I just biked home in the rain from a screening of Kenneth Eng’s, “My life in China” at Northeastern, right down the street from the FFTG Radio show which has a Cabo Verde Network connection. It got me thinking about the Cabo Verde Chinese Connection. The first night I met with some of the Cabo Verde Network people, before I wrote an article, they did talk about some stuff that maybe I could explore, since I was Chinese. How the Chinese have helped the country a lot by building an irrigation system. But of course there is always a downside to that, like over fishing and perhaps Cape Verde getting the short end of the stick when it came to that deal. But talking with Ed Andrade, I realized that this Chinese Connection in Cabo Verde was even deeper than a few business deals. For instance, Valdir Alves, famous Cabo Video personality, was educated in China. In fact, apparently a lot of Cape Verdeans were educated in China. During the Cold War there was a lot of African Nationalist connections with Communist countries. But somehow, Cape Verde managed to maintain a strong relationship with BOTH the United States, the west, Europe, and also develop a strong relationship with the Soviet Countries and China. This led to confusing situations where the U.S. would support Cape Verde but then fly planes to go bomb Cape Verdeans who were fighting in African Countries for Independence. But this is just what I heard in one conversation and I don’t really understand the history, so maybe I will leave that subject to a political analyst like Sergio Monteiro.
But since I am Chinese, my phone conversation with Ed Andrade did start leaning towards China. Apparently, Ed Andrade had visited China in 1974 or 1976. At this time you could not just visit China. You had to be some sort of special guest. As it turned out he went with a group of community activists from the New York area.
“You know, you go over there feeling SUperior but then you get there, and when you leave you end up feeling, INferior.” Mr. Andrade laughed, “and I was looking over my notes from that time when I was writing the book,” (American Caboverdeano... which everyone should read by the way.) “And I remember the tour guide told me that now under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, that China planned to be an advanced society by the year 2000. And in my notes I had written, “NO WAY!” because back then, from what I was seeing, I was thinking ‘How can an agrarian society become an ADVANCED society?’ But look at China now!”
I lot of my past articles talking about Kriolu compare similarities to Taishanese and the Cape Verdean language, Portuguese and Mandarin being the respective parent/power/colonizing languages (depending on your perspective.) Taishan is a region (and only 1 million people live in Taishan today) where most Chinatown residents across the world are from. In other words there are many more Taishanese outside of Taishan than in it. (Does that sound like another small region that is an independent country? A group of islands off the coast of Africa perhaps?)
The point is, China might look great but look at the country side in Taishan. Kenneth Eng, who is from Boston’s housing projects, brought a camera back to China to Hong Kong, where his father worked, to Macau, which is where his father defected to, escaping China by swimming, which was common then, all the way back to Taishan and the home village. I know it seems weird to plug a non Cape Verdean documentary on the CV network, but just take a look at it, and you will see some of the comparisons I am making. The film got on PBS and actually is shown on many airlines.
Interestingly, although there are many Hong Kong movies and Chinese movies and news stations that Chinese Americans watch… there is no Taishan Video or Taishan news network that I know of. I mean think about all the great things that Cabo Video is and that the Cabo Verde Network is. The number one thing to think about is free speech. Nothing coming out of China has that. Hong Kong still has it. But there is nothing that is a news source specifically geared to Taishan people. The villages put out little magazines which they mail to overseas Chinese to let them know about village news. And of course there is We Chat. But going into China, Facebook and Youtube are all blocked. Even the Lion Dances during Chinese New Year in the Chinatowns. Just in case, they block everything. Again not in Hong Kong. But in China you can’t see it.
So whereas having a voice and hearing Kriolu on screen is actually something that many Cape Verdeans might take for granted, it is special to hear Taishanese on screen. It is very RARE. The movie also covers some of the reasons why certain members of the family decided NOT to come to the U.S. even though they had the opportunity and the economic power of China on a local level. And the differences between China then and China now.
What would be pretty cool for this network, is to explore where Cape Verdeans studied in China and what their experience was and what the effect on Cape Verde was. But in any case, Kenneth Eng’s movie is worth a look. Looking at China as one big country can be confusing and daunting and leave you quoting Trump. To understand your Chinese American neighbors, you really need to examine it on a village scale, and “My Life in China” does that.