“It is a community that is often forgotten because here it
is almost all Azorean and only the Azores are spoken about,” Professor Diniz
Borges, who directs the Institute (PBBI) at the State University of California
at Fresno, told Lusa.
“We need to hold more meetings and colloquiums and learn
more about the Madeiran community”, he said.
“Besides the traditional festivities, such as the Bom Jesus
Milagroso festival, little is known about the Madeiran community and it will be
interesting to get to know them”.
It is a community that has a strong presence in San Diego,
in Hayward (San Francisco Bay Area) and in some towns in the San Joaquim
Valley, said the professor.
“There is the particularity of many Luso-Americans I talk to
from Madeira, many from the third and fourth generations, having come here
through Hawaii”, explained Diniz Borges, referring that these conversations
were the basis of the idea for the initiative.
“Madeira is not talked about much. I think there is a lack
of a uniting force, a national platform”.
At launch, the initiative has four personalities linked to
the Madeiran diaspora as advisers, from various parts of California: the former
president of PALCUS (Luso-American Leadership Council) John Bento, from Sacramento,
Maria José Rodrigues, who is writing the history from the Portuguese presence
in San Diego, Maria Isabel Camacho, who emigrated two decades ago and is based
in Hayward, and Inês Eiras, who is involved in the community in the east San
Francisco Bay Area.
The organization is also in talks with two people from the
city of Lemoore, in Kings County, where there are some families of Madeiran
As part of the launch of the Madeira Diaspora Initiative,
the PBBI will send a letter to the Regional Government of Madeira to establish
a closer relationship with the executive.
“We are also going to start making contacts between the
University of Madeira and [the University] Fresno State to see if there is a
possible agreement for colloquiums that have more in focus the presence of the
Madeiran diaspora in the United States, in addition to the possibility of
student exchange”, said Diniz Borges.
The initial objective is to organize two events in the first
half of this year and record about half a dozen oral histories.
At a national level, the program aims for two to four events
per year aimed at the present and future of the Portuguese community from
Madeira in the United States.
Although a minority in the Portuguese-American community as
a whole, the professor stressed, the Madeiran diaspora has many stories of
interest that the PBBI wants to highlight in 2023.
The Institute has the support of the Luso-American
Foundation for Development (FLAD) and will mark its fourth anniversary at a
commemorative event on February 21st.