June 16, 2009

My name is Mark Anthony Medeiros, and I am a 24-year-old Californian that is visiting the Azores Islands for  4 months this summer. I just graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. I also co-founded a San Jose non-profit called Veggielution, an effort to create large community farm in San Jose that will address a diverse set of social and environmental justice issues.

My parents are from the Azores – they immigrated to the United States in 1969. My mother came first and worked for two years, earning money to go back to the islands and marry my father, who was in the Portuguese army at the time. They first moved into Little Portugal, the neighborhood on Alum Rock Road just east of 101, near Five Wounds Church. But after both my sisters and I were born, our family migrated down to San Martin, a little rural town between Morgan Hill and Gilroy on the southern end of Santa Clara Valley.

That’s where I grew up, and I love the yellow hills of the Diablo Range, the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, and the cold Pacific Ocean. But throughout my life I’ve been constantly reminded of my parents’ home islands in the middle of the Atantic. There’s a family mythology surrounding them that colors my imagination and those of other Azorean immigrants who left those rocky coasts. Stories of my grandparents making their lives by fishing, farming and living in their small cooperative community have been a major inspiration for my environmental activism.

This is my fourth time going back, but it’s been a 8 years since my last trip when I was 16. That is a very long time to be away, even by the standards of many 1st generation Portuguese-Americans. So it’s time to go back and try to establish a relationship with the place that created my parents. I’m going to live in my family’s near abandoned farmhouse in the town of Madalena on Pico island, which is basically the 7,000 foot cone of an immense underwater volcano. I’m gonna see if I can climb the mountain, jump in front of a bull or two, catch a big fish, and spend some time just catching up on all the stuff that is hard to accomplish when you’re living your regular life.

So I wanted to say goodbye to all my friends in San Jose, and I’ll see you soon. It’s extremely difficult to leave for so long, especially now that the farm I helped create just acquired an additional acre and summer is starting full bore. I’ll miss my friends and the land but I think some pretty good times await me over there. If anything, I’ll be more prepared to continue my work in San Jose once I get back.

So if you want news of me, look here first and I’ll try to be consistent about updating the page each week. You can also e-mail me at – I won’t be totally disconnected!


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