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Portuguese welcome new public holiday

Honouring contribution: David Burt, the Premier, with Andrea Moniz-DeSouza, Bermuda’s Honorary Portuguese Consul (Photograph supplied)

Bermuda’s Portuguese community was “ecstatic” after it was announced yesterday that a public holiday next year will mark the 170th anniversary of the arrival of the first immigrants from Madeira.

Andrea Moniz-DeSouza, the Honorary Portuguese Consul, was in Parliament to hear David Burt declare the commemorations for November 4, 2019.

Ms Moniz-DeSouza said: “I am stunned, in a very pleasant way. Like any other minority in Bermuda, we are always looking to be acknowledged and accepted.

“Being acknowledged and having the Government thank us for the contribution to the island of many generations of Portuguese people makes us very happy.”

She said: “It comes at an important time. After the election, you couldn’t help but feel we were a bit divided. I appreciate what the Premier is trying to do and we are hoping this is only the beginning.”

Bermuda’s links to Portugal date back at least to 1543, a year marked in an inscription on a rock near Spittal Pond made by shipwrecked Portuguese sailors.

Next year’s event will commemorate the November 1849 arrival of Portuguese people from the island of Madeira aboard the Golden Rule.

Local agriculture had gone into decline and Bermuda had to find agricultural workers in the wake of the abolition of slavery in 1834.

The Premier told MPs that later Portuguese immigrants came mostly from the Azores.

He said: “From the original families and those subsequent immigrations, Portuguese culture has become a part of Bermuda’s cultural fabric.”

He said that fostering understanding of Bermuda’s racial relationships had been part of the Progressive Labour Party’s 2017 electoral platform.

Mr Burt added: “This Government is a government for everyone, and we are determined to forge a society where our differences are celebrated.

“We must have meaningful inclusion if we are to chart a future of success for our children and future generations.

“This is consistent with the ideals of the founders of the PLP who, when Portuguese people in this country did not have a voice, spoke on their behalf, never more powerfully than on the issue of long-term residency.”

A series of events to accompany the anniversary might include an official visit from representatives of the Azores and Madeira.

Mr Burt added the celebration could also include a sporting event with a visiting team and the installation of a commemorative plaque.

To read David Burt’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”