“It is a community that is often forgotten because here it is almost all Azorean and only the Azores are spoken about,” Professor Diniz Borges, who directs the Institute (PBBI) at the State University of California at Fresno, told Lusa.
“We need to hold more meetings and colloquiums and learn more about the Madeiran community”, he said.
“Besides the traditional festivities, such as the Bom Jesus Milagroso festival, little is known about the Madeiran community and it will be interesting to get to know them”.
It is a community that has a strong presence in San Diego, in Hayward (San Francisco Bay Area) and in some towns in the San Joaquim Valley, said the professor.
“There is the particularity of many Luso-Americans I talk to from Madeira, many from the third and fourth generations, having come here through Hawaii”, explained Diniz Borges, referring that these conversations were the basis of the idea for the initiative.
“Madeira is not talked about much. I think there is a lack of a uniting force, a national platform”.
At launch, the initiative has four personalities linked to the Madeiran diaspora as advisers, from various parts of California: the former president of PALCUS (Luso-American Leadership Council) John Bento, from Sacramento, Maria José Rodrigues, who is writing the history from the Portuguese presence in San Diego, Maria Isabel Camacho, who emigrated two decades ago and is based in Hayward, and Inês Eiras, who is involved in the community in the east San Francisco Bay Area.
The organization is also in talks with two people from the city of Lemoore, in Kings County, where there are some families of Madeiran origin.
As part of the launch of the Madeira Diaspora Initiative, the PBBI will send a letter to the Regional Government of Madeira to establish a closer relationship with the executive.
“We are also going to start making contacts between the University of Madeira and [the University] Fresno State to see if there is a possible agreement for colloquiums that have more in focus the presence of the Madeiran diaspora in the United States, in addition to the possibility of student exchange”, said Diniz Borges.
The initial objective is to organize two events in the first half of this year and record about half a dozen oral histories.
At a national level, the program aims for two to four events per year aimed at the present and future of the Portuguese community from Madeira in the United States.
Although a minority in the Portuguese-American community as a whole, the professor stressed, the Madeiran diaspora has many stories of interest that the PBBI wants to highlight in 2023.
The Institute has the support of the Luso-American Foundation for Development (FLAD) and will mark its fourth anniversary at a commemorative event on February 21st.