Tomé: The Story Of One Man’s Name

Nuvens de Tempestade - Storm Clouds

Up in the Air. Photo by Rui Almeida

November 1975:  The final exodus of the Portuguese in Angola. A plane packed full of people and overloaded, approaches São Tomé and Principe across the Gulf of Guinea. Inside, the silent crowd, a young couple holding hands, pretending to sleep.

José, an agricultural engineer, expert on coffee plantations, worried about the future. Luisa, a teacher, this time not thinking of her students, only concerned with the child rafting, and beginning to show signs of wanting to be born.

The doctor in Luanda had advised her not to travel. The board had been informed there were no doctors. Only the hosts, their sympathy and their knowledge of first aid.

In the midst of thoughts, José felt the distance in his hand, a squeeze.

– Luisa? You okay?

– I think this will start … How long before Sao Tome?

– One hour or more. I know. Please, stay calm. – Rose. But one of the hostesses were attentive. Knew and felt what was happening. Motioned him to sit down and approached.

– I have been watching you. Stay calm. Let this chair recline more. Breathe slowly, as if preparing for sleep. It is less than an hour to a stop in Sao Tome, but I will confirm to the cabin. Be right back.

It took a few minutes to inform, smiling, winds had shortened the travel time and that within 45 minutes would be in the islands. The captain had already informed the airport and were already providing assistance to pregnant women.

I was born in full runway! Isabel, the host-midwife and my godmother of baptism, had a remarkable efficiency, so I was told, yes, because I at that time only knew as a kid to scream …

In Sao Tome it was amazing how people recently involved in the process of independence, which could explain some alienation, if not hostility, put so much love to that helpless family – say abandoned – in unknown lands.

The warmth and support were such that we were there! We continue to be Portuguese, but in everything else, we are St. Tomé! With much pride!

My mother has her students. My father his coffee. I, after studies in London, working in computer science that this country desperately needs.

But what I really like this sea is fabulous! Just seeing: You can not tell! …


Oceom (Oceans Diving)

With so much “excitement” to speak of S.Tomé he had forgotten to present me … And so:

When the embassy official asked the name my father gave the baby, he buckled his smile wider to say:

– Tomé! What else could it be?

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