Eyes facing the ocean from Madeira

STARING OUT TO sea at Calheta on the Portuguese island of Madeira is a bronze bust of a man wearing 18th century clothing and a bow tie. The sculpture depicts Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinoza (1750-1816). Born in Caracas in what is now Venezuela, Miranda became a military leader and a revolutionary fighting for his country’s liberation from Spanish rule. Regarded by many as the forerunner of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), the great liberator of several Spanish South American colonies and born in Caracas, Miranda ended his life in a Spanish prison in Cadiz.

The plaque below the bust in Calheta records (translated from the Portuguese on a website: https://statues.vanderkrogt.net/object.php?record=ptma108):

“The Sons of the municipality of Calheta in the lands of Venezuela at the bicentenary of the Independence in honour of its precursor ‘Generalisimo, Sebastian Francisco de Miranda’ ‘The most universal Venezuelan’”

I interpret this as meaning that the bust was erected by descendants of people from Calheta, who had emigrated to Venezuela.

The bust was created by the Venezuelan sculptor Julio César Briceño Andrade, who was born in Caracas in 1950. It was unveiled in Calheta by Lucas Rincón Romero, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Portugal, on the 5th  July 2011.

Miranda was the son of a man, who had migrated to Venezuela from the Spanish Canary Islands. His mother was born in Venezuela. Although, he crossed the Atlantic several times, I do not know whether Miranda ever set foot on the island of Madeira.

Like those from Calheta, who migrated to Venezuela, many others have migrated from Madeira to various parts of the world over the years. I have been told that many of the Portuguese speakers in South Africa had their roots in Madeira. Having seen the bust in Calheta, clearly Venezuela was another destination.

Now, with difficulties that Venezuela has been facing, some its citizens with Madeiran heritage are returning to the island as can be seen in an article published on-line (www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/madeira-an-island-of-refuge-for-venezuelans-of-portuguese-origin/):

“No one knows the exact figure but the authorities in Madeira consider that about 6,000 Venezuelans of Portuguese descent have taken refuge on their island, where they found themselves in an extremely precarious situation. “They arrive with nothing, many are sick, these are people lacking a great deal,” said the President of the Portuguese archipelago, Miguel Albuquerque. These people are second or third generation Portuguese, descendants of those who left Madeira decades ago in search of a better life in Venezuela. They are now making the opposite journey.”

Reading this made me think about South Africa, to which many Europeans, including my parents’ families, travelled in search of a better life. After the ending of apartheid, many of their descendants have left the country because they had become concerned about their futures in a land where Europeans no longer hold the upper hand.

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