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California Portuguese-American Coalition Leads a Delegation of California Legislators to the Azores

The California Portuguese-American Coalition (CPAC), sponsored by the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in collaboration with the Government of the Azores, though the office of the President, and the collaboration of the Regional Director for Azorean Communities, hosted a trip with three California legislators to the archipelago located in the North Atlantic and where the vast majority of Californians of Portuguese ancestry can trace their roots.

The 5-day trip included a visit to 3 islands and an array of meetings and workshops, to allow the three legislators and their guests to acquire an understanding of the modern Azores.

In São Miguel, the group visited some of the more famous tourist areas, as this industry is booming in this island and throughout the archipelago. A visit and workshop at the geothermic power production plant, with a discussion on renewable energies, and ways that the two regions can collaborate. A visit to the only tea pricing area in Europe, the Chá Gorreana, with time to exchange ideas with a group of legislators visiting from the state of Massachusetts. A visit to the hospitality school and restaurant, maintained by this school, with a discussion on how we can create culinary programs between the region and the Napa Valley area, as one example. A visit to local sites in Ponta Delgada, including the recently renovated synagogue. A tour of the new Center for Contemporary Arts in Ribeira Grande, with a discussion about the art exchanges that can occur. A stop and brief tour in Vila Franca do Campo and time, at dinner, to discuss the myriad of ways the Azores and California can collaborate in the future.

The visit to São Miguel also included a meeting with the President of the Government of the Azores, Vasco Cordeiro, along with Rui Bettencourt, Regional Secretary for External Relations. At this meeting, the legislators announced their intention to create a Friends of the Azores Caucus in the California State Senate and Assembly that will also entail community leaders as well as leaders in various industries, education and culture. The idea of a Friends of the Azores in the California legislature was well received. California will be the only state in the union with a caucus dedicated to the Azores. The California Portuguese-American Coalition (CPAC), has committed to assisting in this endeavor.

The trip included a 24-hour visit to the island of Faial. In this island the legislators and the CPAC delegation met with the President of the Azorean Regional Parliament, Ana Luís. During this meeting the legislators received a briefing on the workings of the Azorean Parliament. At this meeting Senator Henry Stern announced that he would reintroduce a Senate resolution that established a sister state relationship between the Azores and California, in 2002, with updated language and ideas for collaboration for the 21st century. Ana Luís, took time to compliment CPAC on the work it has done in its short 3 and half years of existence.

In Faial, the legislators had a workshop at the oceanography department of the University of the Azores and visited the Capelinhos volcano center. In both these areas a variety of issues where discussed, especially in the realm of collaboration between our state and the Azores, especially because of the commonalities between the two regions. In the Capelinhos Volcano Center, the legislators were able to learn about the Azorean Refugee Act and how the Portuguese communities in California have grown due to this act and the family reunification act. In Faial, the legislators visited a new rural tourism restaurant and golf center and at the restaurant Genuino were able to learn about his solitary circumnavigation around the world. Genuino Madruga is an awesome story teller.

In Terceira, another 24-hour visit. The delegation visited two technology centers, one in Praia da Vitória and one in Angra do Heroísmo, where they were able to see the advances that have been done in this important economic segment and new ways to collaborate with California were discussed. The legislators also met informally with the Mayor of the city of Angra do Heroísmo, Álamo Meneses and the Vice-Mayor of Praia da Vitória, Carlos Costa. During these informal meetings the legislators learned about the sister city programs that these two cities have with California cities and new ways to improve and promote these cultural and business exchanges were discussed.

In the island of Terceira, the delegation also had a meeting and tour of the Terceira campus of the University of the Azores. The important sector of Agriculture was discussed and future programs, with California State University, Fresno and University of California, Davis, were some of the items on the agenda. The legislators pledged to work with this campus to move some projects forward.

The delegation was composed of three legislators: Henry Stern, California State Senator, of Azorean ancestry through his maternal side of the family with surnames Matos and Pimentel, having emigrated from Faial island around 1850; Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Member of the California State Assembly, who paternal grandparents emigrated from the island of Terceira at the beginning of the 20th century and Rudy Salas, also a member of the California State Assembly, who has roots in the Iberia Peninsula and who represents a county with a rich Portuguese history, Kings county, where 3 of the 5 supervisors are Portuguese-American and who has introduced, for the last 3 years the Dia de Portugal resolution in the State Assembly.

The three legislators were accompanied by a delegation from CPAC, consisting of Diniz Borges, board president and executive director; Cliff Costa, CPAC director, Governmental affairs director for the New Car Dealers Association, as well as Sacramento liaison for CPAC and Michael Borges, Political Director for the California Teachers Association and CPAC collaborator. Also, on the trip, Angela Pontes, legislative director for Assembly member Aguiar-Curry, with roots in Terceira and Madeira, Diane Lee, Assembly Rudy Salas’ mother and Alexandra Kaufman-Stern, Senator Stern’s wife.

The visit was accompanied from beginning to end by Director Paulo Teves, whose dedication to the Azorean Diaspora has been more than evident in the various projects that he has put forth throughout his tenure at the Office of Azorean Communities. Director Paulo Teves and his staff, especially Telma Silva and Raquel Rodrigues, are to be congratulated and thanked for their work on behalf of this delegation.

Back in California the delegation, in collaboration with CPAC, are laying the groundwork for the Friends of the Azores caucus and working on an array of projects to put forth in order to accomplish the goal of having an ongoing, engaging and fruitful relationship between our state and the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

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