THE Portuguese love of socialising and being by the water were clear at yesterday’s official ceremony for the biennial Warrnambool Portuguese Cultural Festival.
The ceremony at the Portuguese memorial on Cannon Hill was attended by only about 30 people, while up to 500 Portuguese were reluctant to leave their lunch discussions at Lake Pertobe.
The Honorary Portuguese Consul in Melbourne, Dr Carlos de Lemos, spoke at the official ceremony and took no offence at the low crowd numbers, saying it was part of the Portuguese dislike of speeches.
Dr Lemos speculated the lack of success by many efforts to find the Mahogany Ship near Warrnambool, rumoured to be the wreck of a caravel from an early Portuguese explorer, might be because the wreck had been used as firewood by Warrnambool’s early inhabitants.
But he said that link between Portugal and Warrnambool was now secondary to the Warrnambool Portuguese Cultural Festival that had become an important part of the Victorian Portuguese community’s social calendar.
More than 300 Portuguese attended the festival dinner on Saturday night at St Pius X conference centre that featured performances of Fado — the soulful national music of Portugal.
The festivities continued at Lake Pertobe yesterday with Portuguese foods such as barbecued sardines and chicken and an entertainment program including lively music and dance from Portugal, Brazil and the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.
Portuguese Speaking Communities in Victoria president Alda Retre said the Warrnambool festival had a particular focus on Portuguese history with the Mahogany Ship’s link to Portugal’s early exploration of the world.
Ms Retre said the link was also supported by a sister city relationship between Warrnambool and Lagos on Portugal’s Algarve coast.
Portuguese expatriate Joaquim Sanches said he was always pleased to make the seven-hour round trip from Melbourne to Warrnambool for the festival because he always enjoyed himself.
He also came for a spot of fishing but had no luck on Saturday evening because a seal appeared to have robbed him of his catch before he could land the fish on the Warrnambool breakwater.
Mr Sanches came to Australia nearly 29 years ago to join other family members and because of Australia’s more vibrant economy.