By José Ferreira - Adiaspora.com
Adiaspora.com went to Vancouver on a voyage
of discovery of the Portuguese presence in the western region
of Canada where we had occasion to meet up with several dynamic,
active people among whom Mr. Alvaro Mendes, radio broadcaster
and producer. Mr. Mendes, through his radio program Portugal
No Coração (Portugal in Our Hearts), plays an
important role in the dissemination of Lusitanian culture in that
part of the world.
Our chat with Mr. Mendes went as follows:
Álvaro Mendes: My name is Álvaro
Mendes and I have a radio program, on the air every Sunday between
5pm and 7pm on CHMB 1320AM.
Adiaspora.com: How long has this program
been on the air?
Álvaro Mendes: Since 1993 but back
then other people did it. I only came on board in 1997. Previously,
the program was called A Voz Portuguesa (The Portuguese
Voice) but in 2000 it was changed to its current name, Portugal
No Coração. Presently, I am its director, producer
Adiaspora.com: Was this the First Portuguese
radio program in the Vancouver area or were there any others previous
Álvaro Mendes: No, there were others.
Of the ones I can recall, - I never heard it personally but heard
of it from older people - there was one that went on the air about
twenty to twenty-five years ago produced by somebody by the name
of Almeida and another by the name of Dionísio, and which
was one of the our very first radio programs in Vancouver.
Adiaspora.com: Do you recall if this was
at the end of the seventies or beginning of the eighties?
Álvaro Mendes: Perhaps in the seventies.
And lately, about three years ago, there was another program produced
by Joe Campos, better known as Joe of the musical duo Joe&Nancy.
He had a program on the air, the name of which I actually liked.
It was called Panorama Português but for professional
reasons he was unable to keep it going.
Adiaspora.com: Presently, are you the
only Portuguese media in British Columbia?
Álvaro Mendes: No. There is another
radio program broadcast from the Victoria, Postal Português
(on the air Saturdays from 4.30pm to 6pm on 101.9FM) by two
fellows, curiously two Paulos, one being Paulo Eusébio
and the other Paulo Garrido. They are excellent professionals.
In fact, you can hear the program on the Internet and I can tell
you that these two are very coveted on the east coast, particularly
in Toronto. They actually collaborate with me on my program. We
have a fun thing on every Sunday where these two pretend they
are on live, direct from Portugal - though the listeners are quite
aware that it is not so. They phone in from Victoria and are on
the air with me for approximately ten minutes. Well, it's fun
thing but at the same it's quite cultural. They pretend to be
phoning in from some part of Portugal and the whole conversation
then revolves round that place or region. For example, they once
"called in" from a place called "Coina". Who
has ever heard of a place called Coina? Most people who live out
here haven't except perhaps, those who those who are from there.
They then speak about the culture, way of living and traditions
of that specific place.
Adiaspora.com: Do you obtain any feedback
from your listeners? Do they, for example, give you their opinions
about the program?
Álvaro Mendes: Yes I do. As a matter
of fact, sometimes listeners want bring up a specific theme or
some fun activity that might catch the listeners' attention. Just
recently, we had a fun question about donkeys on the air. We pretended
that there was a certain man travelling the world over doing journalistic
coverage for Postal Português, the Victoria progam,
who called in with the following question: "What do you call
the accessories a donkey carries around on its head". This
got the listeners going. We received over thirty phone calls.
It seemed everyone wanted to know. Someone would come up with
some word and somebody else with another. I sometimes get calls
from as far as Seattle in the United States, from Edmonton, Prince
George and Victoria.
Adiaspora.com: Your program reaches what
areas of the country?
Álvaro Mendes: As I have already
mentioned, it reaches as far as Edmonton, although perhaps with
some difficulty. The program used to be on the Internet but, possibly
due to the station's efforts to reduce expenses, it no longer
is, but Postal Português is, though.
Adiaspora.com: As far as Portuguese Music
is concerned, have you had the support of Portuguese Record Labels
or do have to purchase it yourself?
Álvaro Mendes: That is indeed a
problem that affects not only myself, but also all Portuguese
community radio producers. Normally the music we put on the air
is music we like and buy ourselves. Other comes up on the spur
of the moment. A friend might just happen to have something you
don't that are you then are able to purchase or record. We very
rarely get anything from Portugal.
Adiaspora.com: Do you promote our local
community recording artists on your radio programs?
Álvaro Mendes: That is one of the
things that I always try to do and have done. I play many Canadian
artists on the air. I have had programs in the past exclusively
dedicated to Portuguese descendents, that is to say, Luso-Canadians.
Adiaspora.com: Have you ever included
in your programs incentives for our young academics, for example,
have you ever established contact with universities with aim to
student participation in your program, or do have any future projects
in this field?
Álvaro Mendes: Not up till now,
but there are plans. I do not at the moment know in what ways
I would be able to reach this objective.
Adiaspora.com: Have ever tried to get
the support from, say, Portuguese authorities with view to increasing
your time on the air, seeing as yours is the only Portuguese radio
program in the City of Vancouver?
Álvaro Mendes: I have never given
it any thought, of increasing our airtime, that is. However, one
of the questions I did put to Dr. Manuela Aguiar just yesterday
was that, whenever there is political discourse in Portugal regarding
the communities, it is usually said that Portuguese emigrants
have the same rights as Portuguese citizens living in the homeland.
If we do indeed have those same rights, why is it that the Portuguese
Government subsidises radio in Portugal and doesn't for the Portuguese
Adiaspora.com: What reply did you obtain?
Álvaro Mendes: Dr. Manuela Aguiar
limited herself to suggesting we get together and take the matter
up with the Government itself, seeing as she, herself, was not
empowered to intervene in such matters. Further, I wish to add
that there are people in Portugal itself that listen to us over
the Internet and claim to enjoy our programs more than those back
home because, according to them, they are able to hear Portuguese
music on our programs. Perhaps in Portugal they do not play the
music that the Portuguese public likes to listen to. I don't know
whether you've heard that next year, in 2003, a new multicultural
TV channel called Multivan Broadcast will be going on the
air. I am involved in this new project and will have a 2-hour
slot for a new program. I am presently carrying out a survey in
the form of a questionnaire where I ask the public what they would
like to see aired on my TV program. I've already had a TV program
in the past but back then we were in the dark as to what people
wanted to see
Adiaspora.com thanks Mr. Álvaro
Mendes for having taken the time to give us this interview, allowing
us to get a glimpse of the media world in our Portuguese communities
out west in this vast territory that is Canada. We wish Mr. Mendes
all the best in all his initiatives, for we indubitably share
a common goal, promoting and diffusing Lusitanian culture the
In addition, we wish to thank Mr. Mendes and
his assistant, the young Brazilian journalist, Andjara Petterle,
for having promoted Adiaspora.com on the air by interviewing
us on their radio program, Portugal No Coração.