The person the plaque does not reveal

Jeremias Neves is the name of a toponymy plaque in Gondomar, Área Metropolitana do Porto. On the day I stood in front of the plaque and decided to register it, a flood of memories bubbled up like water boiling in a pot. It is an autumnal summer day and that may have helped.

Jeremias Gaudêncio das Neves is barely in Google’s algorithm, and even this urban signage is misleading in its heteronomy. The Jeremias who names the street is the father of the one I met and asked to tell me his life story once upon a time. The street is almost an alley, which I happened to walk a lot in my childhood, on my way to school. It is so insignificant, it makes room for misplaced beauty. It ends at a pond (which does not belong to it), where we used to stop on our way home from school. A painfully dressed kid (in the 80’s, at least in the suburbs, Melton pants and suspenders were the norm), soaking in the wash or melting sandals on the soft tar of the street in the summer, or eating grapes along the way, or picking flowers or throwing rocks. I suppose the street (which used to be more like an alley than it is today, since it had no name) only has symbolism because it has become a place. Bachelard and Tuan explain these phenomena. Today, the street is a mixture of childhood and my version of the life story of Jeremias Neves son.

While I was walking down this street, which I fix in images, let myself be guided to the cemetery, where Jeremias lies. I follow in my footsteps the child that I was, treading the grass and these stairs with my grandmother, on my way to the cemetery on a Saturday afternoon. I reflect to what extent the memories are impregnated with the cobblestones of the road, the smell and temperature of the city. Even because the “farturas” bar is already there, in the middle of the road, and it is almost certain that, on the way back from the cemetery, at the beginning of October, the return home will be made with a little bag of half a dozen sweets, to celebrate the annual pilgrimage. I still arrive in time to catch the open cemetery. As a backstage man he was, Jeremias grave is an airtight box, where no remembrance is visible. I think about the hierarchy of these places, their social distinctions, the devotion that the living still pay them, true cultural subsystems in the macro-system we inhabit.

The plaque that is on the street was requested by Jeremias son as a tribute to his father and was one of his priorities before he died. I don’t yield to the temptation to head for the house he inhabited, still with the immaculate car at the door. Jeremias Neves hated to be exposed and I may not be able to stop myself from photographing the house. “When I die, you won’t find any record of me to tell the story”, he told me. I didn’t, but I also didn’t search as I should have. Perhaps the most important of this story is not even in these evidentiary documents, which serve to compose the veracity of a narrative. I digress only to understand myself. The first time Jeremias Neves told me his story, documents were my profession. At that time, I recorded what today, with surprise, I found published online:


“Jeremias Francisco Gaudêncio das Neves was born on July 15, 1927, in S. Cosme, Gondomar, at Sidónio Pais Street, next to Crasto. Son of Jeremias Gaudêncio das Neves and Maria Ferreira de Moura, he was the third fruit of the union, but the only one who avenged himself. The death of his father, when Jeremias was only seven years old, robbed him of a protected childhood at home. Before long, the family’s assets (his father was a goldsmith) were sold, his mother was forced to work, and Jeremias went to live with some uncles in Porto.” (Arquivo Histórico de Gondomar, n.d.)


Jeremias Neves had a relevant public life, although not expressive, considering the whole of his history. He was mayor and president of the local fire department. Other than this, he was a ruthless and invisible businessman. At this point I stop the institutional biographical data, to return to memory. Perhaps I am starting to be a little repetitive, but I cannot help quoting James Carey (2009). Jeremias Neves does not belong to the realm of broadcast communication, nor to the public sphere that the mediatized world has manufactured. But he is still a plaque on the street, a name on a fire station. I note the poor state of the plaque, the indifference to which the memory of the community is consigned, and how revealing this is of our level of citizenship. I am unfair. The resounding remains of the Noite Branca are scattered in the air. The future urban park, under construction, promises a better life. All this spills over onto the social networks, becoming unavoidable truths. Was Carey naively optimistic? Is the Greek polis, of eye-to-eye conversation, on its way to extinction? What I experienced with Jeremias Neves may have been a micro-story, without relevance or universality.

I will resume the thread of the narrative, by way of wandering. I abandoned Jeremias Neves for a good while, until I started seeing him again (from a distance), elegantly waving his light suit and wide-brimmed hat, wandering the streets of the city, a markedly foreigner in the daily life of this uncharacteristic mesh. It was inevitable that I would run into him, always gallant, already eight decades old. And suffering from ailments. He offered me a Hemingway book, and we exchanged banalities. And, by a series of significant coincidences, we began to find common ground. I traveled, in the Amazon, on the ship Marques Pinto Navegação. Background: Jeremias Neves began working, almost as a child, at Jomar, a wood industry. The trade of exotic woods took this company (and also Jeremias Neves) to the Amazon, where they created a shipping company. The surname Marques Pinto refers to Jomar, but also to the first president of the Serralves Foundation, João Marques Pinto, who realized a utopia of world reference, was a contemporary of Jeremias and worked closely with him. I met once, for professional reasons, at the Serralves Foundation, a former employee of Jeremias, at Jomar. And so a thread of stories about this person, who liked to cultivate a certain mystery, was woven.

The physical geographies are intertwined with the emotional ones. Jeremias was a traveler, so he gives me the feeling that he doesn’t belong anywhere. He asked me to retrace the steps of his father, about whom he knew little, to document a toponymic request. It was his homage to his father, a fighter in the First World War, taken prisoner in Naulila, Angola. To put his mind at rest, I scoured libraries and archives in search of information. In exchange, I asked him for his life story, already far from the institutional framework of the first version. He told me a few things that I barely registered in my memory, trying hard to retain that moment, in a real estate container, in the middle of the concrete of the dormitory in Porto. Shortly after the farewell, he called me promising to meet again. It never happened. Only now I sealed it, stimulated by the urban space’s signage.

Text and images: Teresa Lima

Published on 23-09-2022


Arquivo Histórico de Gondomar. (n.d.). Jeremias Neves. Retrieved 13-09-2022 from

Bachelard, G. (1958/1996). A poética do espaço (A. d. C. Leal & L. d. V. S. Leal, Trans.). Martins Fontes.

Carey, J. W. (2009). Communication as culture, revised edition (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Tuan, Y.-f. (1977). Space and place : the perspective of experience. University of Minnesota Press.





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