Portuguese community ‘still not accepted’
Bermuda is still yet to shed its longstanding discrimination against the Portuguese community, the Honorary Consul for Portugal has claimed.
Andrea Moniz-DeSouza said that historical tensions and political skulduggery were among the causes behind the continued inequality.
Meanwhile, radio personality Christine Francisco urged the Bermuda Government to fulfil its promise to introduce Portuguese in schools to help that community become “accepted”.
Both spoke to The Royal Gazette following the release of the report Racial Dynamics in Bermuda in the 21st Century: Progress and Challenges by Keith Lawrence and Raymond Codrington, which focused on disparities between the Island’s white and black communities. However, the report also acknowledged centuries-old prejudices against those of Portuguese descent.
These began with the influx of migrants from the Azores and Cape Verde Islands to perform low-skilled and low-paid jobs such as agricultural labour.
“Portuguese immigrants experienced racial discrimination in the forms of restrictive quotas, occupational segregation and exclusion from certain social clubs,” the report said.
The paper also claimed that “Portuguese-ness” was “forged in contrast to the dominant white standard” and potentially fell “in between” whiteness and blackness as constructs. Dr Lawrence and Dr Codrington concluded that negative attitudes towards the community may still exist.
“I definitely identify with the comments being made,” said Mrs Moniz-DeSouza. “I see where they’re coming from and I tend to agree.
“I think throughout history the Portuguese community has been made to feel in a sense that they didn’t belong in Bermuda and they should go back home.”
She claimed that this pervasive attitude led to many Portuguese people changing their surnames and not passing on their language or traditions to their children, in an attempt to fit in.
As a result, Mrs Moniz-DeSouza said it was impossible to tell for certain how many people of Portuguese descent remain on the Island, although research suggests it may be around 25 per cent of the population.
“In high school I had someone who once told me to ‘go back home’,” she said, adding that there is a lack of Portuguese acceptance from both the black and white communities in Bermuda.
“I also think that people tend to think Portuguese aren’t intellectual people, and that the jobs reserved for them are as gardeners and cleaners.
“We’re definitely trying to push that it’s OK to be Portuguese. We’re not less than anyone else,” added Mrs Moniz-DeSouza, who is also president of the charity Amigos da Casa dos Açores da Bermuda (Friends of the House of the Azores of Bermuda), which aims to promote, preserve and celebrate Azorean culture and history in Bermuda.
She also suggested that those in power should step up their efforts to redress the balance.
“The politicians really need to stop trying to divide Bermuda’s people for their own political agenda,” she said.
“That’s the only way we’re going to drop the whole ‘me, you, them’ mentality and come together. Anyone in Bermuda should be proud of their ancestry, and we are too.”
Ms Francisco, who presents the Portuguese music show Radio Lusitano Bermuda on Ocean 89.1FM, spoke of the need to teach children Portuguese.
“They’ve promised it for the longest time, so it’s about time they kept their word,” she said.
“The business world has accepted us — Portuguese is now an option on ATM machines — and the younger generation are very accepting, but there is still a hardcore old-school of people who criticise us.
“If the politicians really want us to be accepted, let’s get the language in the schools and make it a number one priority.”