Comunidade newspaper, 1975-1979. Part 1: Records and commentary

Comunidade was received with mixed reviews from the community, which was for the most part suspicious of its left-wing members. Left leaning Portuguese immigrants were fewer in number but arguably more active than the conservative majority. It's very name, meaning "Community" and reminiscent of 'communist' or 'communism', and it's leftist content deterred some people from reading. But the fact that it was run by a group of young Portuguese-Canadians who were taking interest in the community, and the fact that it dealt with everyday issues facing immigrants in Canada in a language that was comprehensible to most, as opposed to the complicated language used by other Portuguese-Canadian newspapers, attracted many supporters, even among those who were immediately uncomfortable with its socialist leanings. Comunidade never faced the same lelvel of attacks by influential leaders of the community as other left-wing newspapers did, perhaps for the reasons mentioned above. The editorial in the second issue of the newspaper reflected the initial response of the community, as gauged by the Comunidade team.

“EDITORIAL

Here I am once again. As was to be expected, there were those who rejoiced at my arrival but there were also those who were a bit unhappy with me, and who called me names beyond the one that I have: COMUNIDADE. There were those who immediately offered to pay for the newspaper. 'To these people we thank their good intentions. There were those who called me "political". To avoid confusion, I want to reaffirm that I am independent and nonpartisan and I repeat my objectives, which have already been clearly stated, as being foremost at the service of the Portuguese immigrants in Toronto, informing them in the most objective manner possible, and giving expression to their problems and worries. If I forget to talk of your interests, if I give priority to problems that do not relate to you, lift your arms, and let out a scream, because above all I am yours, I want to be the community's newspaper. In decisive moments, I want to be on your side, speaking for your rights. I want to thank you for the support and welcome that I have received up to now, and in a month's time I expect to be in your homes once again. This will depend on your support, for the O.F.Y. grant from the Canadian Government was only for the summer months.

Call me. I am at your command.” August 8, 1975 Year I, n.2: 

The cartoon highlighted here was published in the June 1979 issue and it commemorates the 5th anniversary of Comunidade (even though it only lasted four years!). The picture shows a young devilish 'Canaguês' representing Comunidade, and the crowd representing the community split in two: a smaller group of detractors saying "Son of a this and that!", "Communist!! Ill mannered!!", "You 'potmaker'" [an offensive term used in colloquial Portuguese meaning homosexual]; and a larger group of supporters saying "Now that's writing!!", "That's how you talk!", "So enjoyable to read", "King of the ethnic newspapers!".

Here we have Comunidade explaining its accomplishments at the end of its first year.

“EDITORIAL

A year is not a long time, and because of that people may be surprised that our little newspaper wants to do an anniversary party with dinner and all. No, a year is not much, but for a newspaper like ours, to survive one year it’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

We started COMUNIDADE with people of good will, hoping to Grow, and with faith that the Portuguese in these parts would know how to appreciate the effort and give us a hand, subscribe to the newspaper, read it, write and participate in its publishing decisions.

When we started, we did not intend to be a commercial newspaper, a newspaper that says whatever pleases the rulers and muzzles the truth, a newspaper closed to its readers and to the true and real problems of the Portuguese people in Canada, who are mostly workers.

We wanted a true newspaper, simple to understand, direct but without the low blows that do nothing to dignify those who throw them. We wanted a newspaper that was not regionalist, a newspaper that spoke ultimately about the life and the environment in which we live, but at the same time open to what happens in Portugal and all countries of the world, because we live in a single planet and we consider all men to be equal, worthy of attention and respect.

We wanted a newspaper that enriched the readers intellectually and in practical life, that would help them understand better what is happening around them. A newspaper that screamed against the injustices and oppressions that men and societies still hold between them and that disfigure and dehumanize the world.

We say here that we wanted this a year ago, but we still wanted today. We want to have people to help, we want to grow and we have faith that the COMUNIDADE will be the newspaper of all the Portuguese in Canada and will be received by all as something of their own.

A lot was done over the year that passed.

We know of the graphic and other imperfections, but we hope that the readers understand the conditions that we work with.

One of the things that most animates us are the letters from our readers that give us much moral support to continue despite the sacrifices. Another important signal of support from our readers was the way they responded to the appeal to help us purchase a typewriter. In fact, the quantity that we have received already surpassed more than half its price, a true action of support.

We hope to remain in contact with you, and we need the collaboration of each one of our readers for the necessary expansion of the newspaper. If everyone helps spread this newspaper among their friends, next year we will have double or triple the amount of subscribers and not only will the newspaper grow, but the Portuguese influence will be bigger in this land. Because we need to have a voice in Canada. Our voice” (Domingos Marques, Editor), June 30, 1976, Year 1, n. 16: 1 & 3 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

"Cartas ao Comunidade" (Letters to Comunidade) was a section of the newspaper that encouraged readers to send their comments about past issues and suggestions for future debates, as well as general statements about life in Canada. Many took advantage of this venue to express their grievances about Canada, complain about their working conditions or the exploitation they generally felt as immigrants. Below are a few examples of the type of letters published in this section of the newspaper:

"Dear Mister Editor of the Comunidade Newspaper:

I received your circulating letter letting the readers know about how you intend to maintain the newspaper’s good work of informing the numerous Portuguese families residing in Canada.

I think your plea for the purchase of a typewriter that will reduce the newspaper’s expenses with renting typewriters is fair and I am sure that many of your readers will contribute to that end, which unfortunately I cannot do myself.

It so happens that the factory where I work is on strike and it has been that way for four weeks. The first two weeks we didn’t receive anything. On the third, the union began paying us forty dollars a week, which is completely insufficient to support the family; wife and three young children, the latest being a baby of only a few months.

The situation is worsened by the fact that the house where we have lived for the past fourteen months is under my responsibility, since in truth it belongs to the owners of three mortgages, to whom I pay hefty interests.

During this strike period I have dedicated myself to making some crossword puzzles, in case you think they can be of any interest to your newspaper, you can publish them, and I will do my best to have a puzzle ready for each issue.

If there is anyone among the “Comunidade” collaborators that can fix me with a “part time”, preferably at night, so I can attend the picket during the day, I would be very thankful.

Please accept my most cordial regards,

José da Silva Rosa”

May 03, 1976, Year 1 n.11: 3 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes)

“To the newspaper Comunidade:

“Viva a Liberdade”, is a phrase that we hear a lot in the XX Century. However, the exploitation of man by man continues. The "Dominion Mushroom" in Pickering, small city here in the outskirts, is an example.

The work there has no acceptable conditions, since the houses where we pick the mushrooms are tight, making movement difficult. Many times the bottom floor has water that wets the pickers' feet who are often forced to walk with their feet wet all day since they have no alternative. The floor divisions are made of wood and many times when we walk over the two planks of wood that separates us from the lower level, we feel them squeaking as if they were about to break. Sickness and lack of sanitation makes the work even more miserable. There is no regulation in regards to scheduling; sometimes we work from seven in the morning until 10 at night. The amount they pay is $2.65 per hour, slim payment that is not even enough to cover the damages done to our health, nor the harshness of the work we do, and don’t even pay “overtime”.

When are we finally going to decide to hold our hands in Union so that we defend our rights more easily is the question that assaults me constantly.

Ana Maria.” November 01, 1976, Year 2, n. 5: 2 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

Comunidade also served as a tool to organize the Portuguese community around certain people's needs. Below is a call to Ms. Costa stay in Canada.

“EMINENT DEPORTATION

Dear Mr. Editor:

Ms. Costa has lived in Canada for 6 years. She worked plenty and was capable of sustaining herself by her own means. When there was extra work in the community that needed to be done she was already ready and with a smile.

Now, this 60 years-old lady from S. Miguel, who has no family to return to, has to leave Canada, unless we try to arrange someone in Toronto to support her. All this, simply, because she misinterpreted an immigration officer that renewed her work permit.

The Portuguese Community must not allow an elder lady to suffer.

What can she do now in S. Miguel? There is no work for her there. She won’t have enough to eat reasonably. She will feel terribly lonely and abandoned.

If someone wants to help, write Sharon Flecther, Parkdale Community Legal Aid Services. 1267 Queen St. W. and mark the envelope with “Maria Costa.” Don’t lose time. Every day is precious.

The Portuguese must help each other out.

Brenda M. Duncombe

St. Stephen’s Community House

(...)

Editor: We think this case deserves humanitarian consideration by the Minister of Immigration of Canada. Ms. Costa has no possibilities of living in Portugal, and here she is capable of taking care of herself and she has many friends that would not hesitate to help her. Let’s allow Ms. Costa to stay in Canada,” in Correspondência section, October 31, 1977, Year 3, n. 33: 3 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

In January 1977, Comunidade began publishing an English section. MPP and Leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontrio, Stephen Lewis; Toronto Mayor David Crombie; and Leader of the Ontario Liberals, Stuart Smith, all sent their congratulations to Comunidade, praising their initiative to publish a section in English.

“This section has been created for two principle reasons:

1) To serve as a dialogue with the Canadian society, making them aware of our problems, point of view and needs.

2) To give the youth of our community, who do not know how to express themselves in Portuguese an opportunity to read and write it in the language that they feel most comfortable in. Furthermore, who knows, we may be giving an opportunity to read in English, to those who are learning the language.

In this edition the newspaper is also being released with a new graphic aspect, an improvement in style as well a better utilization of space.” January, 1977, Year 2, n. 24: 7.

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