António Fernandes, from Ponte da Barca, who divided the first years of his life between Braga, Oleiros and Lavradas, has caused a sensation among Belgian neighbors with the fashions of Alto Minho, during this pandemic phase that has also severely affected the country that has been welcoming him for about 30 years.
Based in a large neighborhood in the municipality of Zaventem, about seven kilometers from Brussels airport, the Barquês joined in the gesture of thanking health professionals (and other workers who cannot stay at home) in a good Minho way, with a concertina in hand.
TO MINHO, the music teacher (as a hobby) and collaborator of a European Union consultative body, says that Belgium decided to import the thanks, which started in Italy, to those who are at the forefront in the fight against the coronavirus, or “ this trouble ”, as the Barquês summarizes.
“Everyone knows how much trouble we are in, including those at home, and here fashion caught on from people in Brussels, and all of Belgium, at 8 pm, come to the window or the door to clap, sing , touch or pray. Each one does what he wants ”, he explains.
“I have a music school here and I thought to myself: I’m going to make these people clap for the professionals but for me too, so I made a video straight from my garden, at my house, and it was like a fire, everyone liked it and I received incentives to continue ”, he stresses.
But it is not just thanks or clapping. António has the “intention to divulge the roots, not only of Ponte da Barca and Minho, but of the whole country:“ In the video that was successful, a Vira da Barca was playing, which is played a lot on the pilgrimages of São Bartolomeu ”.
António played three nights in a row, but now he is letting it “fade”, to return with strength. “Tomorrow is Friday, so I’m going to play a Green Cane, a Vira or a Malhão, says, between laughs, prepared for one more live at the Facebook.
Living in a neighborhood where there are 17 different nationalities, the Portuguese are in the majority, and even the Italians have already joined the Minho fashion to thank the “medical staff”, as he says.
He confesses that, before the “trouble”, it was unthinkable to play a concertina in the middle of the street, but now “it is possible”.
Belgium goes through peak of pandemic but Portuguese community is “protected”
Belgium recorded, in the last 24 hours, an increase of 1,259 cases of infection by Covid-19, according to data from the World Health Organization. But the Portuguese community will not be hard hit, as explained by António.
“I have contacts with people in Brussels, Antwerp and Liége, among the Portuguese associations and they have not told me anything about infected cases, so it seems to me that we are all following what the authorities advise”, he stresses, stressing that the Portuguese “Have been staying at home”.
I think the Portuguese were well informed, the consulate helped and we have good associative movements, I think we guard against the worst. We have many Portuguese restaurants and cafes, and they had no problem closing in on the public and starting to make take-out, ”he says.
Government “took it all by the horns and not by the tail”
“Here the Government took all this by the horns and not by the tail, they ordered radical measures at the beginning, if there is no justification for walking on the street, it is immediately assessed, and the fine is not cheap”, he says, praising the health system Belgian.
“The National Health System is very good and is prepared for this pandemic, but we are reaching the peak and many people are becoming dependent on these services, which can bring some complications”, he says.
António explains that, like other Portuguese with this possibility, they have been working remotely, from home, in the functions of consulting and logistics, but “it is not the same thing”. My role was more to walk on the ground and exchanging that for a screen does not give the same perspective ”, he stresses.
About 30 years ago, give music in Belgium
With the music bug, he created the school Bxlsolminho, where he teaches viola, concertina and cavaquinho classes: “I really like traditional Portuguese music, I like to brag that I play the cavaquinho well, the rest don’t. But I started teaching one and the other and now I am teaching in Antwerp and Brussels, at Casa do Benfica, and it is a privilege.
During the coronavirus phase, António also adapted to music lessons. “I am giving classes for skype and why Whatsapp, here we are going off the hook ”, guarantees.
And the boatman has an advantage for social isolation compared to Covid-19: While at home, you can always pick up the concertina and not miss the clock, in the good way of Minho.