“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness. “
It’s described as a unique word with no equivalent in English. Its origin is Portuguese and it was first used in the 13th Century. It is a longing, a melancholy, a desire for what was. It is “Saudade.”
Many immigrants and refugees search for words that adequately describe the peculiar longing for what they left behind. Not the war and evil that is a relief to escape, but the land, the people, the food – all that encompasses that which is home. Doctors and nurses working with large populations of immigrants and refugees often simply put it down as “depression.”
A health center I know desperately tried to find out through a survey what percentage of their immigrant and refugee patients had depression. The survey was unsuccessful. It did not reflect the narrative that these health care providers were hearing from patients.
One day a woman from Haiti said to them…
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