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  • Azorean Identity in Brazil and the United States: Arguments About History, Culture and Transnational Connections by João Leal
  • Carmen Ramos Villar
Leal, João . Azorean Identity in Brazil and the United States: Arguments About History, Culture and Transnational Connections. Dartmouth: Tagus Press, 2011. 192 pp.

João Leal's ethnographic study examines how two different communities in New England (U.S.) and Santa Catarina (Brazil) construct an Azorean identity discourse within their social setting. By bringing together these two communities, Leal builds upon previous works that focused on the construction of Azorean identity by the immigrant community in the U.S., or within Brazil, or within the Azores Islands. This comparative approach allows Leal to provide a nuanced analysis which critiques the process of Azorean identity construction itself, in its many guises, and questions the reasons behind its articulation. First published in Portuguese in 2007, this 2011 edition is the translation into English with some revisions so as to make it suitable to an undergraduate and non-specialized audience.

Concentrating on the production and use of folk culture, the main aim of Leal's book is to see how discourses of Azorean identity have been shaped by the different conditions found in the North American and Brazilian setting. This very approachable text is structured in four sections (Introduction, Part 1, Part 2 and Conclusion), which are subdivided into chapters or subsections that build up the different layers of the argument in a methodical way. The beauty of Leal's text lies in its clarity and precision of expression; he makes sure that the reader has enough information to understand the point that is being made in each section without giving the game away too soon. In this way, in the first section, the Introduction, Leal provides just enough of the historical background of Azorean emigration in each area to make us want to read on. We could say that Leal masterfully paces the content of the text, giving enough in the conclusions of Parts 1 and 2 before he reaches the analytical climax in the Conclusion, the final section of this book. The result is that we are taken on a journey before we arrive at the Conclusion, where we are led to compare the differences in the formulation of each Azorean identity discourse. In this last section, Leal finally makes a set of overall conclusions before asserting that each Azorean community must be seen as being shaped by strategic and context-specific uses of Azorean ethnicity. In his own words, "[w]hile both sets of identities are formulated as Azorean, each group of activists inhabits different cultural worlds. [End Page 259] To put it bluntly: a Brazilian Azorean is still a Brazilian, albeit with an Azoreanist identity, whereas an Azorean American is an Azorean in the process of becoming an ethnic American" (170).

The analytical approach to each community is different. Part 1, which examines the Azorean immigrant community in New England and is comprised of five chapters, departs from an examination of how the Holy Ghost festival is celebrated in New England to comment on this community's formulation of Azorean identity and ethnicity. Chapters 1 to 4 respectively examine the celebrations of the Holy Ghost festival in Fall River in the year 2000, the composition of the ethnographic parade (the Cortejo Etnográfico) and the Azorean community and its organizations, the importance of folk culture in the expression of Azorean American ethnicity, and the transnational links between Azorean American organizations. Chapter 5 brings the section together by discussing the construction, and future, of Azorean American ethnicity and how it fits within the ethnic identity discourses of U.S society. Leal concludes this section commenting how the New England Azorean community uses folk culture, such as the Holy Ghost festival, as an empowering way of gaining visibility and participation within the U.S. Part 2, which analyzes the expression of Azorean identity in Santa Catarina and is comprised of Chapters 6 to 9, does not focus specifically on a particular aspect of folk culture. Instead, each chapter charts different facets of the Azoreanist movement in Santa Catarina. In so doing, we see how the definition...


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pp. 259-261
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