Georgetown, Guyana (May 3, 2019) President David Granger, this afternoon, reminded that the designation of ‘Arrival Days’ was not done to segregate or separate cultures, but to ensure that all Guyanese have a better awareness and appreciation for the unique cultures that make us Guyanese.
“I proclaimed 3rd May ‘Portuguese Arrival Day’ by public ‘notice’ on the 27th February 2017. I didn’t do this to separate or segregate but more importantly to integrate the nation more fully by creating greater awareness of each other’s cultures and by engendering respect through knowledge. Portuguese Arrival Day therefore celebrates the contributions of the original Portuguese immigrants– called Madeirenses in earlier times. Their contributions to the nation’s economy, its multicultural character and political evolution have benefitted all of us,” President Granger said.
The President was at the time speaking at the second annual Portuguese Arrival Day ceremony organised by the Ministry of Social Cohesion and held at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Main Street.
The Portuguese culture, he said, has permeated and enriched Guyana’s diverse social tapestry. Portuguese indentured immigration starting in 1835, three years before African Emancipation in 1838, was intended to provide labour on the plantations in anticipation of an expected labour shortage as a consequence of the Emancipation of enslaved Africans, he said.
“This did not happen. There was no shortage. There was no great exodus from the plantations. Most Africans continued to work and, by 1838, were to be supplemented by East Indian indentured immigrants on the plantations and day after tomorrow, 5th May, we celebrate Indian Arrival Day and National arrival day at Palmyra on the Corentyne,” the Head of State said.
The President, who was accompanied by First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger and joined by Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, his wife, Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo; Ministers Dr. Karen Cummings, Dawn Hastings-Williams, Basil Williams, SC., Dr. George Norton, Simona Broomes and Keith Scott said that it was African Emancipation that “created conditions propitious for Portuguese enterprise”.
“The village movement, the enlarged liberated population, the introduction of wage labour, the introduction of coinage, the opening of banks and the diversification of the economy expanded opportunities for the supply of goods for household and personal use. Enterprising Portuguese filled this demand by venturing into huckstering and by establishing retail shops in rural and urban areas,” the President stated.
President Granger noted too that the Portuguese made the most of the opportunities available to expand and diversify their businesses and they became bakers, cobblers, brick-makers, cattle-ranchers, charcoal-dealers, coach-builders, fishers, importers, merchants, photographers, pork-knockers, saddlers, shoemakers, spirit shop owners and timber merchants.
“The Portuguese promotion of kinship and social responsibility contributed to their success,” the President added while noting that the Portuguese founded benevolent societies, some of which are still in existence to assist the destitute, widows and orphans.
“They left a rich legacy in the creative arts through the founding of musical bands, the hosting of musical concerts and recitals and dramatic productions. Persons of Portuguese origin have excelled in all areas of national life,” President Granger said.
He reminded those gathered at the simple ceremony, of some Portuguese who have contributed significantly to Guyana: academics Elsa Gouveia and Sister Mary Noel Menezes; architect, Albert Rodrigues; aviators Roland da Silva and Gerald Gouveia; businessmen, John and Christopher Fernandes and Peter D’ Aguiar; attorneys Bernard De Santos and David de Caires; legislators, Eugene Correia and Francis Dias; optician Jose da Silva; priests Fr. Malcolm Rodrigues and Louis da Silva; broadcaster, Olga Lopes-Seale; sports personalities Eddie Caetano and Stephen Comacho and cane farmer Joseph Vieira as well as distinguished journalist and public relations consultant Christopher ‘Kit’ Nascimento.
“The Portuguese, though a demographic minority, and by making the most of the opportunities with which they were provided, ensured that their contributions remain indelible up to this day. Guyana’s economy has been made stronger and its culture richer for their contributions,” said the Head of State who noted that the presence of the Portuguese in Guyana has provided many useful lessons.
He noted that the experience is instructive as “we aim now to create a more sustainable management of our economic resources and to provide a good life for everyone” while adding that Portuguese Arrival Day is “a reminder, most particularly, of the struggle which all migrants faced and a recognition of their role in the whole nation without which Guyana would be a very different place”.
Meanwhile, Honorary Consul for Portugal to Guyana, Mr. Michael Correia expressed appreciation to President Granger for designating a day to commemorate the arrival of not only Portuguese but all immigrants. “It has now become a tradition for us to celebrate the history and heritage of our six peoples who together populate our country as an independent, growing and developing nation,” Correia stated.
Mr. Correia reminded that regardless of ethnic makeup, all are Guyanese. “Each of our six people have its unique character and composition, cultural and religious but each combine to make a new heritage, Guyanese which flows from this dear land of Guyana. Our Madeiran Portuguese descendants have proudly played significant and distinguished roles in every sphere of this country’s development and continue to do so in politics, commerce, literature, arts and in religion even though we are small in numbers,” he stated.
Portuguese indentured immigration began on May 3, 1835 when the first 40 migrants arrived in British Guiana aboard the ship “Louisa Baille” after a 78-day voyage via London, England.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland and members of the Diplomatic Corps also attended this afternoon’s ceremony.