Sign for the Brazilian cantina on a back road in Vineyard Haven
Even in a resort playground, somebody has to do the work. In the modern United States, hard, undignified and dirty work is usually done by immigrants, often undocumented. Here in Martha's Vineyard, for the last ten years, many of the immigrants doing the scut work have come from Brazil.
This island, which hosts 75,000 people in mid-summer, shrinks to some 15,000 residents in the winter. It is estimated that 2-3000 of these are Brazilians, the island's low wage work force. The life they come to is hard:
Neither of these men plans to stay in the United States permanently, though New England has historically become home to many previous Portuguese-speaking immigrants, mostly from the Azores.
Naturally the new community has the usual detractors. Here's an excerpt from a letter to the editor from a Vineyarder who clearly thinks her space has been invaded:
On the other hand, island public libraries and educators are making serious efforts to serve this newcomer population. And island musicians are enjoying cross cultural fertilization.
Given the tension over their presence, their demanding lives and the cost of doing business on this island, it is not surprising that Vineyard Brazilians have not created a highly visible cultural enclave. There are Brazilian-oriented businesses, but you won't find a lot of people in any of them in the middle of the day -- folks are working. Here's a tour of a few I found.
The cantina was empty at mid-day.
Inside shelves displayed a limited variety of Brazilian products.
At the commercial strip mall outside Edgartown, you wouldn't know that a store carrying Brazilian imports occupied the corner space.
In fact, you might not even know from looking at the doorway.
Though a close look at the window sign might be a tip off. This one also was empty of customers at midday.
Around a corner, I noticed this door to a remittance office from which earnings flow to Brazil. It is probably more important to many Vineyard Brazilians than any business asking them to spend their money.
By far the most visible Brazilian institution I found was this evangelical Protestant church in Vineyard Haven.
Looks like Brazilian Christians are here to stay.