Raul Freitas



Closeup shot of flag of Portugal on a blue background
A closeup shot of flag of Portugal on a blue background


I dislike the term “melting pot”, when it refers to the mix of cultures in any given country. I lean more towards “soup”. In a soup you could have a variety of ingredients, and as you stir, they snuggle up together to form a unique blend of flavours. That’s more like what immigrants contribute to the society they’re moving to.

They may seek out their kind initially, but inevitably come to affect and become a part of the continuing evolution of the culture. Several cultures contributed greatly to build to the Canada of today, and Portuguese culture, as we all know, played a key role, especially as soon as the gates opened in 1950. Several generations can now call themselves Luso-Canadians, and I’m sure that this legacy will live on for a few more. I say this, because eventually, everything becomes history, and history is eventually forgotten, as generations come and go, unless it’s put up in bright lights.

And that leads me to Portuguese Canadian Heritage Month, a recognition of the flavours and textures that the Portuguese immigrants have brought to the soup that is Canada. To be honest, having lived on the other side of the Atlantic for many years, I had no Idea that this was a thing; The Canadian government had enacted the Celebration of Portuguese Act back in 2001.

Every June 10th would be declared Portugal Day, and every month of June, Portuguese History and Heritage month. Back in 2017, Davenport’s first female member of parliament, Julie Dzerowicz, introduced a private members bill, M-126, containing the same declarations. The bill passed unanimously, that November. A big deal. All immigrants suffer to varying degrees when at the mercy of a host culture, especially in the earlier days. This is a reckoning, of sorts. We don’t need apologies, but it’s nice to be respected like that. Even if it’s just symbolic, it’s an official recognition. Also, the subject will be brought up every year, and that makes it more difficult to forget. It’s nice to know about all the ingredients in our people soup, whether they’re from our own garden, or someone else’s.

Today, there aren’t many Portuguese wanting to emigrate to Canada, but it’s amazing how a tiny country like ours could have been such a mighty force to such a great nation. We were there as far back as the 16th century. We anchored in Newfoundland and Labrador. We’ve been fishing those waters for hundreds of years. Canada’s first mail carrier, in the early 17th century was Portuguese. I took Canadian History in school and never read that in any text book. Our culture is part of Canadian history.

Today, other cultures bring their ingredients into the mix.

Become part of the country’s history, adding to the flavour. It’s perpetual, it doesn’t even require any attention to cook. What it does require is appreciation, and that has come our way, in the form of Portugal Heritage month. June. There are months dedicated to other cultures that will also be interesting. It’s worth learning about the people that comprise the part of the world you occupy. These days, especially, we could all use a bit of that. Or maybe more.

Fiquem bem.

Raul Freitas/MS

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