Bermuda’s Portuguese honoured
A much needed day off tomorrow. Work has been intense and ceaseless all year and not having a proper holiday has bitten me on my waning arse. On Monday Bermuda closes for one of it’s more fanciful national holidays, but a very worthwhile one as it chooses to honour the Portuguese on the island celebrating 170 years of Portuguese culture.
The timing is, in typical Bermuda government fashion, a little random, but the Portuguese have given a lot to this little island, including making regular naval visits in the 1500’s before it was settled by the English in 1612.
The first Portuguese settlers (58 men, women and children) came to Bermuda from Madeira in 1849 as farm labourers. After WWII there was large immigration from Portugal’s Atlantic islands – if you draw a straight line on a map eastwards from Bermuda, the Azores is the first landmass you come across, and almost every Bermudian/Portuguese I’ve met has roots in the Azores, which I’m told is beautiful and vastly larger in size and population than here.
About 25% of the people in Bermuda claim Portuguese heritage, and for an island that has wrestled with slavery and racial divides, the Portuguese have been discriminated against terribly by white and black Bermudians, even as recent as the 1980’s, and still today most of the labour intensive jobs here are done by the Portuguese, and usually with a huge smile on their faces.
Still many thousands live here without any Bermudian status or rights to citizenship, but recognizing their importance and the undoubted impact they have made on Bermuda in so many ways is a good leap forward.
There has been a range of celebratory festivals and parties over the weekend. The Azorian President Vasco Cordeiro is here as well, and on Monday morning the Botanical Gardens hosts an official ceremony with a tree planting and the unveiling of monument plaque. Quite apt really as every landscaper and gardener here appears to be of Portuguese descent.
Making the most of not having to get up tomorrow, we have invited friends over tonight and I will make a few Portuguese dishes and crack open some port. Ã sua saúde.