History of Day of Portugal in Rhode Island
The first Day of Portugal in Rhode Island was proclaimed in 1958 by RI Governor Dennis J. Roberts in testimony of the importance of Portugal and its discoveries. The proclamation states that on the occasion of the anchoring of two Portuguese frigates, the Nuno Tristão and the Diogo Gomes in the port of Providence, ”Governor Dennis J. Roberts proclaimed the 14th day of June of 1958 as the First Day of Portugal.” Their arrival was one of many in a series of events in celebration of the Day of Portugal that year proposed by then Rep. Augusto W. São Bento, member of the organizing organization.
In 1971, the Portuguese flag was raised in commemoration at Rocky Point Park in Warwick, RI with the initiative of Professor Amadeu Casanova Fernandes, whose efforts were recognized by Honorary Consul in Providence Manuel Carvalho.
The year 1978 brought the Day of Portugal celebration to the State House in Providence, through the efforts of then acting Consul Rogério Medina. The State House lawn served as the stage for a brilliant display of handicrafts, folkloric dance and music ending with a parade winding through the city streets. The president of record in 1978 was Joseph M. Lima with William San Bento, Sr. serving as Grand Marshal of the parade.
What followed were 40 years of uninterrupted Day of Portugal celebrations in many locations and through many capable hands. Among those were Esméria Medeiros, a teacher of Portuguese at East Providence High School and one of the great motivators of the celebrations.
The presidents of the following two “State House” celebrations were Paulo de Carvalho and Maria Lindia, the first woman president.
Through Consul Anabela Cardoso’s initiative, the celebrations took on a different format with the responsibility of organizing the celebrations taken in rotation among the Portuguese-American organizations in the state. However, at some point, the festivities settled in Cumberland on Broad Street in the hands of a group of active Penalvenses including António Costa and António Rodrigues among many.
As president of the 30th celebration, Vice-Consul (Ret.) Rogério Medina enlisted the support of the community in returning the celebrations to downtown Providence with an “arraial” of food, folkloric dance and music beginning with a parade marching from the State House to the City Center (skating rink) downtown.
There followed eleven years of celebrations in the capital city under both experienced and young leadership working together including Jorge Almeida, Lidia Alves, Marie Fraley, João Pacheco, Al Nunes, Luis Lourenço, Fernanda Silva, António Ambrósio and Pilar Coelho, the youngest president. A highlight in recent years has been the inclusion of WaterFire Portuguese-themed lightings and torch processions organized by Marie Fraley.
The organization was incorporated under the laws of the State of Rhode Island in the year 2007 and became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2011.
Text: Marie Fraley
Source material: Augusto Pessoa