A few days ago, a Portuguese gentleman who´s my friend on facebook asked me why I wrote so much in English and never in Portuguese, one of my (our) mother language (the other is Spanish). This question and the matter of identity – a dear subject to me – got me thinking:
True Portuguese are Universal – they don´t belong to Portugal but to the Big Ocean that Portugal embraces. This idea is not mine – we´ve heard it, and bluntly misunderstood it, through the genius of Fernando Pessoa.
Aside from my self-proclaimed universal nationality, my net of friends, students, sponsors and fans is international, not portuguese. That, in itself, it´s something my fellow compatriots cannot forgive me.
I´m a tourist in my own country; an outsider and an annoying one, for that matter. The Oriental Dance community, the one I built with my hands when there was no community, no market, no interest in this dance, feeds a particularly virulent hate/envy relationship towards me. I´m the Daughter of the Land who left it behind and built her success in Egypt, criminal woman!, and – what is even worse -, around the world. Portuguese don´t let something like this pass:
– Come and stay with us in our little corner; be small, quiet and domestic with us and we´ll love you. Go out in the world and turn your biggest dreams into reality and we´ll ostracize you forever. You, arrogant prick!
If I had a sex scandal associated with my career; if I had proof that my success had been achieved through some cheesy marriage to a rich Arab guy; if I had shown the world I earned my victories through deceit, prostitution or any other kind of humiliation, I might (might...) be pardoned and taken into the mother land´s womb, once again. But I didn´t (damn it!).
I didn´t. Then I went about writing and publishing a book which happens to be cherished by dancers from all corners of the globe and I managed to…oh, STOP! It´s enough. E-N-O-U-G-H! I almost can´t stand it and it´s me I´m talking about.
Add the fact that I´ve lived outside of Portugal, in and off, since I was 19 years old (first, in Spain for one year; in Egypt for eight years; now, everywhere) and you see how how tricky the whole Mother Land issue is. Mothers can reject their children. There are lousy mothers; cruel, ugly, envious, psychopatic mothers. You see where I´m heading…
I´m a stranger, not in Moscow (thanks, Michael Jackson), but in Lisbon, the place where my birth certificate says I was born. The city seems to agree with me – it´s sending me the weirdest signals. Weird, yes. Discreet, no quite.
This morning, as I rushed to the Chinese embassy to get my visa, I had to cross one of the most emblematic parks of Lisbon. In this lovely haven of peace and quiet, where mums come to rock their babies and couples come to feed their urgency for romance under oak trees and fountain with angels holding their small penisus, I´ve experienced a new sort of nightmare and, I assume, a signal from Lisbon: from killer pigeons that targeted my head and flew towards it with the speed and focus of a well trained pilot to Jeovah witnesses chasing me with their books and certainties; from sexual perverts inviting me the devil knows to what to a crazy lady with a “hijab” (the veil that covers Muslim women) and a white moustache. Key word: (no, not moustache) white.
Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Take me out of this movie.
I felt like I´d entered Frankenstein´s castle and nobody warned me. Jeez…
Did I manage to get out it alive? Well, yeah. I´m right here, writing this post. So…I guess I did. Sort of.
Lisbon, what are you trying to tell me? Uh? Go on: say it loud and clear. Say it in Portuguese, for Christ´s sake!