(Maria Ascensão, July 1949)
Born in 1926, on the 13th of May she lived her whole life in Camacha, although, still in her childhood, her parents and siblings moved to Funchal.
Since she was little she sang and participated in the parish festivities and pilgrimages. She married Abel Policarpo Freitas in 1957. She was a modiste, in particular, in wedding dresses and sewing teacher.
At the age of 22, she joined the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha (GFCPC) in 1949. “The group had an important reference in folklorist Carlos Santos, as a rehearser and artistic director, but with Maria Ascensão it gained brilliance and joy”, tells us Vitor Sardinha in the biographical note he wrote about Maria Ascensão Fernandes [i]. She was one of the main, if not the main promoter, of the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha for more than 50 years, directing, from the 1960s, this group together with her husband, also a member of the group.
They did many national and international tours, being Maria Ascensão – or “Loura da Camacha” (“the blong girl from Camacha”) as she became known – the most well-known figure, cherished and appreciated by the public in the places where the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha passed.
“The brand image of Maria Ascensão would be for decades, the face of the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha. There were also many radio and television stations that recorded her interviews, the way of dancing, even the songs and sung games of her childhood, when she was part of “Saloias do Espírito Santo”. From all over the world, continents and countries, she brought souvenirs that later on with her friends, she remembered with the stories she lived during the tour. Expose all these small pieces is enough to understand the journey of the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha and Maria Ascensão ”[ii].
She passed away in 2001 having been honored more than once during her life and also posthumously:
“An opening of doors to the female world, and a fair tribute to the great woman who was in recognition for the service provided in the preservation of the tradition of Camacha and Madeira. On August 9, 2002, she was honored posthumously, and the International Folklore Gala Maria Ascensão was created in her memory, a great festival of music, dance and island culture ”[iii]. Maria Ascensão became widely known as ambassador of Madeira and popular Madeiran culture, her image is inseparable from the Grupo Folclórico da Casa do Povo da Camacha, the oldest folk group in Madeira, also recognized as one of the ambassadors of the island’s culture.
[i] Sardinha, V. (2016). Teixeira, Maria Ascensão Fernandes. In AA.VV. Aprender Madeira: O novo dicionário enciclopédico da Madeira. Acedido em março, 4, 2018 em: http://aprenderamadeira.net/article/teixeira-maria-ascensao-fernandes
[ii] Idem, Ibidem.
[iii] Idem, Ibidem.