The Power of Bom Dia

The history of Cape Verde is reflected not only in the music of the islands but also in the souls of the people. As but one example, the songs of Cesaria Evora, harken back to earlier times expressing the sorrow and grief experienced by the women whose husbands, primarily slaves from Africa, left Cape Verde in search of jobs. The men promised to return but most were unable to do so, particularly if they became indentured servants to those “employing” them. Evora’s music expresses the “women’s call to home.” Her style, dubbed as “morna,” consists of slow, pensive ballads conveying nostalgic longing and sorrow. An internationally known artist, she is called the “barefoot diva” because she never wore shoes no matter where she performed — a gesture of solidarity with poor women. (Go to iTunes to listen to songs from her award-winning albums such as “Cesaria,” “Cabo Verde,” “Miss Perfumado,” and “Voz d’Amor.”)

Bom Dia1

By necessity, the women of Cape Verde in those early years had to find work, and they often did so as prostitutes. Given that the women consorted with the Portuguese as well as the sailors and merchants passing through, generations of Cape Verdeans thought of themselves as bastards — as lost, not knowing who they were. Were they Portuguese? African? Or perhaps a member of another nationality that stopped by the islands? More recently, they have resolved the dilemma by coming together and calling themselves, “Cape Verdeans.”

It is said of Cape Verde that it is “a place not to be consumed but to be understood.” And, indeed, we found ourselves in the midst of putting the pieces of the puzzle together as we strolled around two of the islands. We had been told that the people didn’t want their pictures taken. Thus, we took along our cameras expecting to limit ourselves to photographing buildings.

As we wandered through the cities of Cape Verde, we smiled and said “bom dia,” (Portuguese for good morning or good day) to the people we met along the way. As we passed by an older stern- looking couple, we greeted them with “bom dia.” The man grasped my hand and began vigorously shaking it, and his scowl turned to a grin as his eyes danced in the morning light. I didn’t understand all of his animated speech, but I knew without a doubt that he was exceedingly happy with our greeting. And yes, of course, he indicated that he wanted us to take their picture.

Bom Dia2

Another curious event occurred in Assomada. We had been taking pictures in the market, with most people agreeing to be photographed. I stepped out on the street for a few minutes and a woman began speaking to me. Although I do not understand Portuguese, I was able to understand that she wanted me to take her picture, indicating to me that she wanted to be remembered.

Bom Dia3

The following day, after greeting Mr. Totasch, an 85-year-old man who spoke English, we asked if we could take his picture. He responded, “Yes, because then you’ll remember me.” A few minutes later, a woman we hadn’t seen before, but who obviously saw us taking a picture of Mr. Totasch, walked up and motioned for me to take her picture. After taking it I gestured for her to follow me into the shadow so I could show her the photo. As I brought up the picture and turned around to show her, she was gone. All I can glean from this is that it wasn’t that she wanted to see the photo of herself; she simply wanted me to have her photo – again, to be remembered.

Bom Dia4

Bom Dia5

Later we discussed our experiences in Cape Verde. We came to the conclusion that you show respect for people by speaking their language. Even if it is just give a brief greeting, it will make a difference to them and will open doors for you.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands,

That goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,

That goes to his heart.

                           –Nelson Mandela












4 Responses to “The Power of Bom Dia”

  1. December 8, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Super! Touches my heart.

  2. What an intriguing “people place.” A unique experience … thanks for sharing their story.

  3. What a wonderful post!

  4. What a poignant and powerful message for us all. I’ve been following your writings, and this is my first comment. For an exploited people, apparently hope fluourishes. Thanks!

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

%d bloggers like this: