Letter to my father from my grandfather's second wife

In this letter, "Dad" refers to Louise's deceased husband, Daniel da Cruz, my grandfather and father of the addressee (my own father, who she calls "Fran"). Carlota is my Portuguese second cousin, granddaughter of Daniel's brother Francisco. "Ramon" refers to my grandfather Daniel's brother, Manuel, who called himself Raimundo or Raymond while he was in the USA 1921-1936. Rosa is a sister and Francisco is a brother of Daniel and Manuel. Portugal was ruled by a fascist dictatorship until 1974, a fact of which Louise seems to be unaware.  —Frank da Cruz, November 2017.


Mrs. Daniel da Cruz (Louise)
1603 W. Kiowa
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904
Sunday, June 20, 1971

Dearest Children, (referring to my father and his second wife, Audie)

(She talks about how busy she is with her garden and a visit to a national park, then...)

I expect to write up an account of the tour to Portugal and a copy will be made for you so I won't bore with those details now but tell you, rather, a few things about the family all of whom were very wonderful to me and Sara, the gal who went with me.

Carlota (NY) and a friend met us for the 2 hours wait between planes in NY before we boarded TWA for Lisbon. She and her husband are lovely people and you would be proud to be related to them. I hope you'll meet them before long.

When our plane landed in Lisbon about 10 relatives of the younger generations were waiting to welcome us. It was a royal reception, really. Then Sara and I were told we'd be taken by dad's nephew, his wife and daughter who had been corresponding with me and hopes for a scholarship here soon, to their home in Vilar. The ride in their car was delightful and our introduction to beautiful beautiful Portugal, the story-book country. Words fail miserably in describing Portugal's quaint beauty. You simply have to see it!

The home we lived in belongs to Francisco (Chico) and his wife Arlete. It is like most in the village, and poor by our standards, but we were made to feel so welcome. Sara and I each were given our own bedroom, which worked out very well. This family took us to many towns I'd heard Dad speak of and I'm sure you too, Fran, have heard of them, especially Torres Vedras. I fell in love with the coastal towns of which Vilar is not one — so darling, no sardines on the da Cruz coat of arms of which I'll speak presently. Of course I was most anxious to meet Uncle Ramon who had, you remember, visited us in Oxford when you were still quite small. His house is not more than a block, through byways, from where Sara and I stayed. In fact I was somewhat disappointed that he had not come to the airport, but when I saw him I realized why. He is far from well and walks with a cane. The resemblence to Dad made me burst into tears. When he was in Oxford I saw no resemblence but he looks so much like Dad, now that he is 74. His mannerisms and thinking is so much like Dad's that I really got a terrible shock and haven't yet quite recovered. I was amazed at his very excellent English which he hasn't spoken since he left the States probably about 1934 or 5. I had expected to be unable to converse with him, so imagine my surprise and joy at being to exchange, perfectly, our views, thoughts, and feelings about everything.

Aunt Rosa, who is older than Ramon, looks much younger. There is little question that Ramon has worked very hard to acquire and maintain 8 farms. I guess, by Vilar standards, he is a wealthy man but broken in health. His pretty wife too has angina pectoris so both are ailing. His two children for whom he sacrificed so much have abandoned them in their old age. The girl (the youngest) lives in Orleans France and was expecting her first child around June 1. I have not heard if it arrived. The son (the oldest of the 2 children) has a university education and is working as an engineer in Germany. I understand he never writes to his parents and this of course is painful. The girl, Elena, writes rarely. I simply cannot understand how children can desert their parents. It just seems to be fashionable today to do so. We certainly are living in a different age than I grew up in.

Editor's note:  Obviously "Ramon" was not going to tell Louise that his son Raimundo was underground, a leader of the antifascist resistence. It would present a great danger not only to Raimundo but also to the whole family for Raimundo contact his father, although he did manage to visit him once in 1970, the year before this letter. Nor was he going to tell Louise that his daughter Helena and her husband Jaime were in exile in France (first in Paris, then later in Orleans after the May 1968 uprising in Paris).
(she writes a whole page about how she has discovered that the family is descended from Portuguese kings and queens and that my father is the Prince of Portugal... About this, Raimundo says:)
Francisco Maria dos Santos and part of his family were monarchists and some of his children researched the family origins and "discovered" that they descended from the Queen Carlota Joaquina of Bourbon (1775-1830) wife of our King D. Joćo VI, but of illegitimate descent and not of the King. I do not know the foundation of this story that persists to this day in the family. Since the descendants did not come simultaneously from the Queen and the King, I did not interest myself completely of the subject :-)  Carlota Joaquina de Bourbon was the eldest daughter of the King of Spain, Carlos III and was "sold" at age 10 by the court of Spain to the Portuguese court to marry Joćo who was 18. She was a woman of strong character. She conspired against the husband, the King, and also tried to be Queen of Castile. But with the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon in 1807 in which he wanted to replace the king, an ally of England, the Portuguese court fled to Brazil and only returned to Portugal in 1921.
I have information 3 or 4 generations back and when I assemble it all, I'll forward it to you. Dates are missing because I did not have time in Lisbon to go to the records for them, but I love Portugal and the relatives so much I intend to return soon, without sara, to have a real visit. I'm grateful to her for going with me since I never travel alone, but there were so many things one could not say in the presence of an outsider and I simply could not shake her for a moment while in Vilar.

Finally one day, Ramon bluntly said "Louise, I want to talk to you alone about Daniel" so Sara finally got the point and walked off, but within earshot, so it was hopeless, really. Wouldn't you think anyone would have sense enough to realize that family conversation would like privacy?

(Then she talks about some religious statues she saw in Lisbon and wishes my father's second wife, Audie, a fast recovery from her broken bones, which she does not know were broken by my father.)

Continue, Fran, being the helpful and patient and kind husband Audie says you are and I'll always love you both,

Mother (she's not his mother)