Sixty years of Amaral Farms
Fernandina Amaral most enjoys being at home, where she can cook and work.
It helped in her younger years. On Amaral Farms, the Devonshire business she started with her late husband, Joseph, 60 years ago, there was always something to do.
When she was not out in the fields gathering flowers, she was sorting, cleaning and bagging vegetables. Nearly every weekend she was selling it all at their stand on Middle Road.
Mrs Amaral and her husband were born in Rabo de Peixe, a small fishing village on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores.
“I went to school for four years,” she said. “Then I stayed at home and helped my mother with my six younger siblings.”
There was no electricity or indoor toilets; she learnt to make bread using a stone oven. Gathering wood for the oven was step one in the process.
She grew up under the shadow of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar who ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968.
“Salazar was rough,” Mrs Amaral remembered.
Between 1961 and 1971, the Angolan War of Independence raged between Portugal and the people of Angola, then a Portuguese colony. Many young Portuguese men were conscripted into the army for years at a time. Under Salazar, only one male in the family was allowed to emigrate.
“Things like soap or baking supplies or butter or sugar, were rationed and controlled,” she said.
She was 21 and Joseph was 25 when they first caught each other’s attention. The early days of their courtship were conducted almost entirely through her sitting-room window. In the Azores in the 1950s, that was typically how matches were made.
“He would walk by my house,” she said. “If I was there we would have a conversation.”
But after exchanging a few words with Joseph, she became a little nervous about what her father, Antone Tavares Miguel, would say. She was not as concerned about how her mother, Angelina de Sousa Gouveia, would react.
“I told her, ‘I am going to close the window and I am not going to entertain this right now’,” she said.
To complicate the budding relationship, Mr Amaral was about to leave the Azores to work in Bermuda. But their window-romance grew and he asked her father for her hand in marriage.
“My father said, ‘You do what you need to do right now, and then if the timing is right, then she will be here waiting for you.’”
Mr Amaral’s first job in Bermuda was helping a cousin to remove cedars killed by the blight. After that he worked for Russell Eve, a director of the Bermuda Press at that time. He lived upstairs at the Russell Eve Building on the corner of Church Street next to the bus terminal and cleaned the pharmacy downstairs, in the evening.
The Amarals married in the Azores in 1958. Their daughter, Maria, was born the next year.
Mr Amaral spent seven years here alone; the couple wrote letters back and forth.
On becoming Mr Eve’s personal gardener, he moved to a small cottage off Watlington Road West and was finally able to bring his wife and daughter to Bermuda in 1961.
Leaving home was bittersweet for Mrs Amaral. Her father had a stroke not long before she left, but on the day of her departure got himself up, shaved and dressed and was able to stand at the front door to say goodbye.
“When I left my father he said ‘Goodbye, I know I will never see you again,’” Mrs Amaral said.
He died the next year.
She and her daughter, Maria, took the only taxi on the island to the local airport and flew to Santa Maria, where they stayed overnight with a friend. The next day they caught an 11-hour KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight to Bermuda.
“It was a propeller plane,” she said. “My daughter was still in cloth diapers and a busybody. She could not keep still. By the time we got to Bermuda I had a big bag of soiled diapers. We sat up front, right behind the cockpit. There was no door so we could see everything the pilot was doing.”
Bermuda seemed much more modern than the village she grew up in.
“The Azores was a very poor country back then but today they are in a great position,” she said. “They have dishwashers and clothes dryers now.”
Once here, she had Joseph and then another son, Anthony. Carlos and Susana followed nine years later. Five children generated a lot of laundry.
“I had 15 white shirts to wash for the uniforms, 15 pairs of shorts and skirts, 15 pairs of socks, then double sets of cloth diapers for the babies,” she said. “It was constant.”
Mrs Amaral, who has worn black in her husband’s memory ever since he died in 2010, loves being in the kitchen. Her family particularly enjoys her red bean soup, pumpkin soup, banana bread and muffins.
Mrs Amaral never used a recipe, measuring cups or spoons; she eyeballed everything.
Today she is limited by vertigo, her caregiver works as a proxy.
“I tell her what steps to follow,” she said. “And she cooks it.”
She never learnt to speak English very well. Her daughter served as translator for this article.
“When my children were growing up, I would try to speak English with them,” she said. “But they would get impatient and say, ‘Mom, that’s not how you say that.’”
She used to attend mass regularly at St Patrick’s Church in Smith’s. Now, due to heath concerns, she watches on television every day instead.
She has 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
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