Portuguese community of Watsonville celebrates sister city designation
WATSONVILLEâLocated along the west coast of the island of SÃ£o Jorge in Portugal is Velas, a historic port town with a population of just over 5,580 people. Located in the Azores, the city is one of the oldest settlements on the island, offering incredible ocean views from tall, green cliffs.
And as of last week, it’s officially a sister city to Watsonville.
Months of work came to fruition on December 14 as members of the Portuguese community of Watsonville gathered at a city council meeting to celebrate the designation. A committee formed by then-mayor Jimmy Dutra was on hand to bear witness to this historic moment.
“I am really proud of the Portuguese community who came together and made this possible,” said Dutra, who is of Portuguese descent. âAs mayor, I had a lot of visions. One of them was to create a sister city in Portugal. I knew I only had a year to do itâ¦ so we formed a committee and got down to business.
Goretti Carvalho, who immigrated from Portugal and has lived in Watsonville for 53 years, helped get the ball rolling. Having a house in SÃ£o Jorge where she spends a few months each year, she began to establish links with the mayor of Velas and other representatives.
âIt’s a really great feeling,â she said. âIt’s a great achievement. It’s not easy to do that. But it was worth it. the people [in Velas] are also very excited.
Carvalho said her husband John Carvalho is from SÃ£o Jorge. In fact, a large number of families who immigrated from the island have landed in Watsonville, making it a “perfect choice” as a sister city, she says.
Committee member John Bettencourt added that the cities have a lot in common: they both have squares and airports, and are coastal with similar weather conditions. Both communities have deep roots in organic farming; The owner of Lakeside Organic Gardens, Dick Peixoto, is himself Portuguese-American. They are also home to a large Catholic population and are passionate about sports, especially football.
Committee members Nathalie Costa and Lucy Rojas presented on December 14 to the board, which unanimously accepted the designation.
âI am really hopeful of what this can mean for our two communities,â Rojas said. âI am delighted to build a partnership. It can also be a way to involve future generations of Portuguese Americans in Watsonville. “
Rojas said most Portuguese in the region are first generation and having a sister city will help keep their language and culture alive.
âAs we go along there is more and more distance between our children and these traditions,â she said. âSo I’m excited. It’s a great way to continue. “
Jaidon Bettencourt, president of Irmandade Santissima Trindade Watsonville (ISTW), said the designation would also benefit the larger Watsonville community.
âI feel like it’s good to educate people,â he said. âThey see our eventsâ¦ They see us crossing town with our parade. But few know the reasons. It is a very good step.
Two days before the city council meeting, friends and family gathered at the Portuguese Hall in Watsonville to celebrate the holidays and yet another milestone: the publication of a new volume of “Portuguese in California: the History of Generations “. Author Nelson Ponta-GarÃ§a, correspondent for Portuguese National Television, was on hand to sign copies of his book, which includes the story and interviews with residents of Watsonville.
Consul General Pedro Pinto also traveled to San Francisco for the event.
âNelson called me and said, ‘The Portuguese ambassador wants to come down!’ John Bettencourt said. âIt was a surprise. So much has happened all at once.
As for the twin city designation, there is still some way to go before the relationship solidifies. The committee will work with Velas to decide the terms of the deal and what it means for the two cities. An official ceremony will take place next year.
âIt will come through conversations with the mayor of Vela and everyone there,â Dutra said. “It’s going to be really exciting to see what happens next.”
Watsonville also has sister cities in Japan, China, Croatia, Mexico, and El Salvador. To learn more, visit cityofwatsonville.org/1723/Sister-Cities.