Deolinda Rodrigues de Almeida

“Your inner spark…”

Lion watermark

Dear Deolinda,

Marcia and DeolindaWould you believe I found more letters hidden away in a closet, that I had forgotten about? As I was going through piles of boxes containing tangible proof of all the memories I’ve also stored away in my heart, I came across the letters to my parents that I had mailed from Portugal and Angola; my mother had saved them all.

Typewritten on both sides of tissue thin paper to save on postage, using narrow margins, I described to folks back home, as completely as words are capable, this incredible experience I was living right after college. I pulled them out, airmail letters and bilhete cartas, one by one. Some had the postage stamp cut away from the envelope, to benefit a stamp collector in my family, I suppose. I wrote faithfully every week.

I began to read, becoming bleary eyed as this saved account of such a memorable time so early in my life began to unfold once again, more or less corroborating the memories I’ve already recalled in my writings about you and others in Angola who welcomed me to your shores more than fifty years ago.

Amazingly, there was a letter from you, addressed to my mother. Really! It, too, was missing a stamp.

Written in near perfect English, I recalled the pact you and I made when I first arrived in Luanda—that as often as we could, you and I would spend thirty minutes on English, thirty on Portuguese, to assure steady progress for both of us in the languages we were trying to master.

The handwritten letter was dated November 8, 1955:

Dear Mrs. Hinds.

You must be proud to have a daughter so wonderful, good Christian and worker as Miss Marcia. Blessed be she by coming to Africa, and always blessed be the Hinds.

Miss Marcia is always busy, kind and joyful, working hard with the women, the children and the youth of my church. She sings so well, Mrs. Hinds. Today I asked her how she found the Angola warm season (here we are now in the warm season) and she said it was not very warm.

Mrs. Hinds, what would you and your family like to have from Africa? Please don’t forget to tell me.

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and with many blessings of Our Lord.

I am 16 years old and I went to high school. Daddy broke his left leg on Sept. 6, and as he can send no money to my brother who is studying in Portugal, I decided to work and not to study this year. My supervisor is your daughter and I believe she is a good one. I love children very much and if I can get a scholarship to study I should like to go to Brazil to study religious education and child studies to work with children of my beloved Angola. Will you, Mrs. Hinds, pray for me? Thank you.

Will you say “hello” to your family. I imagine everything is coming along fine with you. Will you excuse my errors. Your daughter has been giving me some English lessons, but in this letter you can see that I need more lessons. I hope to get your letter and picture soon.

Yours sincerely,
Deolinda R. de Almeida

This is just one example of what a prolific letter writer you were for all the short years of your life. From the letter to my mother, to the exchanges between you and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the collections of letters now published by your brother Roberto, you cranked them out to people you knew far and wide. I can only imagine what you would do on facebook or twitter.

Again, I am trying to understand the outreach and courage that seemed to be an inner spark of who you were from birth, and am amazed as I ponder over these manifestations of your character that continue to come to light after all these years.

Loid’Ana told me during our recent visit that she’s convinced that if you had lived you would have been the first woman President of the Republic of Angola. Your legacy of letter writing leaves no doubt that you would have been a formidable political campaigner.

By the way, do you remember the time the fence was left open to the day care center and goats got into the garden during the night and ate all the children’s plants that they had cared for so devotedly? I’m sure it was a good teaching opportunity for you, dear Deolinda.

Angola postage stamp