Portuguese-Bermudians back call to heal rift
Portuguese-Bermudians have backed a call by a government MP for a “truth and reconciliation” process to close a rift between them and Bermudians of African descent.
Andrea Moniz-DeSousa, the Portuguese Honorary Consul, said: “As we commemorate 170 years of the arrival of Portuguese immigrants in Bermuda this year, I believe that this is, in fact, the time to have this discussion and I praise Mr Weeks for speaking up on this issue.
“More does need to be done for the Portuguese community of Bermuda.”
Ms Moniz-DeSousa said a good start would be to tackle immigration reform and status problems in mixed-status families, which includes many of Portuguese descent.
She added: “While we understand that this is a tough issue to address and there needs to be a balance, this is an issue which greatly affects many children of all heritages and it has been prolonged unfairly for far too long.
Ms Moniz-DeSousa said Bermuda had no permanent resident population until 1609.
She added: “We are therefore all immigrants who have come from somewhere else. It is time, therefore, that we learn to understand and be appreciative of each other’s differences and struggles. We have to remain humane and have an appreciation for challenges.”
Ms Moniz-DeSouza also backed a move to teach Portuguese in schools and said that it should be the official second language.
She added: “Generally, aside from the reason that the world has become increasingly international, learning additional languages is empowering for any community as it can bring about not only the ability to communicate with family and friends but also career opportunities.
“Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world, after Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic.”
She was speaking after Mr Weeks, a former government minister now a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, called for a new approach to people of Portuguese descent.
He said: “I speak to the need for us, as a country, to be honest about the plight of the Portuguese-Bermudian, since their arrival to our shores.”
He added that discussions about Portuguese-Bermudians and their historically strained relationship with African-Bermudians should be held.
Mr Weeks said: “These are our brothers and sisters. Those who were our neighbours and family friends. We must right the wrong of external negative influences on our relationship with the Portuguese-Bermudians.
“There is no ‘us and them’; we are all an integral part of this island, Bermuda. We are all Bermudians. All of us worked together to build this country, no matter the divisive role many years ago, of the English-Bermudian.”
He said English-Bermudians should also acknowledge the part they played in the separation and “the African and Portuguese-Bermudians must accept their penance and extend a hand of reconciliation”.
He added it was “time to welcome our Portuguese-Bermudians home.”
Mr Weeks said Portuguese as a second language not only benefited those of Portuguese descent, but would be an acknowledgement of their contribution to the development of Bermuda.
He added: “The genuine inclusion of all Bermudians in this country will go a long way in bridging the divide fostered over many decades.”
Bryan Cabral, a Portuguese-Bermudian, said that “immigration should be first on the table” because many people, not only the Portuguese, were forced to leave for other countries although they were born in Bermuda.
He added: “I was born here, but I can’t be called Bermudian.”
Trevor Moniz, a backbencher for the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, said that the teaching of Portuguese in schools was important, but immigration reform was paramount.
Mr Moniz added: “We have these poor people here who have no right and this is their home. The Government has promised immigration reform, so we await that.”