ASSOCIAÇÃO PORTUGUESA PRIMEIRO DE DEZEMBRO, 50 RICHMOND STREET
Roger A. Camacho, President and Chairman of the Portuguese Association
On behalf of the Portuguese Association, I would like to extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Portuguese community of Trinidad & Tobago on the 165th anniversary of the arrival of the Madeiran Portuguese to Trinidad.
My grandfather, Manuel Fernandes Camacho (Junior) was one of the seven founding members of the precursor to this Association, Grupo Dramático Portuguêz Primeiro de Dezembro, in 1905. The other members were Domingos da Silva, João Gonsalves (Junior), Augusto dos Santos, George Cabral, João O. Rodrigues, and José de Freitas.
The original Bye-Laws of the Association were adopted at a meeting of the General Assembly on 15th January 1922 and confirmed at a subsequent meeting on 14th May 1922. Among the many noble objectives of the Association, I would like to state one which has stood out to me and is a rare thing in modern times: “To quicken and foster in members a love for work and thrift.”
The Association purchased the property at 50, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, in 1918 for $7,500. The existing building was constructed with a loan of $10,000 from one of its members, José Fernandes Reis, in 1930.
At that time, these Madeirans found it necessary to form themselves into an association where they could relax and meet with their families and friends, speak their language without ridicule, and discuss the issues of the day. These men were mainly merchants and shopkeepers from the City of Port-of-Spain and its environs. They were the business pioneers and the first DOMA (Downtown Owners and Merchants Association), as it were.
Their children and grandchildren have become and continue to be Nation Builders engaging in Business and the professions, including Law, Medicine, Engineering, Accountancy, as well as the Public Service, in our young Republic. Many familiar names of outstanding descendants of Madeirans are mentioned in other articles in this supplement.
I would like to record some stories about the Association that I have heard from my father, Agostinho Fernandes Camacho (Hutch), over the years. He served as Treasurer and Secretary of the Association for several terms during the 1940s and 1950s. He used to speak about the fundraising fêtes the Association held during World War II and how they had to have the telephone placed in the bar to be able to call the US Army Military Police, as the American servicemen attending the fêtes would frequently get into fights.
He would talk about the Bingo nights, which were famous in those days, where he was always “volunteered” to be the caller of the numbers. He would reminisce about the billiards and snooker tournaments between the other clubs and associations, and of course the famous annual Carnival Jump Up and Ole Mas competition. I also remember the Carnival parties that were held in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where my older sister, brother and I used to dress up. My brother always wore a Davy Crocket outfit (I think that hat with the tail is around somewhere still!). I will not say what my costume was!
In more modern times, the Association fell into neglect and was rescued by Ignatius Seveirano Ferreira and a few other dedicated first generation descendants of the early Madeirans. Iggie was the President and Chairman of the Association from 1976 to 2006. He is also the Honorary Portuguese Consul to Trinidad & Tobago. During his tenure, the Bye-Laws were amended and modernized in 1983.
I was first elected President and Chairman in 2007. Other members of the Board of Management for the current term are also 2nd generation descendants of the Madeirans, with the exception of the Vice President and Vice Chairman, Gabriel Eduardo, who is a 1st generation descendant. The other board members are Robert Ferreira, Treasurer; Ricardo Eduardo, Secretary; John Ferreira, Assistant Secretary; Brian Jardine, Member, and Dave Jardine, Member. We continue to celebrate and remember our heritage and our humble beginnings, and are conscious of our achievements and our current responsibility as the new Nation Builders of Trinidad & Tobago.
© Roger A. Camacho, 2011
See also an article in the Jornal da Madeira by Vítor Paulo Teixeira.
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