Maria, Angola & Portugal

My name is Maria Amelia Ponte Lourenco. I am forty years old. I was born in Angola, in 1974, during the troubles when Angola & Portugal were in conflict for independence. I left home at 3 year and a half because I was considered a child of the devil. I am a mixture of white and black. So I was given to my father’s family to be taken away to Portugal. And in this way I have been brought up for 21 years, on and off going to my adopted grandparents in Maderia Island as well where I spent probably the first 10 years of my life which is fantastic and beautiful upbringing. And at the age of 21, I met an English man in Portugal and moved to Leeds in England where I lived for almost 15 years. And for half a year ago, through divorce and wanting new beginnings, I came over to Northern Ireland to visit a friend of mine whom I studied with many years back. I thought I would go and see what the place has got to do. I haven’t seen about 6 years. So I came over to Broughshane up north. I just fell in love with the place. Just felt home. One of my children said, “Mommy this feels like home.” That was very touching because that was like a message to say - this is what your children want. You know, follow your dreams, follow your children’s dreams. We moved here on 18th January 2010. I have been here ever since. And so far no regrets whatsoever. Wonderful people. The community is wonderful. They still have that family-oriented feeling. They are so welcoming. In England, I spent 15 years. No one would say good morning or good afternoon to you. Here you go for a walk even to a shop, and people acknowledge that you are existed. They make the effort to say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening and that is so touching that we still have that in this world when we are becoming so selfish, self-centred and so oriented and captured by media and all the gadgets. We ignore what we have got, the beautiful things surround us.

[Q: Did you leave and travel alone?] No, I have got two beautiful sons born in England. They also love this place. They have got many friends. And this to them means home. [Q: What do I do in Northern Ireland?] Many things. My main job is personal independent assistant with Down’s syndrome adults. That is what I feel very passionate always love to work with special needs. Somehow they are like some ethnic minorities the second class citizens who are not to be seen and to push aside. They are wonderful people to work with. Previously I worked in schools as well, working with children with learning special needs. I am very actively involved in community politically. I am very opinionated and very strong. Actually I believe we are one race only and that is human race. We are all equal. (I am) human rights campaigner. Erm... What else? Haha So many things. I have got Grow It Yourself, a group growing where I’m just trying to bring people to come and grow things and be in touch with the motherland and be aware of it you know vegetables don’t come from us, they come from the ground. Also, I am involved with the World Wide Women. We try to involve and make awareness within the communities that we are there, we are very active we are not sequacious we are all quite educated and we do work and that is a sense of, at the moment, mainly in the media where we are seen as sequacious that we are here just to take benefits houses and they are taking the women too. And so that is myself what I am doing in the Northern Ireland and the future will decide where I be.

I am very opinionated because I have been grown up with a white family only so I never had the contact with my African connections. But I am aware of [it]. As long as I am getting, I feel that there is the need to go back and find that missing part of me. But I have got, always carry a note from Angola that was given to me by my god father. That is like a lucky charm. I have got an Angola’s flag and the Portuguese football team t-shirt because actually I used to play football. Whenever they are playing I need to support them. The object is important to me because the connections with my roots. The connections are part of who I am. I cannot choose one or the other. I am both. I cannot to say to one I am from Angola or I am Portuguese. My nationality is Portuguese and Angola was part of Portugal, an ex-colony when I was born. So yes I have got the right to both nationalities. That is the reason why I carry both items with me. Thank you.