Georgetown, Guyana – (May 3, 2018) President David Granger said that the designation of specific days to recognise the arrival and contributions of the various ethnic groups, is a celebration of the plural character of the Guyanese nation and is intended to support the overall objective of social cohesion. He was at the time speaking at a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Social Cohesion in observance of Portuguese Arrival Day 2018. The event was held at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Main Street, an edifice which the President says stands as a monument to the Portuguese presence in Guyana.
“Social Cohesion recognises that Guyana is now, and always will be, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Miscegenation is forever. Our diversity is an asset, not a liability. We are proud to belong to a society of many faiths. We are proud of the tapestry of ethnicity within our country… I took the initiative after 2015, to designate days, which celebrate the plural character of our nation, not to divide,” President Granger said.
He explained that Portuguese immigration, which started 183 years ago, in 1835, occurred at a propitious time marked by the demographic transformation of Guyanese society that occurred after emancipation of the enslaved Africans and the migration of other groups such as the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans. It migration also coincided with the birth of the Village Movement, the banking system, the introduction of money and the high demand for goods and services. Within a century of their arrival, the Portuguese quit the cane fields on which they came to work and established themselves in commerce and other industry.
“Portuguese enterprise and their establishment of institutions to advance social development and social responsibility ensured their integration into the Guyanese society. Migration and miscegenation have diminished their numbers but their contributions to the establishment of a plural society remain ineradicable. The Portuguese, within decades of their arrival, had moved from immigrants to citizens of our plural nation of Guyana,” President Granger said.
Meanwhile, Honorary Consul for Portugal to Guyana, Mr. Michael Correia expressed his appreciation to President Granger for designating a day to commemorate the arrival of Portuguese so that Guyanese, as a nation, can recognise and celebrate their contributions to nation-building and economic growth. He pointed out, also, that while the society is made up of people of different ethnic origins and cultures, they are one people who share a common destiny. “While we acknowledge our past and from where we came, let us also use occasions like this to recognise who we are as a nation and who we are as a people. Let us lay claim to our own identity that we are Guyanese first and foremost and together, we have a nation to build and a homeland to cherish,” Mr. Correia said.
Portuguese Arrival Day commemorates not only the historical event of the start of migration, but also, the process of integration, miscegenation and nation-building and the determination of the Portuguese themselves to enjoy the rights and privileges of their adopted homeland. The first batch of 40 Portuguese immigrants arrived in Demerara on May 3, 1835 on the ship Louisa Baillie. The last batch arrived from Madeira in 1882, at which time a total of 30,645 had already formed a significant part of the population in the then British Guiana.