01 Jun 2018

New Public Holiday For Bermuda November 4th 2019

Mr. Speaker, from her earliest origins, Bermuda has always been a mix of people with roots in other countries. We are unique in the world as we have no true native people. We all came from somewhere else and have individually and collectively committed to this series of islands called Bermuda. Bermudians are rightly proud of their heritage and the ability to trace family ties to the Caribbean, Europe, South America and of course Africa. This diversity in our lineage made the theme for this year’s Heritage Month especially important. “What We Share” reflects the commonality we have achieved in spite of our differences.

Mr. Speaker 4th November 2019 will mark the 170th anniversary of the arrival of Portuguese immigrants in Bermuda. Honourable Members will be aware that those first immigrants arrived from Madeira aboard the vessel the Golden Rule on 4th November 1849.   After a 21-day voyage, 35 men, 16 women and 7 children arrived to work principally as farm labourers.   Although these first immigrants were from Madeira, Honourable Members will also be aware that subsequently, the majority of Portuguese immigrants would come primarily from the Azores.

​Bermudians of Portuguese heritage have made considerable contributions to the Island. Every aspect of Bermudian life - from politics and public service, to sport, entertainment and industry has been influenced by their participation in our community. From the original families and those subsequent immigrants, Portuguese culture has become a part of Bermuda’s cultural fabric.

​Mr. Speaker, in the Progressive Labour Party’s 2017 Platform we undertook to “..bring about greater understanding of racial relationships and diversity.”   This undertaking has been distilled into a Vision within the 2018 Operating Plan for the Bermuda Public Service which seeks to foster a Bermuda where “..Culture and historical legacy is valued, preserved and sustained.” In the years since the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants, Bermudian families have been educated with, played sports with and married into families of Portuguese heritage.   The resultant ‘melting pot’ has expanded the reach of Portuguese culture in the community and makes the recognition of this milestone anniversary significant to a wide cross section of Bermudian society.

​Therefore, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House and the public that with the approval of the Cabinet I have confirmed with the Governor that he will, by proclamation, declare 4th November 2019 a public holiday to mark this 170th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants in Bermuda.

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. Mr. Speaker, this is consistent with the ideals of the founders of the Progressive Labour Party 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.

Mr. Speaker, many people of various ethnic origins have made Bermuda what it is today. Lest we forget, the tortured legacy of those of us of Afro-Caribbean descent is that our ancestors were enslaved, endured prejudice and systemic injustice. Observances, such as the one we will recognise next year, should sharpen the focus on our own legacies and challenge us to refresh our existing holidays, commemorations and education to ensure that our children know the full history of our island home and embrace the fact that they are heirs to a proud struggle and can proclaim their ancestry with dignity.

​This early announcement of the public holiday to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants will permit the development of a series of events connected with the observance. The events may include, but are not limited to, an official visit to Bermuda of a Government delegation from the Azores and/or Madeira, a sporting interface or competition involving a visiting team, the designation of a space to display a commemorative plaque, and commemorative services and receptions.

I would also like to recognise the presence of the Portuguese Honourable Consul, Mrs. Andrea Moniz-DeSouza.

​Mr. Speaker, Bermuda can be proud of its rich history and the various groups who have contributed to our growth and success. This is a unique occasion and this celebration will further exemplify ‘What We Share’ as a community.

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