Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Portuguese pause to honor heritage
By CINTIA FURTADO
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
PALM COAST — Marielena Diaz is only 10 years old, but she thinks about her ancestors.
Briana, 3, looks up at Marielana, 10, who performs the Portugese National Anthem at the Portugese American Cultural Center in Palm Coast, June 13, 2004, during Portugal Day which is celebrated all over the country. Julie, 6, is seen in the background holding a basket of sardines on her head. Sardines are a very big part of this holiday. (Photo: News-Journal/Joanna Kaney Olivari)
Palm Coast’s Portuguese American Club picnic Sunday to celebrate Portugal Day gave her a chance to learn a little more about her ancestry.
Dressed in traditional Portuguese clothing, Marielena said the special day “is a good way to express your culture, remember your ancestors and anyone from Portugal. It’s just a way to remember the lives of the people.”
People of Portuguese descent all over the world celebrated Dia de Portugal (Portugal Day) Sunday.
The Palm Coast club was founded in 1987, but this is the first year the Portugal Day celebration was in the club’s new Palm Harbor Parkway location. Traditional foods, such as sardines with broa (traditional bread) and febras (Portuguese-style steak), were served at the festivities.
Rosa Costa said Portugal Day, the food and the dancing make her feel closer to home.
“We Portuguese in foreign countries are more patriotic than the Portuguese in Portugal, because we are far away from our country, and we miss it,” Costa said. “To see the community together is a blessing.”
There was a great deal of laughter shared by Fernanda Pereira and her friends. She introduced most of them to Portuguese culture and food for the first time.
“I love it here,” Carlo Celico said. She said of the Portuguese, “They’re like the Italians. Family is important.”
Antonio Amaral, president and one of the founders of the Palm Coast club, moved to Palm Coast in 1981. He said back then there were only six people of Portuguese descent in town. The community has grown to about 2,000 people.
“There are a lot of youth in this neighborhood; it’s good to keep the tradition of our grandparents and parents,” he said.
Amaral and many other people lived up north before they moved to Florida.
Fausto da Silva said the quality of life in Florida is better than in northern states.
“Life in Florida is easy. There’s a lot of things to do, like fishing,” da Silva said.
He also said he finds the warmer weather attractive, as well as the slower pace. “Up north, life is more on the go,” he said, “and here is more quiet.”
Tomas Marin of Cuba and his wife, Luisa, of the Dominican Republic, moved to Palm Coast six months ago. They said they joined the club because they enjoy being friends with Portuguese and other immigrants.
Natalia dos Santos was watching her three daughters, who were decked out in Portuguese folk dress, sing and dance during the picnic. The family moved to Palm Coast in October. Twelve-year-old Lurdes dos Santos said she does not feel different because of her heritage. She said the jokes other children make do not affect her at all.
“Some people say I’m ‘pork and cheese’ and I correct them,” she said. “I say I’m proud of what I am.”
Did You Know?
Portugal is slightly smaller than Indiana in area and has a population of more than 10 million people.
About 5,000 years ago, Iberians became the first known inhabitants of what is now Portugal.
The Romans gained the right to the Iberian Peninsula after the Second Punic War in 201 B.C. They called the town of present-day Porto Portus Cale, which eventually became Portugal.
Thousands of people make a pilgrimage each year to the town of Fatima where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to three children in 1917.
Of those who practice religion in Portugal, 94 percent are Roman Catholic.
In 1974, a revolution overthrew the dictatorship government, which had ruled the country for decades. By 1976, the country held its first free general elections in more than 50 years.
Compiled by News Researcher Megan Gallup. SOURCES: CIA World Factbook 2003, World Book Encyclopedia