Students meet Portuguese President


Andrew Ballan

The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited Artesia D.E.S. on Saturday, September 25th. Several Cerritos High School students met President Sousa during a meet and greet that took place after Sousa and certain other dignitaries gave speeches celebrating the President’s presence.

Sousa visited Artesia D.E.S., a gathering center for many Portuguese in the Cerritos-Artesia area, on a trip through California, where he has and plans to visit many other areas with concentrations of Portuguese, such as San Diego and the Central Valley. President Sousa repeated the pride he takes in a community so far away from home, and that “Wherever we [the Portuguese] go, we bring with us our soul, our traditions, our past, present, and future […].”

Many Portuguese who immigrated to California hailed from the Açores, a volcanic archipelago midway from North America to Europe in the Atlantic Ocean. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, and an especially devastating eruption occurred in 1957 that prompted the United States to pass the Azorean Refugee Act of 1958. The act granted thousands of Visas to refugees of the disaster. This, along with aspiration of economic wealth, led to hundreds of thousands of Azoreans to settle in the United States. When the Cerritos-Artesia area was an unincorporated settlement named “Dairy Valley,” many Azoreans saw this area as an opportunity because the main trade of certain islands was dairy.

“[…] the Portuguese of Artesia represent their home country, roots, and culture very well here in America,” Melissa Ramaso, mayor of Artesia, said. Though the Cerritos-Artesia area has evolved from grassy expansives to suburbia, the local Portuguese and their traditions have held strong, with city-wide parades, mass distribution of ethic food such as soupas and bifanas, and invigorating yet non-violent bull fights.

Sousa’s visit also marked the 50th anniversary of Filarmónica Artesia D.E.S., Artesia D.E.S. ‘s band, which played both the Portuguese and the American national anthem for Sousa and played during an annual culture parade called a marcha.

Though the President of Portugal only stayed for three hours, for many, it was an unforgettable experience.

“It’s always an honor to play for dignitaries from Portugal who come visit,” David Costa, the D.E.S. band leader, said.