The Portuguese Voice Of Vancouver - Portugal No Coração - 1320AM

By José Ferreira - 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. 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 and broadcaster. Was this the First Portuguese radio program in the Vancouver area or were there any others previous to 1993?

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 communities worldwide. 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… 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 world over.

In addition, we wish to thank Mr. Mendes and his assistant, the young Brazilian journalist, Andjara Petterle, for having promoted on the air by interviewing us on their radio program, Portugal No Coração.