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Portuguese welcome new holiday

Portugal supporters flock to local pub for the big game (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The island’s Portuguese population said they hoped a public holiday on November 4 next year to mark the first arrival of people from Madeira is a step towards a more inclusive approach.

Milton Raposo, a video producer of Portuguese descent, said the announcement came as a surprise.

He explained: “In the last several years, the Progressive Labour Party haven’t been known to be an inclusive body and have mostly relied on inward nationalist policies to convey certain messages they had at that moment.

“Having said that, if this is a change of direction and a genuine indication of inclusivity from the leadership, then I applaud Premier [David] Burt.”

Mr Raposo is the creator of the film project Fabric, which is designed to focus on the history of the Portuguese in Bermuda.

He said recognition of the impact the Portuguese made in helping to shape modern Bermuda was overdue.

Mr Raposo added: “I don’t know if that manifests as a public holiday, a statue or some other means.”

Alicia Davis predicted the Portuguese community would have mixed views on the holiday announcement.

Ms Davis, whose family own Café Acoreano, said: “You’re going to have people that are proud of this and think it’s a great thing and they’re just going to leave it at that.”

She added others would feel more should be done to deal with immigration problems.

Ms Davis said: “There are people that feel scorned having to send their children who have been born and brought up here back to the Azores.”

She said she believed the announcement would be seen as a possible “first step” to addressing problems such as the need for immigration reform.

Paul Franco, president of Vasco da Gama Club in Hamilton, said that the organisation welcomed the announcement.

Mr Franco added: “Portuguese-Bermudians have made their mark over the generations, becoming an important part of Bermuda’s social fabric. It is therefore important to recognise their contributions, which this public holiday will do.”

He said the club hoped the one-off holiday would serve as a further step in the direction of “greater collaboration” between Bermuda, Portugal and the Azores.

Mr Franco added: “We note that this announcement comes two years after an historic memorandum of understanding was signed between the Azores and Bermuda, which sought to formalise the historical, cultural, educational, environmental and commercial ties that unite the two communities.

“As a longstanding pillar of the Portuguese community, with a protocol in place with the Acorean Government, the club stands at the ready to support the Government wherever we can.”

Mr Franco said the organisation looked forward to working with the Government on a host of issues to bring about “more meaningful inclusion”, including immigration reform, greater recognition for the Portuguese language and greater promotion of Portuguese culture in Bermuda.

Zane DeSilva, a PLP MP, said last week’s announcement of the holiday was “phenomenal”.

Mr DeSilva added that the move was a “great reachout” by the PLP government.

He said: “I think it shows we do want to embrace and we do recognise all cultures that live in the island because we’re a melting pot at the end of the day.”

Mr DeSilva said credit was due to the late Dame Lois Browne-Evans, a PLP politician and Attorney-General in the party’s first government, who “fought for the Portuguese people” in the 1990s.

He added: “There was certainly a movement, for lack of a better word, to send a lot of Portuguese back home.”

Mr DeSilva said worries over immigration policy were not confined to the Portuguese community.

He added that Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, had immigration reform “very much on his agenda”.

Mr DeSilva said: “I believe the PLP has certainly made it known that we are for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Trevor Moniz, shadow Attorney-General, added the holiday announcement was “bittersweet”.

Mr Moniz said immigration remained the “big issue”.

He added: “It’s like it’s your birthday and you’re expecting a cake, and someone gives you a tin of icing.

“There’s got to be justice for these people. “Until there’s justice, what is there to celebrate?”

Mr Moniz said that there needed to be “substance” attached to the holiday.

He added: “I’m hopeful that there will be some substantive relief for the injustices of people sitting out there who are members of this community and at the present moment don’t have any rights.

“I’m not so much into holidays and parades — I’m more into the substance of people’s human rights.”