On Monday, Tricia Bergeron of Edgartown, Catherine Deese of Oak Bluffs, and Donna Montession of Vineyard Haven celebrated the 34th annual Heritage Day at the Massachusetts Statehouse as guests of State Rep. Dylan Fernandes.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, president of Portugal, was in attendance with the Massachusetts Portuguese caucus, of which Fernandes is a member.
“Many Vineyarders trace their heritage to mainland Portugal and the Azores because their ancestors came here for our whaling, fishing, and farming industries,” Fernandes said in a press release. “It was a joy to bring Portuguese residents from the Vineyard to join in what is a truly historic day at the state house, with a very rare official state visit from the president of Portugal.”
Gov. Charlie Baker joined the Massachusetts Portuguese caucus in welcoming President de Sousa.
Portugal’s president spoke in the House chambers, and advocated for tolerance on immigration.
“Nobody lives alone in the world. This is a multilateral world, not a unilateral world. That’s the way it is,” President de Sousa said, according to a release. “I cannot understand how one can have its own people migrating and not accept other people migrating.”
Reached by The Times on Tuesday, Fernandes said he found President de Sousa’s visit a moving experience.
“To me the day was really personal,” he said. “My ancestors came over from the Azores in search of a better life, and they settled in East Falmouth to become farmers.”
The Portuguese Caucus at the state house honors residents across the state every year for their contributions to advancing Portuguese heritage in their communities.