Autor: Joana Medeiros
The president of the New England House of the Azores explains that, over time, Easter has lost some of its significance in the Azorean community living in Fall River, especially among those who do not feel so close to their roots.
This happens because there are other celebrations with more impact on the community, such as Thanksgiving, a very important holiday for the great majority of North Americans, and known for being a date when people get together to show their gratitude to God.
According to Francisco Viveiros, the truth is that Thanksgiving has been getting more prominence in the community in general when compared to Christian festivities.
As for the reasons that justify this mass adhesion to a holiday that is far from being Portuguese, this Azorean emigrant explains that it's about the possibility of getting the whole family together, since North American companies, in general, find it easier to interrupt their operations on Thanksgiving than on Christmas or Easter.
Thus, on Easter "only those who don't go to work get together," says the president of the New England House of the Azores.
Inspired by the Lenten pilgrimages that take place on the island of São Miguel, Francisco Viveiros highlights the pilgrimage held in Fall River, where, every Good Friday, "the largest pilgrimage with men and women" is held, counting on hundreds of people who, for one day, walk through the local churches.
In Bristol, a neighboring city, this tradition is experienced in a different way, although no less intensely. There is a group of pilgrims known for walking the streets for a week, just like in São Miguel, as it includes men who, when living in São Miguel, were already pilgrims in their parishes.
During this time, these pilgrims walk through most of the nearby churches, although US law imposes some limits on how this religious walk takes place.
"It is a week with its own characteristics. For example, the pilgrims cannot walk on the road, they have to walk on the sidewalks, and in order to cross Route 6, a somewhat busy road, it is necessary to warn the police, so that traffic is interrupted. When it comes to the overnight stay, if these pilgrims take a child with them, the child cannot sleep with the adults, even if the father is there. It is strictly forbidden for a child to sleep with adults", emphasizes Francisco Viveiros.
As far as gastronomy is concerned, on Easter Day, sweetbread, rice pudding and roasted meat prevail on the table of the Azoreans of Fall River.
The fact that the weather improves in the United States at this time of the year, as the snow begins to dissipate, leads many families to take the opportunity to go for a walk, "sometimes to Newport, to see and smell the sea," recalling those days in the Azorean islands.