To the Editor:
Silence is not golden when a community has important issues to settle. I’m referring to the issues still at large between the Brazilian community and the “old” Vineyarders.
As messy as these issues seem to get at times, it is only to the benefit of all that these differences attempt to be ironed out in public and not in private innuendoes or meetings or nasty hostilities. Since the U.S. Congress does not seem inclined to give us hard and fast immigration laws to adhere to, I feel it is concomitant on the new Brazilian group to meet with our Island population to address some very sensitive issues and to find ways to compromise. What I am afraid of is that the two groups will not get together but will have discussions among themselves. In fact, the only lasting way to heal wounds is by open and public meetings where both bodies of people have equal chances to be heard. In the presence of the other.
For some years now, the Brazilian community has been attempting a peaceful integration into what has been a largely rural, isolated, and private society that has often been quite reticent in opening its arms to groups of newcomers. The insularity of the Vineyard cannot be underestimated, by what the presence of large cosmopolitan crowds experience in the high season. Portuguese and Irish groups have evinced some difficulty in integrating, although eventually they did. I’m sure the Island Jewish families will admit that they have been troubled in past years by an inability to leave the 1950s behind in some down-Island towns.
Now, land and jobs are scarcer than ever. The Island is getting built up, and as an Island cannot stretch its borders, lack of space and affordable housing is a problem today for most lower- and middle-income people who want to live here. There is little room left to section off parts of our Island, as in the old days when Boston people usually went to West Chop, New Yorkers made their community in East Chop.
In the old days, when there was not enough employment on the Island, men often commuted weekly or biweekly to the Cape and other points. That is not as much of an option today, when employment is scarce everywhere and fishing and other industries have become obsolete.
We have many issues that need to be discussed. Our elected officials cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand. The new Brazilian group cannot afford to be silent. We all must speak up and solve the issues which make our Island an uneasy place to live for the two groups. I look forward to open forums and meetings that can be held and reported in our two newspapers. I look forward to them soon, and well-publicized.
Roberta Bradford Mendlovitz