Chicopee residents and officials watch as the Portuguese flag is raised for Portuguese Heritage Month.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — On June 10, members of the community and local government gathered to celebrate the raising of the Portuguese flag and honor Portuguese Heritage Month.

Out of the multiple flag raisings that Chicopee hosts to celebrate the rich culture and contributions of different cultures and beliefs, this flag raising may have been the most attended one yet.

Mayor John Vieau talked about the turnout and how the Portuguese community represents themselves.
He said, “One thing I can say about the Portuguese American community of Chicopee, they’re very proud and they come out and support each other, they support our community, and I can feel the love here at City Hall plaza.”

Vieau continued to talk about the importance of celebrating all the different cultures that make up Chicopee and Western Massachusetts.

“This special time gives us opportunity to recognize and appreciate the rich culture of the Portuguese community to our vibrant city. Portuguese heritage is a celebration of history, traditions and values that Portuguese Americans have to brought to our shores,” Vieau said.

State Sen. Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow) was also at the event to celebrate this heritage. He said he had the honor of being the first Portuguese American to represent Western Massachusetts at the State House and the “honor of a lifetime” being a part of the Portuguese American Caucus.

Oliveira talked about the history of Portuguese Heritage Month dating back to 1580.

He said, “Portuguese Americans just like those that came to the shores of New England, those that settled here in Chicopee or in Ludlow or in Springfield or in many other communities here in Western Massachusetts, the Portuguese spirit is about exploring and looking at our would and understanding that our world isn’t just our community, but we understand it’s bigger than us.”

Oliveira added that the Portuguese spirit is also about family and added, “that is certainly evident by the number of people that are here today to celebrate this flag raising and to always understanding where we come from.”

State Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield) said he was proud to be at the event to talk about finding his roots within the Portuguese community.

“It’s no secret that I am Puerto Rican but the truth and the fact of the matter is that I am 21% Portuguese and there’s things in life that we can’t get away from and what’s our lineage and what’s our heart. I feel loved and appreciated and proud to be here in Chicopee,” Gomez said.

He added that it is no secret that the melting pot of what the Caribbean came to be from Portuguese settling there or in South America and “a lot of us Latino folks have a great, great percentage of Portuguese in us and there is a lot of your culture and your heritage that is instilled within our footprint.”

Vieau read the proclamation to make the flag raising official and presented it to Chicopee Portuguese American Club President Brian Mendes. Vieau also invited the Mendes family to help raise the flag.