Moniz reflects about his Portuguese heritage

Smith's South United Bermuda Party MP Trevor Moniz proudly describes himself as a man who puts principle before politics.

Mr. Moniz, a lawyer by profession, is perhaps best known for his fierce battles against Bermudian Independence and hamburger franchises.


Smith's South United Bermuda Party MP Trevor Moniz proudly describes himself as a man who puts principle before politics.

Mr. Moniz, a lawyer by profession, is perhaps best known for his fierce battles against Bermudian Independence and hamburger franchises.

His sometimes open defiance of party line won him the title of "rebel MP''.

He even turned down a Cabinet position when the UBP was in power, because he felt it would inhibit his ability to represent the people.

He has also defended the rights of long-term residents on the island, many of them Portuguese nationals, and lobbied for a Register of Members Interests for parliamentarians.

Mr. Moniz, 45, and his three brothers attended Saltus Grammar School at a time when there were very few Portuguese boys at the school.

His son, who recently entered Saltus Cavendish, represents the fourth generation of Moniz to attend the school.

Mr. Moniz is the son of Jean and the late Norman Moniz and is the third of four brothers.

He and his wife Yola have four small children, Thomas aged four, Gabrielle, three, Sophie and Alice, two.

He has a degree in law from Kings College, London University, and a post-graduate degree in business administration from the University of Toronto.

WHERE have all the Portuguese-Bermudian parliamentarians gone, asks Smith's Parish United Bermuda Party MP Trevor Moniz.

"Whenever there is a significant portion of your community that isn't proportionately represented in the House, it gives some cause for concern,'' said Mr. Moniz.

He is one of two remaining Portuguese-Bermudians in parliament, down from six only a few years ago. He said he is very concerned at the declining numbers.

"There was a time when we had Harry Veira, Tony Correia, Ernest DeCouto, Ralph Marshall, Clarence Terceira and Harry Soares,'' he said.

"Between 1989 and 1993 there were about six. When I came along there were about four. Now it is down to two. That is very low.'' However, Mr. Moniz warned that one can't automatically assume that someone with a Portuguese last name will represent Portuguese interests.

"It is not that simple,'' he said. "But one would hope that through their Portuguese heritage a parliamentarian would have a sensitivity to the concerns of that community.'' Mr. Moniz said the Portuguese have been fairly well organised. "Within their group they have had people who have spoken from that perspective and on their behalf,'' he said. "Unfortunately, they went through a bad period when we had a recession in Bermuda a few years ago.'' During this time, scape-goating and xenophobia reached a high not seen in many decades. Portuguese families who had lived on the island for as much as fifteen years were sent packing. It was common for them to take with them Bermuda-born children who spoke English and no Portuguese. Bermuda was often the only home they'd ever known.

"I think there was a deliberate government policy of not renewing the work permit of people who had been here for a long time,'' said Mr. Moniz. "People who had been here for fifteen years and had children who were born here suddenly found their work permits weren't being renewed.

"I think it was both unfortunate and deliberate. I think the Portuguese community suffered as a result of that. People had their rights to a permit renewal snatched away from them.'' Mr. Moniz stressed that he was talking about Portuguese nationals, rather than Portuguese-Bermudians.

"The community was virtually cut in half at that time,'' said Mr. Moniz.

"Largely, the workers who were sent back weren't replaced by Bermudians. The general comment across Bermuda is that our landscape has suffered as a result of the failure to renew the work contracts of many of the Portuguese landscape workers.'' He said historically Portuguese-Bermudians have been modest and self-effacing, so they have not celebrated "long and loud'' their cultural heritage.

"It is a wonderful cultural heritage. In the past there has been prejudice.

Some people have viewed the Portuguese as having very low social status.'' But he pointed out that the Portuguese arrived in 1849 in post-slavery days and did not face discrimination in the way that black Bermudians did.

"The difficulties that the Portuguese faced were always less than the blacks faced,'' he admitted. "The Portuguese never faced little outright segregation. When I was in Saltus there were no girls or blacks.'' Mr. Moniz said when he and his brothers started out in the junior school they were the only ones who were obviously Portuguese in the school.

"My father's uncle, Enoch Moniz, was actually the first Portuguese-Bermudian to attend Saltus. It must have been between 1912 and 1920.

"My father, Norman, and his two brothers also went to Saltus. Between 1939 and 1940 my father was Headboy was also captain of cricket and football. In my day, Barry DeCouto came to Saltus and became Headboy, but I don't think he went through the junior school the way we did.'' Mr. Moniz said this meant that between 1930 and the 1960s there was little increase in the number of Portuguese boys that attended.

"Both sides of my family, the Monizs and Tavares (his mother's family), arrived in the latter part of the 19th century, between 1870 and 1898,'' said Mr. Moniz.

"People always think, if you have a Portuguese last name, you just got off the boat. Two of my ancestors also came over on the Golden Rule .'' He said he wanted people to understand that he has never purported to speak exclusively for the Portuguese.

"People constantly try to pigeon-hole you,'' Mr. Moniz said. "I do what I think is right.'' He said the pigeon-holing comes from Bermuda's traditionalism.

"It is a very static society,'' he said. "When we went through Saltus there were American and Canadian students had less closed minds than the Bermudians.

Traditionally, Bermuda was a highly stratified society.'' Mr. Moniz said the Window On The Azores exhibit at the Bermuda National Gallery and the new Portuguese room at the Commissioner's House in Dockyard represent a real turning point in Bermudian culture.

"I think it is a huge step forward,'' he said.

In the tomato patch : Antique photo courtesy of Jessie Moniz. Pictured from left -- Jerry Moniz, Joseph Moniz and Manuel Moniz in a tomato field at Magnolia Farm Smith's Parish. The family started the first tomato cannery in Bermuda in 1917.

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