The Tree Life's History
The Tree Life's History
My family history is a long one, and every person in the hierarchy had a part to play. That is why I want to take you down a trip through memory lane. I want you to know my ancestors just like I knew them. I want you to love them as I love them. And I want you to understand where they came from and what they had to go through so that you can know me better. So, without further ado, let's start.
And So, It Begins…
In the beginning, we are going way back to the 1800s. Yup! That’s right! That’s how far I know my family tree. I am from a family that moved from Jerusalem to Europe. The Jews were forced to leave their lands and were sent throughout Europe to the countries that were neutral. One of those was Portugal.
My family was sent to Algarve, Portugal, to work there as slaves. They had to change their names, their identities, and everything else. Slaves don't have their own identities; they are just known in relation to their masters. A lot of people were sent to different farms so that they could work on those farms. The farm that my family was sent to was an orange farm. We gave up our names and became the ‘Laranjeira’s – ’the Portuguese word for Orange Tree. They were supposed to live there and pick oranges.
Once my family was there, they spent many years on the orange tree farm. Bit by bit, things started to change. But they would never forget where they came from and their old rituals and customs. But since they couldn’t be themselves 100%, my grandfather started adopting a new culture. These included everything from the rituals about birth to the rituals of dying.
One of the things that I really want to mention here is what they used to do when someone passed away. My grandfather was in charge of the place at that time, and whenever somebody passed away, they would bury the body and plant an orange tree over it. They would bury the dead and put some orange seeds over the grave.
I don’t think that it had a lot to do with life or death. I think it was so that when people missed their loved-ones, they could go to the tree and pray for them or more. Think about it, if your family member or relative has passed away, you can go to their grave, sit under the shade of the orange tree and pray for them as much as you want.
From Portugal to Brazil
After many years, in the 1920s, we heard that Brazil had opened immigration to various countries. This was because they needed the manpower. They had the land, but not many people to work on the land. So, not only were they offering immigration, but they were also handing out land to people so they could work there and make a living for themselves.
That was exactly what my family needed. We had done enough work as slaves for other people, and what we wanted more than anything was our freedom. We wanted a piece of land that we could call our own. This was that chance. This was our shot at freedom.
But it was easier said than done. Since we were slaves, we couldn’t go through the proper channels. Nobody would let us. So my family got into a boat, illegally, and made its way towards Brazil and the promise of freedom and independence. Thankfully, they made it alive. They were given a piece of land as promised and started working on it.
This was around 1938 or so. The second world war had ended, and Brazil opened up its borders for the Japanese as well. The Japanese came in droves, and most of them were highly educated. They started going to immigrant families, and they would get the families to sign various papers about their lands.
Since most of the families used to be slaves, there was no way we knew how to read or write. They were especially concentrating on families who had a huge amount of land in their ownership. Just like everyone else, when they came to my grandfather and asked him to sign, being a simple and innocent person, he signed like everyone else.
It was later that we found out that the paper said that we could work on the land as much as we wanted, we could live on the land for as long as we wanted, but we couldn’t buy or sell it since it didn’t belong to us. The majority of
families who were there at that time were swindled out of their hard-earned land.
When my grandfather found out about it, he had a heart attack, and he died of it. His was the first body that we buried in the old ways that we used to follow in Portugal. That is my inspiration. That is what has been motivating me...