Marcelo visits communities in California thirsty for more connection

“PIt’s been a while since the president of Portugal has come to California and spent so much time here, so I think the community, in general, is very excited about the visit,” said Portuguese-descended Angela Simoas, until recently president of the Luso-American Leadership Council (PALCUS).

The official emphasized that there are two areas of great importance to the community, namely the teaching of the Portuguese language and the improvement of consular services, and the need for more support from the Portuguese authorities in this regard.

With about 347,000 Portuguese-Americans, the West Coast’s largest nation has communities concentrated in key points the president will visit on the route, which includes San Diego, Artesia (near Los Angeles), San Jose and San Francisco, with stops through key Central Valley communities of Turlock and Gustin.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to meet the president and, if the room isn’t too crowded, to have a few words with him,” community leader Zachary Ramos, a member of Gustin’s school board, told Lusa.

The village is very active in Portuguese traditions and has long been known as having one of the largest Portuguese parties in the United States.

Gustin’s Portuguese GPS Hall, which the president will visit, is one of about a hundred Portuguese halls spread across California that act as repositories for the different generations of Portuguese-Americans. They serve as points of support, keeping the Portuguese heritage alive, celebrating cultural, gastronomic and religious traditions and organizing “celebrations” that attract thousands of people.

“I believe we have a lot of Portuguese-Americans who are really interested in supporting both the California economy and the Portuguese economy,” Zachary Ramos said. “This could be an opportunity for businesses and community leaders here in Gustin to hear the president’s vision and help make it a reality.”

California’s Central Valley has some of the largest concentrations of Portuguese-Americans in the country, mostly from the Azores. This is where Congressmen of Luso descent were elected to the House of Representatives, Jim Costa of the 16th District and David Valadao of the 21st District. Many of these Portuguese-Americans are entrepreneurs in fields such as agriculture and dairy.

“I want to share some of the good things in our village and the importance of the economic partnership between our country and Portugal,” said Zachary Ramos. “I hope we can talk about ways we can work together to move both economies forward.”

Strengthening economic ties between California and Portugal has been a relevant topic in recent years, with several initiatives designed to encourage investment.

In June, the Foreign Minister for International Affairs, Bernardo Ivo Cruz, traveled to California and met with several technology companies in Silicon Valley, in order to attract foreign investment to Portugal.

Shortly before that, in May, a Portuguese delegation that participated in the NAFSA 2022 education event visited several higher education institutions in California.

This is something that is also on the itinerary of President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza in this visit, through which he fulfills a promise he made to the Portuguese communities on the West Coast in 2018.

The Portuguese head of state has on his agenda a trip to Stanford University, where he will meet with President Marc Tessier-Lavin, and then a meeting with Portuguese entrepreneurs in San Francisco, where the diaspora is more associated with technological and scientific activities.

Before that, he will have lunch with the San Diego community, attend the Folk Saints Party in Artesia, listen to a folkloric farm in Gustin and have dinner with Portugal’s selectmen in Turlock.

The agenda also includes the opening ball at a baseball game, during the SF Giants’ Portuguese Heritage Night in San Francisco and the groundbreaking for a monument to Portuguese dairy farmers in the state.

The visit ends on September 28, with the return to Portugal scheduled for the following day.

Also read: Marcelo notes the abolition of the death penalty in Equatorial Guinea

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