In 1968, my grandparents, Carolina and José Pereira, immigrated to Canada with my mother, Alzira, and my uncle Jack. This was not their first immigration to a new country – a year and a half prior, they had moved to France. My mom recalled the plane ride to Canada as one of the scariest things she has ever lived through. There an emergency landing in the USA, and the language barrier did not help!
My mom was born in Aveleiras, Arcos de Valdevez. I remember her taking me to see this little house made of rocks when I was a little girl visiting Portugal. It’s amazing how my grandparents and parents lived compared to the comforts of life that I live today.
When my grandparents, mom and uncle immigrated to Canada, they first lived in Prince Rupert, British Columbia where my grandmother’s brother had been living. My grandfather did not like it there and after a year and a half in BC, the family took a 5 day train ride to Toronto, where my Tia Liberia (my grandfather’s sister) met them at the train station.
My mom told me that it was hard for them as kids, adjusting to Canada and learning a whole new language. She told me that she got her first job at a farm in Oshawa, pulling weeds. My mom said the Portuguese community was very welcoming and friendly, and treated her family very well. She described it as a big family where everyone knew everyone. She remembers sometimes having to translate for people who couldn’t speak English, as well as attending different festas in Toronto, and family gatherings at different parks.
My father, Antonio Amorim, was born in St. Vincent. My mom and dad met in 1975 and kept in touch through letters. He emigrated to Canada in November of 1977, and married my mom in December of the same year. He became involved in the Portuguese community right away. He was an active member of the NPCC and helped with building floats for the Portugal Day parade. He was also an active rancho dancer for many years. When he immigrated to Canada, he was able to remain a carpenter, but after a few years, he discovered a passion for masonry.
I am forever grateful for my grandparents and parents for all of the sacrifices they made and challenges they faced while immigrating to Canada. Although my mom described the hardships, she also spoke of the fun times, and the laughter she shared with so many people within the community. I believe these experiences are what made my family, and so many other families, so strong, loving and amazing.
– Sylvia Amorim-Sexton