Manuel Mendes and Selene Machado: a Portuguese Story

My Portuguese origins

My grandmother Selene (my paternal grandmother) left her parents behind to go and live with Manuel Mendes and after that her parents came to Canada. Selene grew up in a rural village and so did Manuel (my paternal grandfather). Manuel went from Portugal to France and after he came to Canada so he already talked French.

This is what I learned from my interview with my grandmother Selene Machado. My grandparents Manuel Mendes and Selene Machado came from Caldas da Rainha and they speak Portuguese. They came to Canada by airplane.


The materials of this tablecloth are cotton and wool. Usually the cotton comes from the north of Portugal. My mom bought it in Portugal in 1996.

As I said, Selene left Portugal and came to Canada because she married Manuel in Caldas da Rainha and he was already here in Canada. Manuel had come to Canada for a job and to start a new life in Canada. Manuel came in 1965 and when he got here a friend was waiting for him. Selene came in 1967. They arrived in Dorval and settled in Montreal North. Selene says she felt happy to come live in a country she didn’t know. She got here during winter and she had never seen so much snow!

She learned French and it took about three years. I asked her how she felt working with people she didn’t know and not understanding what they said. Selene says she was sad because she didn’t understand what people were saying in French at work. Selene and her mother Cecilia were working at cleaning houses. Selene’s father Antonio was a carpenter and Manuel was a mechanic for printing machines.

I asked Selene what she missed from Portugal and she said when she got here she missed her parents but then they came too. “Would she like to go back to Portugal?” I asked. She answered : “No, because most of my family is right here in Canada!”

Portuguese family traditions

We still have traditions like the same religion. We’re Catholics and religious holidays are very important for us. For example at Christmas we invite all our family over and eat a lot of Portuguese food. We still have traditions. For food we eat a lot of Portuguese food. When we celebrate Christmas Eve we wait for all the people to get to our house and then we start to eat fish. What you must ask?

Bacalhau, batatas and couves, which is codfish, potatoes and cabbage in English.. This is at 7 p.m. Then we wait till 12 p.m. to open the gifts because of our tradition because that’s when Jesus was born. Our other family tradition is to eat fish for supper because it’s a Portuguese tradition. After we open our gifts we have a midnight table. The midnight table has lobster, clams, shrimp, chicken wings etc. Then we eat cake and fruit; also Portuguese pastries like pasteis de nata and bolo rei and homemade ones like pudim carabel, sonhos da cenoura, coscoroes and aletria bolo. Next Christmas we’ll be adding Arroz doce. These words in English are puff pastry shells, flan, gateau des rois, carrots, doughnuts, crispy sweet pastries, cappellini desert and finally next year – rice pudding.

My first language was Portuguese and some of my family only talk Portuguese, French and like 5% of English. I am good at reading and writing in Portuguese for a person who did not go to a Portuguese school. Here’s a few words in Portuguese without the accents: Amiga (friend), nae and pai (mom and dad), avo (grandparents), Irma and irmao (sister and brother).


Mendes Portuguese Apron

This is a gift that I received from my grandparents. It’s an apron made out of cotton. Have you noticed that there is a rooster on my apron – or maybe you’ve seen it somewhere? A rooster is lucky to Portuguese people because once an innocent prisoner was going to get killed and said: “May I say one last thing?” so the judge said: “Sure”. The judge was about to eat a rooster. Then the innocent prisoner said “If I am innocent the rooster will jump and start singing”. And it did. But that innocent prisoner was always telling the truth. He survived. Since that day roosters are found in Portuguese homes. It is really lucky!

I’ve never been to Portugal but my mom, dad and sister went when I wasn’t born yet. I would love to go soon to Portugal and I live knowing a different language that not everyone understands like English and French!


Interview: Selene Machado    Artefacts: Tablecloth, apron

Author: LuckyPuppy



25 responses to “Manuel Mendes and Selene Machado: a Portuguese Story

  1. I like the apron because there’s a rooster on it and my grandma loves roosters. She has a lot of things in her kitchen that have roosters on them. But she’s not Portuguese!

  2. It’s funny because i have an apron almost the same but instead of a rooster it’s a farm .

  3. Hey I like your picture on your post. You did good on your work.

  4. I liked your story it was interesting and my aunt is also Portuguese so I know a little bit about the Portuguese culture. Very interesting to learn about someone else’s family’s Portuguese culture.

  5. I Found it really intersting.I didn’t know that roasters were lucky to Portuguese. Good job on your post. I really like the table cloth, I like the designs on the the table cloth.

  6. Hey im Rosalina I love your project and I think you will go far in life & are you Portuguese? I think so cause you know a lot about p Portugal.You have really nice pictures. They’re colourful, it’s like if you brought it to life.

  7. I thought your artifacts were very pretty. I also learned a lot about your traditions like the different foods you eat and learned other things about your traditions that i did not know before. It was also very well written

  8. Hi I’m Olivia and my dad is Portuguese but I never learned to speak it. Anyways I love your project you made a good job!!! i love your pictures.

  9. This is a very well written article. The Portuguese food sounds delicious. The pictures in this article, are very bright and beautiful. It must have been hard for your grandmother living in Quebec, where most of the population speaks French and English. In all, I think you did a great job on learning about your family. Good work.

  10. Great information! I like the picture of the table cloth that belongs to your mother!!!

  11. allison nadeau

    I had never read Portuguese and I find that it looks a little like English.

  12. Hi my grandfather also went to France too learn how to speak French. He left his home country because of the war. After he learned how to speak French he moved to Canada and the rest is history!
    I also admire your beautiful table cloth, if I am correct it’s embroidery – right? Well my grandmother also did embroidery. She was supposed to teach me but she did not yet. I love the little apron, Its cute with the little rooster on it.
    Well it must have been a hard life too live.

  13. Wow I did not know anything about Portuguyse traditions. I don’t even know how to write the word Portugyse. lol I really liked your essay.
    I never really thought about other languages that I speak – at least a bit. Such as French, English, Hungarian, Spanish and other languages.

  14. That is a nice apron that you showed. I found it interesting that your grandparents left their parents to go to Canada, Not a lot of people would of done that.

  15. I think I would not of been able to leave my parents and just go away to another country.

  16. Nice story about the rooster. It a nice way to finish the story. This was very good. I felt like reading more!

  17. Like Jaques said it would be very hard to leave my parents because its your parents and I love my parents

  18. The table cloth was pretty interesting with the designs on it and things. The rooster story was a good story.

  19. LuckyPuppy, I really identify with the challenges your parents felt when they had to adjust to life in a new country AND learn a new language as well. The first few years when I was living in Italy, I really enjoyed my new life and I loved learning Italian, but sometimes it got tiring to always be working in a foreign language.
    Mrs. Theriault

  20. sweat artical your oictures amaze me

  21. I enjoyed reading your project! Can t wait to bring you to Portugal one day! I’m very proud of you!

  22. Wow! I never knew about these information, like Jesus was born at 12:00pm,and the prisoner with the rooster.But maybe I’ve heard about the apron. I really like your project! Good job!

  23. I liked your project it was very interesting. I loved the design on the apron its very beautiful. It must bring you lots of luck

  24. It was a good story. I loved the design on the cloth and the rooster on the apron was nice with the designs on the roster. So ya it was a great story i loved it!

  25. I loved the the pics. They were beautiful and the story was interesting but I love the story. I found it cool, The apron was nice too… thankyou…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s