Video: Putting Portuguese History In Focus

December 3, 2011

Every year, five weeks after Easter, Bermuda’s Portuguese community act out a colourful, 300-year-old tradition which started in the Azores.

The annual Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres Festival is the highlight of the Portuguese Catholic calendar with hundreds packing into St. Theresa’s Cathedral. This festa is modelled after the one that is also held each year in Ponta Delgada. In the old capital, streets are adorned with flowers and buildings and churches are lit up.

In Bermuda, the festivities are on a somewhat smaller scale but no less serious. Just like is done in San Miguel, the statue of Jesus, known as The Image, is carried around the streets then carried back to the Cathedral. A carpet of flowers is laid down along a portion of Dundonald Street before the mass begins. Once the street has been decorated, it’s off to St. Theresa’s Cathedral for the service.

The story of the Image begins in the 1500s when Pope Clement VII presented it to two nuns. Almost two centuries later, in April 1700, a series of violent earthquakes rocked Sao Miguel. The city officials decided to take The Image on a procession around to all the city’s churches to ask God for protection.

During the procession, the Image fell. Did this ruin their chances of protection from these earthquakes? Or had they offended God?

When the procession returned back to the church, it was revealed that The Image was not damaged. It is believed the earthquakes stopped shortly after.

Bermudian videographer/filmmaker Milton Raposa shot highlights of a recent Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres Festival for his upcoming film “Fabric — History of the Portuguese In Bermuda.”

The first Portuguese immigrants arrived here from the island of Madeiera in 1849 aboard the ship the “Golden Rule.”

The 58 newcomers came to the island to work as farm labourers and were said to be “orderly and well behaved people and were obtained chiefly from the country.”

A contemporary newspaper report on their arrival on November 6, 1849 said: “We sincerely trust this importation of labourers will answer the end contemplated; and we hope they will be the means of inducing the cultivation of the vine more extensively than at present.”

Since then the Portuguese have become one of the three main ethnic groups on the island.

“I’m looking for people from Bermuda with stories related to the topic to tell. Anyone and everyone is invited,” Mr. Raposa says of his work in progress. “I need stories about immigrants to Bermuda, their assimilation, when they came, why they came, how things have worked out. I’d like to know about culture, religion….all that sort of stuff.”

The filmmaker can be contacted

Excerpt From “Fabric — The History Of The Portuguese In Bermuda”

FABRIC – History of the Portuguese in Bermuda/Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres Festa Bermuda 2011 from Milton Raposo on Vimeo.

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