Thursday, January 29, 2015
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Bonds, rivalries that date back centuries
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The bonds — and rivalries — that exist between the English and the Portuguese in Bermuda stretch back hundreds of years.
Spain and Portugal were the kingpins during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Their mariners steered clear of the Isle of Devils, as Bermuda was known, but were often shipwrecked here on the way home from their exploits in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Here's a potted history of the Bermuda's English/Portuguese heritage:
? Portuguese surveyor Estevão Gomez was one of Bermuda's earliest visitors — he explored the island in 1525 under a commission from Spain.
The Portuguese were the last of Bermuda's three main ethnic groups to establish a presence on the island, after English settlers and blacks, who were brought here first as indentured servants, then as slaves.
Portuguese encountered prejudice, were not considered white, some even anglicized their names. Even today, Bermuda's three main groups are described as black, white and Portuguese.
In 1845, Governor William Reid, on the eve of his departure, recommended that Bermuda import European labourers to revive agriculture.
On November 6, 1849, the Golden Rule, captained by Bermudian John Thomas Watlington, arrived in Bermuda from Madeira with the first Portuguese immigrants, 58 in total, men, women and children. By the1860s, other immigrants came from Cape Verde Islands and the Azores.
Between 1849 and 1880, most Portuguese were from Madeira; subsequently the Azores became the main source for Portuguese immigration.
The shipwreck of the Sea Venture in 1609 led to Bermuda's settlement by the English in 1612.
The English brought their language and their laws and established Bermuda's social system — including slavery.
Bermuda is the oldest continuously occupied English-speaking settlement in the New World — St. George's, the original capital, is now a World Heritage Site.
Bermudians who were descended from English settlers dominated economic and political life in Bermuda for four centuries. The beginning of the end of the dominance of Bermuda's oligarchy, as the ruling elite was known, came in 1968, with the abolition of the property vote.
According to the last census, 16 per cent said they were of British ancestry and nine per cent said they were of Portuguese ancestry, although two out three people described themselves as being of Bermudian ancestry.
Sources: Bermuda — Five Centuries by Rosemary Jones, 2000 Bermuda Census.
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