Listing the numerous contributions that the Portuguese have made to Guyana’s development, President David Granger cited this as one of the reasons that the Coalition government has dedicated a day, to celebrate “our Portuguese sisters and brothers.”
The Head of State made this observation today while delivering the feature address at a ceremony, held at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, to commemorate the 183rd anniversary of the arrival of Portuguese indentured immigrants.
“This nation was not built by one ethnic group, but by all persons who came to this country and who they met,” President Granger said.
Highlighting the contributions made by persons of Portuguese origin, he explained that “they were able to move very quickly into the retail trade…within a very short period after their arrival. They quit the cane fields forever and had established themselves in commerce and industry… apart from being property owners, they were provision and commission merchants, spare shop owners, importers, bot and show makers, wood cutters, wick makers…a wide range of skills.”
The Head-of-State related the history of the 40 Madeira immigrants who came back in 1835 when the Louisa Baillie docked in the Demerara.
The approaching abolition of slavery throughout the British created a labour gap, which saw the indentured Madeiran workers coming to British Guiana. Sugar was nothing new to them since it was being cultivated since 1452 in Madeira. By 1500, the island had become the world’s largest producer of sugar.
The president said “it was a time of demographic transformation of Guyanese society. In 1838, over 80,000 Africans were emancipated from the system of enslavement and over the next 80 years, over 340,000 Africans, Chinese, Indians and Europeans and West Indians came here.” Within a very short period of time “not only were 80,000 Africans freed, but over 340,000 persons came here.”
President Granger said the Portuguese were responsible, primarily, for the establishment and extension of Roman Catholicism. They retained their language throughout the nineteenth century and a number of Portuguese newspapers kept the immigrants in touch with events in Madeira.
Michael Correia JR, Honorary Consul of Portugal, said that although Portuguese descendants pay tribute to their ancestors, they should “lay claim to our identity that we are Guyanese first and foremost, and we have a land to build.”
Portuguese Arrival Day has been celebrated on May 3 since 2015, to acknowledge the contribution of the Portuguese immigrants.
By: Zanneel Williams.