Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Brazilian Faces: Elio Silva


A tradução deste artigo se encontra no final da versão em inglês

This week’s Brazilian Face is Elio Silva. I have seen Elio here and there but had never sat down to talk with him. The main thing that made me curious about Elio was that I would always see him walking around the Island despite frigid temperatures. After we were done with our interview, I felt a sense of awe, and that I had a new mentor. There is a lot to be said about a businessman who has stood the test of time and recession, and with each year becomes more committed to contributing to his community.

How did you get to the Island?

I came to the Island on my two weeks’ vacation from my job in Boston. That was in 1988. I immediately fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard, and I did what I believe most people who visit the Island want to do — I called my boss the very next morning and quit my job. I knew that I wanted to plant roots on the Island, make a life myself here, even though I had no idea what that would even look like in the long haul. It was just a hunch I had about this place.

What was life like on the Island in 1988?

At that time, only a couple of dozen Brazilians were living on Martha’s Vineyard. There were no Brazilian restaurants, Brazilian stores, a common place that Brazilians went to, or Brazilian churches. I did what most immigrants do when they first get to the U.S. and have a purpose— I became a landscaper, I cooked, I worked hard to learn English and also learn about what it meant to be an American, what this country was all about, and started my lifelong goal of integrating myself in the country that adopted me. Shortly after, the opportunity to open a farm stand with Ed Charter happened. Up until I was 10 years old, I lived on a farm and watched what that universe was like, and then my family opened a market. I was excited about the opportunity to put into action what came very naturally to me. We offered coffee roasting, the butcher shop, gourmet cheeses, groceries, local produce, and through time, it morphed into what it is today — the Vineyard Grocer store.

You mentioned that there were only a couple of dozen Brazilians when you first moved to the Island. That has certainly changed. What has been the most significant change, and how have you, as a Brazilian businessman and member of the Island community, adapted over the years?

Although I am Brazilian, I am also an American citizen, but I don’t compartmentalize and see myself as one thing or the other. Just like I don’t say that there is an American community, a Brazilian community, a Serbian community, a Jamaican community — to me there is a Martha’s Vineyard community, and each person in this community contributes to what makes this place so unique to so many people. As a businessman and individual, I think that it is vital to cater to people with a global mentally. In terms of changes, nowadays we have more options for people to have access to things via the Internet that we didn’t get in 1988. I do reminisce about a time on the Island where there were only 7,000 year-round residents, but how can I blame people for wanting to make it work here? We are very fortunate.

Since you became a parent, how has your involvement with the Martha’s Vineyard community changed?

Becoming a parent is something that I still find it hard to put into words. It challenges you to make the world a better place for your child. I recently have taken the role of the Oak Bluffs PTO president, and I believe in taking care of the teachers because they are the ones who will be molding our children for the future, and they cannot do that and worry about the challenges that our Island presents, specifically housing. The housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard is something that I often find myself pondering about how to make it better.

Is there something else, other than the housing crisis, that you think about that perhaps is unique to our community?

I can think of a hundred things we need to address, but let’s talk about a few others that are close to my heart. The importance of unity of our towns, another big one is substance abuse, the third one is housing, a self-sustainable Island, equity in education, ways to destigmatize mental health problems, and how to empower people to believe in themselves, which I guess goes back to education, which to me equals freedom.

What else are you passionate about?

I want to live to be 120 years old, and I also believe that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I work seven days a week at my store. Most days, I arrived at work at 4:30 in the morning. Most of the products we carry are products from local businesses, from people concerned about their communities and their impact on the local economy and the environment. I have dedicated my life to learn about how we can, through what we feed our bodies and minds, rejuvenate ourselves. I try to work with everyone, so I don’t discuss politics, religion, or sports.

I hear you have a new project you have been working on?

Two years ago, I participated in a seminar, and toward the end of the workshop, we were asked to challenge ourselves with a project that we would tackle in the next 10 years. I chose to contribute to the Island’s housing crisis by a project that would create 200 houses for the Island year-round residents, particularly our teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, doctors … the folks who are the glue that keeps us together.

People can learn more about Elio’s project it by visiting this link:


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