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CAPE VERDE

by Diane Stewart 9 months ago in extended family

Knowing Who We Really Are

Everything came full circle and made complete sense the day I birthed my legacy. In him, the past and the present laid way for the continuation of my family line. A line laced with intricate mysteries and a world longing to be rediscovered.

“Mommy.”

“Yes, son.”

“Tell me the story about my name,” he said, his little arms hugging me around my neck.

“Ok. But then you must go to sleep.”

I tucked him under the covers preparing to bring him closer to my half of his existence. But what will he think once all the secrets come out?

With innocent eyes of wonder, he looked up at me. I took a deep breath and began, “My grandmother was full blooded Portuguese. Both her parents came from an island called Cape Verde but met and married here in America. My great grandmother was only three years old when she had been brought here to be raised by an aunt. And my great grandfather came over on a whaling ship when he was 26 years old. I was very close to my grandmother and thought we told each other everything. But just before she died, she grabbed my hands and entrusted me with a huge family secret.”

“You must find it and discover who we really are, “she said.

“Who we really are?” I asked unfamiliar with what she was trying to tell me. “Find what?”

“Find it and promise me you’ll go,” she insisted.

Suddenly, her grip weakened. I tried again to decipher her message but couldn’t read from her expression what she was asking me to do. “Grandma. Grandma!” I cried, seeking to keep her with me a little while longer. She was my last grandparent, and I didn’t want her to move on, but time had chartered out her course and her moment to cross over had arrived. The only thing left for me to do was to fulfill her request, so I gave her my promise and she was gone.

My grandmother wasn’t a wealthy woman by societies standards, but she owned the home she lived in and that was very important to her. It was in her living room that we gathered for the reading of her last will and testament.

“And to my oldest granddaughter, Diane, I leave $20,000 and the family black notebook,” declared the lawyer. He handed me a check and the well-preserved Moleskine notebook with the name Samedo engraved on it. A week later I was on a plane headed to the island of Cape Verde determined to fulfill my grandmother’s wish and unearth the mystery of who we really are.

The small island plane hopped and skidded along the runway as it landed on the island of Sal. It was late at night and I didn’t have the correct amount of money exchanged to buy a ticket over to the island of Santiago, so I decided to stay in the airport overnight.

“Excuse me,” a thin European woman with short wavy hair said addressing me. “I overheard you telling the man on the plane that you were going to stay here in the airport ‘til morning?”

“Yes, I can’t exchange my money until tomorrow.” I replied.

“I don’t advise that,” she stated. “It’s very dangerous to stay at the airport all night, especially since you’re an American woman travelling by yourself. I’ll purchase the ticket for you, and we can meet tomorrow for dinner so you can pay me back.”

Surprised by her comments, I took her up on her generous offer and we took the next flight over to the capital city of Praia. In the pitch-black darkness, we flew over what is now calming waters. But as the plane began its decent through the clouds, the sound of tribal drums escalated in my ears telling the woes of Cape Verde’s bloody and famine stricken past.

In the morning, I gathered my documents and went to the Historical National Archive to try and find a connection to my great grandfather’s side of the family. I already had my great grandmother’s birth certificate. Her name was Antonia Alameida born January 13, 1896. Her father was Ceasar Alameida and her mother was Ana de Pina, but neither the birth certificate nor the notebook made mention of any siblings.

“Excuse me,” I asked the man behind the counter after waiting there all day.

“Yes,” He replied, sneeringly.

“I’m looking for my great grandfather’s birth certificate. His name was Domingo Samedo born October 25, 1886.” I explained.

“And what were his parents’ names?” He groused coldly giving me attitude.

“Hmph,” I said returning attitude to him. “If I knew that, what would I need with you?”

“Fill this out and we’ll locate your document.” He responded walking back to his desk.

As I went to leave through the large hand carved front doors, I heard someone whisper, “You know. He’s not going to find your document.”

I turned to find an attractive 6’4” tall gentleman grinning down at me. “What makes you say that?” I asked sizing him up and down. He was clean cut from head to toe. His Italian suit accentuated the cuts of his musculature frame in all the right places. And his skin was satiny and cocoa smooth. The brother was more than F.I.N.E., he would do.

“The Archive staff’s been backed up for months. Are you here for an extended period?” He asked knowing the answer in his eyes.

“No,” I admitted disappointed by his news. “I’m here for a week.”

“I can assist you in your search.”

“You have an ancestry book tucked in your pants?” I stated being coy.

“No. But I belong to the second oldest family on the island and we know almost everything about anyone who has ever been born here.”

He seemed a bit too sure of himself, so I handed him the birth certificate and the Moleskine notebook saying, “Ok. What can you tell me about her?”

“Well, “he started looking over the document and finely crafted notebook. “Um, she uh,” he twisted them back and forth trying to decipher their information. “Her name is Antonia and she’s…,” he stopped and looked towards me astonished. “She’s dead!”

“Yes, “I said snatching my items back from him. “She’s buried in California. I know where she is. I’m looking for information on her family.”

“Santa Catarina, where she was born, is only a few cities away from here. I can take you there.”

“What’s your name?” I asked hesitant to take him up on his offer.

“Josef Arien,” he replied extending his hand to shake mines.

“I’m Diane. Nice to meet you, “I responded shaking his hand. “I have somewhere to be tonight, but I’ll take your number and let you know tomorrow if you can take me there.”

“Boa Noite, Diane.”

“Boa Noite, Josef.” He released my hand and I left to have dinner with Elaina, the lady from the airplane.

At the restaurant, I shared my encounter with her. She knew Josef’s name immediately and his family lineage. Not only were they the second oldest family on the island. They were the second wealthiest family in Cape Verde.

“Be careful of this man Josef. He comes across as if he’s the prince of Cape Verde, but he can be a scoundrel,” she forewarned.

The next morning, I proceeded on my family search led by Josef the scoundrel island tour guide. He showed me Santa Catarina with its fishing boats, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear blue waters. But nothing he showed me matched the details in the notebook. We returned to my hotel so I could freshen up before being escorted to his night club in town.

“I brought you a flower,” said a tiny voice.

I looked down to see the sweetest little boy holding up a tropical bouquet. “Are you my escort?” I asked smiling.

“No. I’m Adilson.”

“Adilson’s family lives in town,” Josef explained walking out from the shadows. “According to your notebook, his family is the link to your great grandmother.”

“What!” I reacted in disbelief. “You found them? Oh, Josef!” I hugged him with great joy. Then I picked up Adilson and swung him around in my arms. “But how?”

“Do you want the long story, or do you want to meet them?” Josef responded grinning with confidence.

We drove to Adilson’s family dwelling. It resided in the deepest impoverished part of the city. Josef rushed me past the interior of the house to a party taking place in the backyard. I thought I was introducing myself to potential family members. Then I noticed the yard was filled with mostly men and a sprinkle of women dancing with a few of them in the center of the crowd. A man approached me with his hand extended indicating, “I can pay, I can pay.” Josef reared up like a lion motioning for him to get lost.

“Did you bring me to a brothel!” I exclaimed.

“No, no. Let me get the boy’s mother,” Josef countered disappearing into the mingling crowd.

Before I could regain my bearings, I felt Adilson’s little hand tugging me.

“Help her!” he said. “My friend! She’s sick! Please hurry!”

He pulled me out to the street, and we flagged down a taxi. Directing the taxi driver to the affluent side of the city, we raced up the winding hills stopping in front of an extravagant mansion. Inside the house, we ran up the staircase to the master bedroom where an elderly woman lay motionless in the bed. I approached slowly not knowing if she was asleep or deceased. But the blank look in her eyes devoid of life told me she was gone.

“Can you help her?” asked the child.

“No. I’m sorry. She’s gone,” I replied consoling him as he broke down into tears. “Who is she?” I asked.

“My friend, Ms. Alameida.”

“Alameida,” I thought to myself. Could she be the relation I was meant to find? Objects in her possession around the room began to fit all the pieces described in my notebook.

I took Adilson home and returned to my hotel thinking I would inform Josef the next day about my discovery. Instead, I found him waiting for me at my door.

“Josef! Adilson’s family’s not my link. The boy took me to help his friend and it turns out she’s the family I’m supposed to find.”

“Is that so,” he answered not surprised. “Come. Let me buy you a drink to celebrate and you can tell me all about it.”

We walked to the back of the hotel. The moon was shining across the water and you could hear the waves breaking against the cliff. I continued to describe the room in the mansion to Josef while he kept walking at a deliberate pace. Then suddenly, he stopped.

“So, you figured it out,” he said. “I knew what lineage you belonged to after reading your notebook.”

“Then why did you say it was Adilson’s family?” I asked confused.

“The Alameida’s are the richest family in Cape Verde. With Ms. Alameida’s death and no heir, my family becomes the richest family in Cape Verde. I couldn’t let you find the truth and lay claim to her fortune. Now that you know, I can’t let you live.”

He pulled out a large knife and lunged at me. I ran down the path, he grabbed me by my hair. I struggled for my life and in the commotion, Josef ended up slipping and falling off the cliff to his death.

Later, I claimed our lineage to Ms. Alameida and left the island with two new pieces of information about my great grandfather’s family line, the manifesto from the whaling ship he came to America on and his WWI draft card. The draft card listed his mother’s name Silveria Pereria so my grandmother, Sylvia, was named after her. And the manifesto listed his father’s name. You, my son, are named after my great-great grandfather, Joaquin.

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extended family

Diane Stewart

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