It is the little-known adoption land of the Portuguese diaspora. on Groix Island (Morbihan), in view Lorient, more than 200 Grosilones, out of a total population of 2,200, are from Portugal, which makes ‘Gravel’ their heart. Symbol of this landed community 60 years ago, eucalyptus trees, planted on the island by the first Portuguese, grew among the pines.
In a bistro, Alice da Silva switches fluently between French and Portuguese. Originally from Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto, she arrived in Groix in 1972 with her parents and her brother Victor after a trip on foot to Brittany. “We got here on Monday. On Tuesday I was already enrolled in school and on Wednesday my father started working. The island amazed us, it was paradise here,” says the fifty-year-old.
The family came to join a grandfather who had arrived on the island in the 1960s to escape the poverty that engulfed Portugal then and four years of compulsory military service imposed by Salazar’s dictatorship during the colonial wars as in Angola. . He was part of a group of 16 Portuguese who fled the country illegally and dropped into Groix, a 3km by 8km plot of land, to join a construction site of a dam on an island still without running water.
“Many of them are entrepreneurs.”
For Victor, “We must never forget that our grandparents and parents are immigrants. They had an insane courage to land in France with nothing at all. The brothers and cousins Da Silva, Teixeira, Rodrigues, make up the first Portuguese diaspora on the island.”
“When they arrived, they were without feathers. We housed them, prepared food for them, washed their clothes… Since they were of a very religious disposition, like the Islanders and the Bretons, they were immediately accepted,” says Jean-Paul Legouve, a Groisellen for generations.
The dam is built, the Portuguese stay: between purifying the water and building new housing, there is no shortage of work. Some marry women from Grosillon, set up their own construction companies and employ family members from the country. The island’s mayor, Dominique Yvonne, sums up, “The first one or two came and then they attracted their wives, sisters, cousins, brothers…”. Today, there are a large number of entrepreneurs and they contribute significantly to the local economy. Many of them have acquired French citizenship: they are fully assimilated from the Groisillons. »
Between two stone houses flanked by dark blue shutters, a sign reads “Da Silva, father and son”, one of the two main builders on the island with “Texeira Construction”, employing about 15 workers each.
“I will always be grateful to France”
Paulo Mendonca, former driver of harborArrived in 2005 to work in construction. He is part of this new wave of Portuguese expats who then set up his own company, “Paulo Mécanique”, and become the person “without whom at Groix all cars break down”, according to his friend Jean-Paul Legouve. Since then, the brown-bearded man no longer sees himself living anywhere else: “France is the one who gave me the most, and for that I will always be grateful to him.”
His son, Edward, was educated at the 28-student Island College. Does he feel Portuguese, French or Grocilon? “During a football match, I’m for Portugal. But my home is here, in Groix.”
Impossible to choose Alice da Silva: “When I’m at Groix, I have the impression of being Portuguese and Portugal, I feel French: I feel doubly foreign. But one thing is for sure, every time you leave the island you are drawn by a force like a magnet in the midst of this wild nature of heather and sedge. “The pebble is like a member of my family.” And for Alice’s family, “it’s precious.”