Portuguese history is important, says writer
A writer and researcher said better education about the impact of Portuguese people on Bermuda is needed.
Sandra Rouja said the contribution of people of Portuguese heritage to Bermuda had been overlooked in schools.
She added: “I think the Portuguese language should be offered as an option for students in school, I don’t see it as mandatory, that always brings up issues, but it could be offered or in conjunction with doing another language.
“I think the Government should at least see if there is enough interest to do it, it is not offered in schools, Vasco Da Gama has vocal teachers, but I would like the schools to offer it.
“I also think a year, or even a term, of history should be offered and maybe film or something to whet appetites so the students start to look at the Portuguese in Bermuda.
“There are a lot of young people who have Portuguese ancestors even and they don’t know a lot of their history because they are not being taught it. They function at every single level from gardeners to politicians to lawyers, doctors, artists, dancers accountants … people in every single profession in Bermuda.
“It is not just the Portuguese — a lot of people don’t realise how integrated the Portuguese decedents are in Bermuda and how we are included in the diaspora of Bermudians.
“We are talking about 170 years of Portuguese influence in Bermuda and of contributing to our economy and ethic.”
Ms Rouja was speaking as the island prepared to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants to Bermuda with a public holiday on Monday and a series of events.
Ms Rouja, whose background is British and Portuguese and has ancestors who arrived from the Azores in the 1880s, wrote the first Bermuda Government-funded book in English and Portuguese.
The book, I Sing of the Sea/Canto do Mar, published in 2013, was inspired by her love of the natural world and has been used in Bermuda’s public and private schools for a variety of subjects, including social studies.
Michael Weeks, a former government minister, now a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, earlier this year called for a new approach to people of Portuguese descent.
He said it was “time to welcome our Portuguese-Bermudians home”.
Mr Weeks said the teaching of Portuguese as a second language in schools would benefit children of Portuguese descent and help highlight their contribution to the country.
Ms Rouja has written several other books including Happy Days in Bermuda, for children, and The Saint George Dream, a collection of short stories.
She has also contributed to anthologies, magazines and has lectured on writing and family history.
She worked for a decade in the Bermuda National Archives as a researcher and curator which helped stimulate her interest in storytelling and history.
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