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Born in a Volcano

This is by my Azorean, Portuguese cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos!

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I am of Azorean Portuguese heritage. Both sides of my family came from the same island in the small group of islands called the Azores which lie 800 miles off the coast of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. My mother’s side of the family came from one side of the island (which is the largest island of the nine) and my father’s side of the family came from the other side. My father came to this country when he was 10 years old in 1910. My mother was born in New Bedford (a final destination for many Azoreans).

The Azores are the tips of volcanoes that are sticking up in the ocean. My father was born in a little village called Sete Cidades (7 cities) which sits in a green valley in the crater of a volcano which last erupted in the 1700’s. No one knows why they called it 7 cities.

My mother’s mother, my Grandma Sarah or Serafina, was sent for by an American- Portuguese man who fell in love with her photo in the home of his neighbor who was a relative of hers. He paid her way to come to this country so he could marry her. But, he made a deal that if she got here and he decided not to marry her, they would pay him back. She left her job wrapping cigars in the old country and came to America where he married her. She was 13 yrs. old. She had 4 children of which my mother was the youngest. Her husband, my grandfather, died just before I was born, so my Grandma came to live with us. She was illiterate (like our president) until she died at 86. She never learned to read or write. She didn’t even know when her birthday was. She cooked and baby-sat my sister and I so my parents could both work.

Our flight was full of Portuguese/Americans who go every year to visit relatives. My wife, Leann and I were the only people on the flight that couldn’t speak Portuguese. They didn’t even translate the in-flight instructions in English because they assumed that everyone knew Portuguese. I spoke it when I was little but lost it later on retaining the ability to understand it when I heard it spoken… but I eventually lost that too because I  spent years away from any Portuguese speaking people. I listened to a lot of tapes to bone up on the language before our trip and so much came back to me and I really impressed Leann when we got over there.

My Father’s Village

We stayed on Sao Miguel (St. Michael) which is where my family is from and is the largest of the nine islands. We took a room at a horse farm (Where else? We own a horse farm here in Connecticut) where the new Swedish owners gave lessons and riding excursions to their clients, a lot of whom were German tourists. Back in 2001, it had been owned by Portuguese, who I had talked to on the phone. We saw them, they owned another horse facility at the time we were there.

We visited three of the nine islands in our stay. My father had never told me how beautiful it was there. I’ve been to many countries in Europe and I have never seen anything as beautiful as the Azores. I would urge anyone reading this to NOT go there because the less tourists, the better. That’s one thing I liked about it. I saw practically no tourists except a few from mainland Portugal. The air is pure and sweet smelling, the islands are famous for the flora and their pineapples were the most amazingly sweet and often were included in meals. Even though the Azores is about latitudinally opposite New York, it is tropical in climate and is often spoken of in relation to Hawaii. You can quickly drive up to high points on the volcanic slopes and look out across the vast Atlantic. Breathtaking!

We were on a tiny dot of an island in the middle of the huge Atlantic Ocean, far from home… and yet… I was in a restaurant when a woman, who found out that I was an illustrator came up to me and asked if I knew Murray Tinkelman. Murray used to love that story.

Maria Has Gone into Ribeiras With All Five of the Newborn Lambs”. In this picture there is no Maria or lambs

When I came home, I decided to chronicle my trip with a suite of fairly large linocuts. I called it The Portuguese Prints and I put up a show of them at the Society of Illustrators in New York. I did a couple of things that were different for me with them. I wanted to be as spontaneous as possible and to reflect the feelings I had about the islands and to reflect the very texture of the place. Here’s what I did:

I “drew” my pictures on the blocks of linoleum free-hand with the lino cutter. In other words, I didn’t pencil it on the block first or even make any sketches whatsoever. I just dove in with the cutting gouge. It’s scary to work that way but I wanted a “primitive”, visceral look. As it was, my hand was too smart and they didn’t come out as primitive looking as I had hoped. Another thing I tried was to make several prints of each block.. some light and grayish ranging all the way to really black prints. I used color only a little in a couple of the eventual 11 pieces. I made a collage for the finished pieces, in each case, so that, in every picture, there are different tones of gray and black areas. I also let the block print in a grainy, textural way, in many cases to simulate the feeling I got from the lava rock and sand on the islands. I always print my pieces by hand so they don’t look as slick and “perfect” as they would if I used a press.

I like the peculiar title I used for one of the prints… ” Maria Has Gone into Ribeiras With All Five of the Newborn Lambs”. In this picture there is no Maria or lambs. It’s a code phrase used by Portuguese whalemen crews to confound their rival whalemen. On one of the islands, I saw a film in a little whaling museum which showed how the island, in the old days, would have lookouts perched in high stations who would look through binoculars all day hoping to sight whales. When they did, they would send a message by radio to their crew members who would be scattered about at their various jobs, farmer, barber, shopkeeper etc.. The message told them where the whales were spotted, how many there were and which direction they were heading. They would then rush to their boats before rival teams on the island would beat them to it. If Maria was going to Ribeiros it meant that the whales were heading west because that’s the direction Maria would have to go to get to Ribeiros. The one thing that I’ve never been able to figure out is that how they knew which Maria was meant. Half the women on these islands were named Maria. This picture was done in a comic-strip format.

Dog of Sao Miguel

The “Dog of Sao Miguel” was the first picture I made. I would see these Pit Bull-looking dogs all over this island. I asked what breed of dog they were. The answer was always, “It’s the dog of Sao Miguel”. It seems that each island has its own dog breed. They don’t live in the farmers’ houses. They just guard and tend the black and white spotted cows that are EVERYWHERE in the fields grazing. Their ears and tails are cropped so the cows can’t get a hold of them and they seem to subsist on just a little Portuguese bread that’s tossed to them. They are kept hungry and mean. You can see how ferocious my dog looks in this picture. At the horse farm where we were staying, though, there was a very tame one… probably the only tame one on the island. He was scary-looking though and he would park himself in the middle of the driveway.

When we first arrived on Sao Miguel, we got into our rented car and drove out of the airport and immediately to our right was a hill and on the very tip top of the hill stood a horse. Go figure. We had just left our horse farm and the first sight we see in the old country is a horse. And there aren’t a whole lot of horses on the islands. I’ve included this picture here along with some others that I shot just as they hang in a hallway in my home.

So, remember, if you want to plan a trip to an amazingly gorgeous paradise, do not, under any circumstances, consider the Azores… is the advice I always give.

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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

Born in a Volcano

When I was a Famous Chinese Watercolorist

My Most Unusual Art Job

A Duck Goes Into a Grocery Store

A Day With Jonathan Winters and Carol Burnett

Illustrating the Sea

Why I Started Drawing

The Fastest Illustrator in the World!

Me and the GhostBusters

The Bohemian Bohemian

Take it Off … Take it ALL Off!

I Eat Standing Up

The Funniest Cartoon I’ve Ever Seen

The Beatles had a Few Good Tunes

Andy Warhol Meets King Kong

Jacques and the Cowboy

The Gray Lady (The New York Times)

The BIG Eye

Historic Max’s

The Real Moby Dick

The Norman Conquests

Man’s Achievements in an Ever Expanding Universe

How to Murder Your Wife

I Yam What I Yam

The Smallest Cartoon Characters in the World

Chicken Gutz

Brought to You in Living Black and White

The Hooker and the Rabbit

Art School Days in the Whorehouse

The Card Trick that Caused a Divorce

The Mysterious Mr. Quist

Monty Python Comes to Town

Riding the Rails

The Pyramid of Success

The Day I Chased the Bus

The Other Ol’ Blue Eyes

8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

Rembrandt of the Skies

The Funniest Man I’ve Ever Known

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part One”

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part Two”

Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Randy Remembers Tomi Ungerer

Randy’s Overnight Parade

The Bullpen

Famous Artists Schools

Dik Browne: Hot Golfer

Randy and the National Lampoon

Randy’s Only Great Idea

A Brief Visit to Outer Space

Enos, Love and Westport

Randy Remembers the NCS

By Daryl Cagle

Daryl Cagle is the publisher of and owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc, which which is a major distributor of editorial cartoons and columns to newspapers and digital publishers. See Daryl's blog at:, see his site at: get permission to reprint his cartoons at: