Family Matters at the Arrival of Falmouth Cape Verdean Museum
Tracing family roots back through generations can help a person connect more deeply with a sense of self by learning about their family's past, where they came from, who they were, what they did, the trials they overcame, the accomplishments they achieved and the dreams they had.
While there are websites for people who want to learn about their family history, there's a new-fashioned museum and cultural center in Falmouth that brings the vibrant story of the Cape Verdean people to life.
"The name is a long one, and there's a good reason for that," said Barbara Burgo, museum curator and co-founder, along with Wesley Leite and Wayne Lobo. "It's called The Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum and Cultural Center. We have that long name because Cape Verdeans live all across this area."
Even the museum's location is a nod to the past.
"We're located in a small preservation home, the historic Emerald House, in East Falmouth, named after a family who grew strawberries here," Burgo said. "People may not remember, but Falmouth was famous nationally for its top-producing strawberry farms in the early 1900s."
What we might see on a walking tour?
"You'll come into a living room, where there's a timeline on the wall that goes back to the 1400s. We call it the Historical Room, where you'll learn about the 'father of the Revolution,' Amilcar Cabral, who was assassinated in 1973, prior to the independence of the Portuguese colonies in 1975," Burgo said. "We compare and contrast Cabral as our MLK, Jr. or Malcom X. Most folks aren't aware of this era of Cape Verdean history, that they'll find quite interesting."
What would a Cape Verdean museum be without a tribute to the delicious cuisine of the Cape Verdean people?
"In the next room, that we have lovingly dubbed Nana's Kitchen, we've recreated a replica of an old fashion kitchen," Burgo said. "Some folks have actually cried because they remember their nana's kitchen, where there wasn't a refrigerator, so they put foods and cooked meals on shelves and gingham cloth curtains would suffice for the cabinet doors."
Next up is a chance to learn about the contribution of Cape Verdean people to the seas.
"There's a third room you'll walk into, called the Nautical Room, where you'll learn about the Schooner Ernestina, the official state vessel whose last life was lived as a Cape Verdean packet trade ship," she said. "We have designated (it) as the 'Cape Verdean Mayflower' that transported families from Cabo Verde to New Bedford and India Park in Providence."
The Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum and Cultural Center is all about bringing the community together, and starting April 1, Falmouth school officials decided that every public school teacher and class in Falmouth will tour the center.
"We'll teach the children about the language, the cuisine, history, music and how to make those beautiful African quilts," Burgo said. "We're so fortunate to have a leading musical tour de force from New Bedford, Candida Rose, singing and teaching the children authentic Cape Verdean songs."
We've hardly scratched the surface of this jewel of history, located at 67 Davisville Road in East Falmouth. The free museum and cultural center's hours, for the time being, are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Check their Facebook page for summer hours.
On July 5, Cape Verdean Independence Day, the museum will host a reading about Frederick Douglass and Amilcar Cabral, and circle June 19, 2022, for the Juneteenth Celebration.
There's much to be said for looking back on the generations that came before. Even though they are long gone, they still have much to teach us about our families, about history and about ourselves, so plan a day trip to the Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum and Cultural Center.