also we have a close family, a large family, and we get along very well.”
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