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I Love Aveiro: Stories for Solidarity

We interviewed 11 immigrants currently living in Aveiro so that they could be the ones guiding you through what it's like to come from a different country and live here.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes and 32 seconds

It all started with a love for our city. “I Love Aveiro” is about sharing first-hand stories about Aveiro, its places, its traditions and its people.

You visit a new place and, of course, you notice the buildings, the roads and the bridges that carry you from one side to another. But a city’s identity can’t be reduced to its infrastructure. Its uniqueness is born out of individual and novel stories intersecting to weave a vibrant cultural heritage.

These stories are passed on at family gatherings, coffee shops, hair salons, casual conversations at the bus stop. These are some of the stories that have shaped us since childhood and lead us to feel a bit nostalgic today.

There are so many stories all around us. Technology is at the tip of our fingers. We can reach anything, so it’s easy to overlook the possibility of these great stories fading away, lost to time. We live in a city with an ageing population, where new people come to live, but many others leave as well. It is urgent to treasure their stories and value human heritage. It’s vital to value humanity itself and its existence.

While developing social inclusion projects at Agora Aveiro, such as the “Human Library”, “Generations to Gardens”, and “Intergenerational Encounters”, we came to understand that some groups are often neglected and not properly included into their local community. We like to say that Aveiro and Portugal do a lot for immigrants, and we are proud of that, but then we hear personal stories and realise that there's still cases of racism, xenophobia or pure indifference towards these people.

Everyone has an opinion on immigration but, ask how many people actually know an immigrant and, you won’t be surprised to find out that some of those opinions aren’t always based on significant or even accurate information. Most of the times there’s a disconnectedness from the real issues.  There’s fear. A fear that is fed by our inability to understand. Ignorance and fear go hand in hand, after all. Whatever is strange and incomprehensible scares us to different degrees. But when knowledge frees us to form a more coherent response we start to understand, we’re brought closer to a feeling of familiarity.

The “Human Library” events that we organize was the first time many had the chance to speak with people from countries like Venezuela, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone. This helped them better understand these people and their circumstances. This happens to us when we participate in youth exchanges and meet people from different countries. We become more open-minded, more informed, and understand other cultures better when we hear it first-hand.

“I Love Aveiro – Stories for Solidarity” too was born because we love our city. We want a more compassionate society, where our citizens don’t look away from struggle. We want people to reflect, yes, but we also want them to take action. To support immigrants and social inclusion initiatives instead of overlooking them. It’s always a challenge to change the attitudes of those around us. It’s not exactly something that’s up to us, but we can provide information for people to think about and reevaluate their position. We interviewed 11 immigrants currently living in Aveiro so that they could be the ones guiding the reader through what it's like to come from a different country and live here. Maybe after hearing these stories as we heard them, people will realise that we are not so different.

You bump into a stranger on the street and don’t even think to wonder who they are or what brought them there, but the truth is, they are part of the fabric of your community. They are a human being. Can you truly know a place without getting to know its people? And can you honestly know its people, if you don’t know their stories?

You can read it here.

This project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme through the European Solidarity Corps.

Liane Carvalho