Welcoming the new Consul-General and reflecting on our community in the realm of public service
It is a pleasure to be here today to welcome our new Consul-General of Portugal in San Francisco, the honorable Pedro Pinto, to our most awesome state and to the San Joaquin Valley, where we have the largest concentration of Californians of Portuguese ancestry in the state, and a rich history that dates to the Gold Rush. I want to thank PFSA for allowing the California Portuguese-American Coalition to co-host this event. At CPAC and at PBBI, the Institute I direct at California State University, Fresno, as well the national organization that I’m on the board, PALCUS, here represented by our good friend John Bento, we are all about partnerships, for we believe their strength our community and they are the natural vehicle for our Portuguese Diaspora in the United States. So, a huge thanks to PFSA. I want to thank our California Portuguese-American board members that were able to be here today, Maria Hortensia Silveira, and Monique Kelly-Vallance, as well as the Portuguese American elected official, elected from the wonderful county of Merced, supervisor Lloyd Parreira. I want to thank all supporters and friends of our California Portuguese-American Coalition, such as the underwriting that we get from the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon, Portugal, PFSA, whose board of directors have been supportive of our cause, and among others here today, our good friend, Manuel Eduardo Vieira and his lovely wife Laurinda.
A few words about CPAC, the California Portuguese-American Coalition. Our mission is to unite elected officials and civic leaders in order to facilitate stronger collaboration in the advancement of the interests of the Portuguese-American community in California. We bring awareness of the various Californians of Portuguese ancestry, we have a list that is constantly updated, now with around 150 elected officials of Portuguese ancestry at all levels, local, county, state and national level in and from California. We are non-partisan, and our efforts concentrate on having more Portuguese-Americans to elected positions, and where there aren’t any Portuguese-Americans, establish a relationship with those in elected positions so that they understand who we are as a community. Our diaspora in California has deep roots, with the first Portuguese, as far as immigrant is concerned and according to the research of the late Eduardo Mayone Dias, António José da Rocha, arriving in 1814, well before California was a state. We will be commemorating the 210th anniversary of the arrival of Mr. António José da Rocha, from the province of Minho to California in a few years and we should commemorate it, maybe even the focal point of our Portuguese Immigrant Week in March, that PFSA does such a remarkable job coordinating. We have a strong history of public service in California. It was 121 years ago, on November 15, 1920, that John G. Matos Jr., won the election in District 46, with over 60% of the vote. Mattos was a first-generation California who had emigrated 20 years earlier from Faial in the Azores. He was the first Portuguese-Californian to be elected at a state level. Today we have two Portuguese-Americans in the state legislature, one in the Assembly and one in the State Senate, others are also beginning to identify as being part Portuguese. If we look at regions, the San Joaquin Valley by far is the area that has the largest number of those nearly 150 in elected position, from school boards to members of Congress. As all of you know, we have 3 members of Congress, in three adjacent districts that are Portuguese-Americans, so from Merced to Northern Bakersfield the Valley is represented, in the US Congress by Portuguese-Americans, who represent over 2 million Californians, less than 5% of them Portuguese-Americans. In the San Joaquim Valley we have two counties that have distinct records, Merced and Kings. Both of these counties have a majority of Portuguese-Americans as supervisors, both Kings and Merced, of the 5 supervisors, 3 are Americans of Portuguese ancestry. This is truly an accomplishment considering that they represent around 60% of the population of that county, and in both cases we, Portuguese-Americans are less than 10% of the population in those counties. These supervisors know how to build bridges with other ethnicities and bring out the best in our multicultural state. A source of pride for all of us. I will leave you with some thoughts about what lies ahead for the California Portuguese-American Coalition (CPAC) with the support of FLAD and our community. We hope to build upon the resolution that we put forth with the Portuguese-American legislators to continue to commemorate the day of the Azores, the Day of Portugal and June as Portuguese Heritage Month in California; continue with our annual Summit in Sacramento, hopefully with an in-person component; continue to update our elected officials list and begin a new list with those who are in nominated positions, planning commissions, superintendents of education, etc.; increase our Leadership Academy for Young Californians of Portuguese ancestry interested in leadership at all levels, because we also need to have more Portuguese-Americans in State Boards, public and private; continue to register our history in California public service; increase the number of panels and debates on issues that are important to all of us as citizens in a multicultural society; promote a much better understanding between elected officials of Portuguese-Ancestry in California and Portugal, including finding more areas of common ground and understanding, with a strong commitment to the Azores, where most Californians of Portuguese ancestry have their roots and are interesting in a robust collaboration, at all levels; and with the leadership of PBBI-Fresno State, and a coalition of all who are interested, we hope to have a voice, by designing a Portuguese-Californian component for the curricula that is being developed for the ethnic studies course that all California High School students must take starting in the 2024-2025 school year. We may all have different political persuasions, as we should, that is how democracies work. We aren’t a monolithic community and that is positive, but we should all, using a PALCUS theme: Unite through our Heritage. At the California Portuguese-American Coalition –CPAC-we believe as a friend of mine once said: in democracies, if you don’t have a set at the table, you will be the menu. Let’s take our seat. (Remarks made by Diniz Borges, CPAC-President at reception for Consul-General Pedro Pinto at PFSA-Modesto on Saturday, November 20, 2021)