MAPUTO, Mozambique - On sweaty summer nights in this tropical East Africanport, people searching for relief can go to A Fofoca Pub. A sticky sea breezestaggers through the open windows, and the pub's prized satellite televisionoffers patrons news of places much cooler - such as Wisconsin, the site oflast week's Democratic presidential primary.
When a customer shouted that he saw U.S. Sen. John Kerry on the screen,heads turned to focus on a CNN report about the Democratic front-runner'swooing Midwestern voters. People looked not so much to see the lanky senatoras to get a glimpse of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the woman theyaffectionately call "Mozambique's daughter."
It's a title Mozambicans bestow proudly, perhaps because it's how HeinzKerry sees herself, too.
On the campaign trail, Heinz Kerry has many ways to introduce herself: Sheis a senator's wife, an heir to the Heinz family fortune, a celebratedphilanthropist, an environmentalist, a feminist and now a possible first lady.But Heinz Kerry, 65 and never one to conform to anyone's expectations,surprises audiences by introducing herself as someone much simpler - a girlborn and raised far away in the African savannah, a land she calls "herearliest classroom."
Growing up in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, she learned if you swamat dawn or dusk you could get eaten by crocodiles or sharks, as she recentlytold a group of high school students in New Hampshire. Speaking to a largelyAfrican-American congregation at a Baptist church in Detroit, she said she sawfirst-hand the horrors of racial segregation in apartheid South Africa, and asa college student there marched against the white-minority government. Tohealth-care workers, she fondly recalled being inspired by her father, aPortuguese doctor, waking up before dawn at their weekend country cottage tohelp him treat poor black villagers suffering from disease and lacking themost basic health care.
"I learned that [even] if I had to be in a little rondavel" - a hut - "inAfrica with a cement floor and a thatched roof and I was caring for people, Iwould be supremely happy," she told a group of nurses last month in Concord,N.H.
Maybe she would have indeed been happy in those circumstances, butMozambique's daughter has strayed far - physically if not emotionally - fromher African roots.
She left Mozambique more than four decades ago, first for South Africa,where as an energetic, church-going teen-ager she attended boarding school,then for Geneva to study languages at a translation school, before coming toAmerica in the 1960s to marry Pennsylvania millionaire and future U.S. Sen.John Heinz III. (He died in a plane crash in 1991; she married Kerry in 1995.)
Instead of a thatch-roof hut, she can choose to sleep in any one of hernumerous homes, including a ski lodge in Idaho and an estate in Pittsburgh.She owns her own jet, manages a fortune equal to nearly a quarter ofMozambique's annual Gross Domestic Product and moves in a pampered world ofhigh-society dinners and fund-raisers. In this world, Africa is a farawayplace to which the wealthy send checks to battle AIDS or hunger.
It's hard to imagine what she has in common with people in one of thepoorest nations on Earth. Even her memories would strike residents here ashopelessly out of touch with the country's hardships.
In her speeches and writings, Heinz Kerry recalls an idealized world - herhanging upside down from guava trees in her back yard, chasing snakes andbugs, contemplating the balance between nature and human beings while sittingunder the starry night skies. The scenes seem torn from The Lion King or Outof Africa.
Which is not to say she didn't witness hardships here. Her family lived inunder a dictatorship in which free speech was not allowed. Following herfather as he made rounds, she glimpsed the dismal world of black Mozambicansliving under the thumb of Portuguese colonialists.
But to many Mozambicans, Heinz Kerry's Africa is not theirs.
After she left, Mozambique slid into three decades of armed struggle -first against Portuguese colonial rule, and then, after independence, in amurderous civil war stoked by South African apartheid forces. More than amillion people perished during the fighting.
Thousands of white colonialists - including Heinz Kerry's parents - fledthe country's Marxist revolution, losing cars, homes and life savings. Thenation's economy collapsed, and more than a decade after embracing capitalismand democracy, the country is still struggling to get back on its feet.
Like many former white residents of Mozambique, Heinz Kerry has neverreturned here. She has no friends or relatives here, nor any desire to visit."I have basically not wanted to go back home since, because I just didn't wantto see all the kind of changes," she says.
Which makes Heinz Kerry's desire to speak about her African upbringingpublicly all the more puzzling for Mozambicans.
"We are proud she is a daughter of the land," says Neo Simbine, 75, aretired black nurse who worked with Heinz Kerry's father. "But you have tolive what you say. If she really loves Mozambique and has lots of money, whydoesn't she build us a hospital?"
Through the Heinz Family Foundation, Heinz Kerry has done some giving inMozambique, including a contribution to a Save the Children program there tohelp children deal with the trauma of war. Heinz Kerry would give more, aspokeswoman for the foundation says, if she were more confident the moneywould be managed properly.
Says Calane Da Silva, a Mozambican writer who is a descendant of African,Portuguese and Indian Mozambicans: "She is the daughter of this land. Nobodycan deny that. A daughter can run away from her parents and she is still adaughter. But if she truly loves this country, she should prove it."
A changed world
If she were to return to Mozambique, Heinz Kerry would experience a worldunlike the one she once knew.
Once a spotless colonial capital, Maputo, then known as Lourenco Marques,is a crumbling city of once-grand but now weather-beaten buildings withporticos, ornate pillars and leafy courtyards, set next to dozens of grim,towering concrete apartment dwellings festooned with clotheslines.
In many neighborhoods, the sidewalks have disintegrated into dusty paths.Garbage piles burn in the city parks. Beggars muscle for coins atintersections and pineapple hawkers steer their carts through a crush oftraffic on potholed roads. In the government office, the photos on the walland the statues are of black Mozambican leaders.
During Heinz Kerry's childhood, such conditions in the capital wereunimaginable. The Portuguese had inhabited settlements along the east coast ofAfrica for more than 400 years, and the thought of relinquishing power toblack leaders was a future no one imagined.
In the early 20th century, the Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar, inLisbon, instituted a system of forced labor in the colonies, sending blackshere to work on large plantations and handing out huge tracts of land toPortuguese immigrants to farm and develop. Although the Portuguese governmentpromoted the myth that opportunities were available to all races under itscolonial system, nearly all blacks remained illiterate, unemployed andhopelessly poor.
Heinz Kerry's father, Dr. Jose Simoes Ferreira Jr., was a tropical-diseasespecialist from Portugual who fell in love with Mozambique during a visitthere and, after finishing his studies, decided it was the place to set up hismedical practice. Her mother, Irene Thierstein, was the youngest daughter ofone of the colony's wealthiest British families.
They married in 1933 and had three children. Heinz Kerry was born Oct. 5,1938, as Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes Ferreira. The family lived in an oldcolonial home in the capital overlooking the sea, experiencing all theprivileges of a colonial life.
Heinz Kerry's father ran a cancer clinic and private practice. Her motherstayed at home, gardening and playing the piano. Servants managed thehousehold. "My mother used to tour her gardens with the African groundskeeperevery morning," Heinz Kerry reminisced in a Town & Country article. "I'd walkbehind them and pinch pretty flowers until my mother caught me."
Heinz Kerry took dance lessons and practiced the piano, but she also ranfree in the outdoors.
"She was a crazy girl," recalled Klaus G. Dieckmann, a boyfriend when theywere in their teens and who still lives here. Heinz Kerry was allowed toaccompany Dieckmann alone to see the latest shows at Maputo's cinema."Compared to other Portuguese girls, she was very outgoing. Her parents wereopen-minded."
It was in Africa where Heinz Kerry learned that there was a design to life.
"I learned about the order and respect, the understanding and generositythat come from living in harmony with the natural world," she said last yearwhen she received the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism at theJohns Hopkins University. "... It was there in the kindness of the people, andin the dreamy lilac hues of the jacarandas that ambled down the avenues likebridesmaids to the altar. It was a profound sense of connection, a sense ofall life being knitted together in ways that gave purpose to every individual,every animal and every plant."
Part of that design was the pecking order of the Portuguese colonial life.To be a Portuguese-born citizen was to have access to all the privileges ofcolonial life. To be black was to struggle for education, health care andmoney.
While thousands of immigrants poured into Mozambique from Portugal - morethan 200,000 by 1974 - about 99 percent of the blacks were poor anduneducated. In the countryside, they battled malaria, sleeping sickness,leprosy and bilharzia. One third of all black children died in infancy.
On weekends when her family would travel to a cottage by the ocean, HeinzKerry witnessed the other side of colonial life.
"There were no doctors there, only missions and priests, and it took myfather two years to get people to come and see him on weekends. Finally, theybegan to bring sick children. And I used to help him - 5 o'clock in themorning, under the pergola there would be a sea of mothers and children, noone crying. And my father would do his one bit of cooking, which was to boilwater, put Nescafe in it and think he cooked himself breakfast; and we wouldgo down and start taking care of children," she recalled in a 1995 speech.
Heinz Kerry is quick to remind American voters that her family lived in adictatorship, where no one was allowed to vote and speaking out against theregime could prove fatal. Like all Portuguese citizens born in the colonies,she was classified as a second-class citizen. "All in all, a good andinstructive childhood," she said in a 1994 talk at the University ofPittsburgh. "From it, I learned the value of freedom. I learned to cherishhuman rights and civil rights. I learned the importance of the environment andthe equal importance of finding man's place in it."
Witness to apartheid
These lessons were put to the test when she attended the University ofWitwatersrand, South Africa's premier and most liberal college campus.
She majored in Romance languages, studying French, Portuguese and Italian.But in her recounting of these years, she received the greater educationoutside the classroom, by witnessing the apartheid regime put the finishingtouches on its grand vision of segregating blacks from whites.
By the time Heinz Kerry arrived in Johannesburg, the apartheid governmenthad forbidden blacks and whites from marrying, living in the sameneighborhoods, sitting on the same buses, swimming in the same pools, eatingin the same restaurants. Then the government banned black students from whiteuniversity campuses, against the outcry of many Witwatersrand students.
One of Heinz Kerry's classmates, Resa Selsick, remembers Heinz Kerry as a"very nice, very bright, very outgoing" student who would attend Mass at thecampus chapel on many mornings. "She would rush in to breakfast after Masswhile we were all staggering out of bed. We thought it was a bit strange,"Selsick said
Heinz Kerry often recollects her years marching against apartheid to thedismay of her mother. "That remembrance propels me to stand tall for those whocannot stand," she told the American Jewish Committtee.
Classmates don't remember the church-going student as a political leader oncampus. Protests against the ban on black students became campus-wide eventsbut, by the standard of events to come, were tame affairs, tolerated by theapartheid government of the time. Adminstrators, faculty members and studentsmarched hand in hand. On several occasions classes were canceled to allowstudents and staff members time to join the protests.
Heinz Kerry left Africa in 1960, after graduation, to attend theInterpreters School of the University of Geneva, where she met a young JohnHeinz, heir to the Heinz food fortune and a future senator. They were marriedin 1966. As a new world opened up to Heinz Kerry in America, the world sheknew in Africa was drawing to a close.
By 1960, the world's colonial powers were granting independence to theircolonies in Africa, but Portugal stubbornly resisted the trend. Growingresentment of Portuguese colonialism sparked the rise of the Front for theLiberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which launched an armed campaign againstPortuguese rule in 1964.
The war dragged on for a decade. Then, in 1974, the Portuguese military,weary of fighting unpopular wars against independence movements in its Africancolonies, overthrew the Portuguese government, bringing an end to the fightingin Mozambique and setting the stage for independence in 1975.
Heinz Kerry's parents stayed in Maputo. Her father continued his work atthe cancer clinic. For many Portuguese and black Mozambicans alike, there wasa feeling of optimism after the fall of the dictatorship. But the celebrationswere short-lived.
War broke out again between the FRELIMO government and South African- andRhodesian-backed insurgents. The government launched a series of disastroussocialist reforms, nationalizing businesses and forcing once-privilegedPortuguese families out of their homes. The economy crumbled. "I have friendswho lost everything," says Heinz Kerry.
Her mother and father fled the country. Some of the Portuguese who left,bitter about the demise of their fortunes, preferred to burn their property,sabotage factories and set their cars on fire instead of seeing them fall intothe hands of the new government. Others walked away quietly, handing titles totheir luxurious homes to maids or gardeners, handing the keys to their cars toservants and fleeing with little more than a suitcase.
Raema Sikanda, a nurse who worked at the cancer clinic with Heinz Kerry'sfather, says she remembers him leaving without any notice. "One day he was notat work. He did not say goodbye," she says.
Heinz Kerry's parents eventually settled in Portugal, where her fatherreopened his medical practice. He died in 1989. Her mother died in 1997 atHeinz Kerry's home in Pennsylvania.
The cancer clinic that Heinz Kerry's father founded in Maputo is still opentoday. The manicured lawns are overgrown with weeds, the radiology equipmentis long broken, leaving the patients with no treatment choice other thanchemotherapy.
Last week, a toddler with a facial tumor the size of a baseball waswandering the hallways. He is one of 16 children at the clinic suffering fromcancer who lack adequate treatment, said Laura Velouro, 53, a nurse who alsoonce worked with Heinz Kerry's father.
Her family's childhood home is also still standing overlooking the IndianOcean, next to the Ministry of Defense. It is used for office space.
Heinz Kerry's decision to not return despite clearly having the means to doso is not unusual among many former residents of Mozambique. "They haveidealized memory of history," says Marta Vilar Rosales, 34, an anthropologistfrom the University of Lisbon studying the personal histories of Portuguesecolonialists. "These people don't want to lose the idealist view of whathappened to the country. They wouldn't be happy to come here."
Most of the Portuguese who lived through the revolution in Mozambiqueremain angry with the government that took over, says Dieckmann, Heinz Kerry'schildhood friend. "Her mother and father lost everything and didn't receiveany compensation. Of course, she is pissed off," he said.
Still, some Mozambicans don't understand how Heinz Kerry can speak publiclyabout her love for Africa and yet refuse to visit.
"There are changes I'm not content with either," says Neo Simbine, theretired nurse who worked at the clinic. "I don't like to see garbage in thestreet. As a nurse, I studied cholera, but never saw it. Now it's here. What'sbad is bad.
"There are people who can come back and take it. They make peace with thechanges. Others cannot."
If Heinz Kerry's relationship with Africa remains confusing to Mozambicanstoday, it may not be much clearer to many Americans
Officially, she is an American citizen. "But my roots are African," shetold a reporter in 1995. "The birds I remember, the fruits I ate, the trees Iclimbed, they're African."
Other times, she straddles the divide, calling herself "African American,"as she did in 1993, touching off a storm of criticism. Her spokesman defendedthe reference, saying she used the term without a hyphen."African-hyphen-American belongs to blacks," the spokesman said.
Whatever she chooses to call herself, she would be the second foreign-bornfirst lady if John Kerry is elected president. The first was Louisa CatherineAdams, wife of John Quincy Adams, who was born in London to an English motherand American father. Political enemies sometimes called her English.
Heinz Kerry would likely not take offense if the Republicans sometimescalled her Mozambican.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun