Commemorating Dia De Portugal
HON. PATRICK J. KENNEDY
OF RHODE ISLAND
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 10, 1996
Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Speaker, today is celebrated throughout the world as the Dia de Portugal.
Every year on June 10, people of Portuguese descent around the world honor their heritage on Dia de Portugal ("Day of Portugal"). This is a time for all friends of Portugal to pause and consider the many achievements of that great nation over the centuries and to celebrate the cultural traditions, practices, and customs of Portugal.
June 10 is the date of birth of Portugal's greatest poet, Luis de Camoens, who lived from 1524 to 1580.
He is the author of the Portuguese national epic, "The Lusiads," published in 1572. In this grand poem, Camoens did for the Portuguese language what Chaucer did for English and what Dante did for Italian.
As well, he gave eloquent expression to the deepest and highest aspirations of the Portuguese people.
Millions of Americans are proud of their Portuguese heritage, and millions more are enriched by living in neighborhoods and communities which are defined by the dynamic presence of Portuguese-Americans.
My State of Rhode Island has one of the largest Portuguese-American populations in our country. The ties between Rhode Island and Portugal go back to the very origins of our State, and the contributions made by the Portuguese can be seen every day.
Portuguese explorers dared to cross the oceans in search of new frontiers, and thanks to that courage, our Nation is enriched by traditions brought by the sons and daughters of Portugal.
Whether it was from Dighton Rock in 1502, the Touro Synagogue in 1658, or by whaling ships in the 1830's, the Portuguese undoubtedly were among the very first immigrants to settle on our shores.
Unfortunately, anti-immigrant fervor brought Portuguese immigration down to a trickle after 1921.
But there was an exception made in 1958, when President Eisenhower signed legislation introduced by then-Senator John F. Kennedy that allowed families affected by the volcanic eruption in the Azores to come to America.
In 1965, President Johnson fulfilled President Kennedy's dream and signed legislation lifting the discriminatory Quota Act. Once again, New England could open its arms to the Portuguese. Lifting the quota allowed many families to reunite, and bring together many generations.
At a time when the family is under great strain, and too often breaking under that strain, the example of family unity set by the Portuguese is a profound lesson for all of us.
Everywhere Rhode Islanders turn, the Portuguese presence is seen. It is seen in the dozens of social clubs throughout our State. It is felt in the excitement of the Feshta and the dignity of the religious procession. It is represented here today by community leaders who are from all walks of life.
This contribution is felt in many other States and hundreds of communities across this Nation.
Portugal is a close and valued ally.
Trade between our two nations is active and will surely grow. The recently completed Agreement on Cooperation and Defense provides for continued access to the Lajes Air Base in the Azores, as well as cooperation in nonmilitary matters. This base was critical to supporting our troops in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
Portugal's economy is making tremendous progress, and soon the world will see the growth that has taken place in recent years. In 1998, Portugal will host the World Expo. The topic for Expo 1998 is: "The Oceans: A Heritage for Our Future."
Expo 1998 will provide an ideal opportunity for Portugal to showcase its thriving industry while at the same time celebrating its uniquely rich heritage in ocean exploration. I am pleased that the United States will be participating in this event, and I congratulate the House for having earlier voted in favor of this participation.
Today is a day for us to celebrate the contributions made to the United States by the Portuguese community. It is a time for us to celebrate the ties between the United States and Portugal. This is a relationship with a great history, and promising future.