Azores president welcomed to island
Crowds of Portuguese residents gathered to cheer and wave flags to welcome the president of the Azores government to Bermuda today.
Vasco Cordeiro touched down in Bermuda as part of celebrations leading up to the public holiday on Monday to celebrate 170 years since the first arrival of Portuguese immigrants to the island.
A crowd at LF Wade International Airport, many draped in flags and accompanied by their Bermudian-born children, waited to greet him.
Antonio Cabral, a 32-year resident of Bermuda who came to the island from São Miguel in the Azores in 1987, said: “I’ve come for my president.”
Mr Cabral, who works for a cleaning company, said he had come to Bermuda for work opportunities and stayed on.
Maria, his wife, said: “It is very special — it’s our president, somebody very important to us. I would love to welcome him here to our Bermuda — it’s where we live, even though we don’t forget.”
Mrs Cabral added: “I try to go back every year. I will go this month — my husband has not been there in nine years but this year we are going together.”
The couple had three children in Bermuda and said they felt as though they had “two homes”.
Mrs Cabral said: “I feel like my heart is divided. I tell my kids all the time, this is your land — you were born here, and where you are born you never forget.
“I came here at 23, so I didn’t forget my home. For my kids, it’s the same. This is their home.”
José DeCouto stood nearby with a Bermuda flag draped over his shoulder and holding a Portuguese flag.
Mr DeCouto, who has worked for 25 years at Dunkley’s Dairy, said: “If I can, I will give him a hug. He is doing a great job.”
He added: “I am in love with the Azores. I love going there. It gives me peace. Every time I go back there, I feel different. There, you feel like you are in heaven.”
He said the celebrations were “a great thing for Portuguese people — I am very proud to be Portuguese”.
Mr DeCouto added: “We are hard working people and I am very glad that we have done this. It would be nice if we could every year, but I’m not going to push that.”
Mr DeCouto’s family came from Ribeira Grande in the Azores, but his Bermuda roots run deep.
His great aunt came to the island in the late 1940s, followed by his grandfather, who worked at the Gibbons family estate, Palm Grove, in Devonshire.
Mr DeCouto said: “He in turn brought my father here in 1967. He could not bring his family. But the law changed in 1968. I came with my mother and two sister, and I have been here ever since.”
He said he regarded both Bermuda and the Azores as home.
Mr DeCouto added: “I have two homes — here and there. I go every year and spend a month, and when I turn 60 I will spend six months here and six months there. The Azores is absolutely beautiful.”
Many in the crowd sang “Azores” and broke into cheers as Mr Cordeiro came through Customs to greet them.
The president was met by Walter Roban, the deputy premier and home affairs minister, and left in a motorcade for a visit this afternoon to John Rankin, the Governor.
According to a spokeswoman for Government House, Mr Rankin and Mr Cordeiro’s discussions included the historical connection between Bermuda and the Azores, and how the relationship between our two countries remains strong and vibrant.
Mr Rankin said: “It was a pleasure to meet president Cordeiro and to welcome him to Bermuda. The links between Bermuda and the Azores are important from both an historical and present-day perspective.
“Since their arrival 170 years ago, the members of the Portuguese and Azorean community have made an important economic and social contribution to life in Bermuda.
“Today, the community is a vital part of what makes Bermuda a unique place and I hope that the Portuguese Day holiday will be an opportunity to recognise, celebrate and strengthen the ties between us.”
Celebrations start tonight in Hamilton, where a block party sponsored by the Vasco da Gama Club will highlight Portuguese culture and cuisine from 6pm to midnight.
The bash on Reid Street, between Burnaby and Parliament Streets, includes Gombeys and dance groups with music and family entertainment.
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