Cape Verde president stresses need for unification of diaspora

Tanya McClurkin, Councillor Ruthzee Louijeune, President Neves, and state Sen. Liz Miranda at a reception held in Neves’ honor at Cesaria’s Restaurant on April 4. All photos by Flavio DeBarros.

Cape Verdean President Jose Maria Neves visited Dorchester last week to encourage the country’s diaspora and other supporters to maintain strong ties and investment in the African island nation.

Neves, 63, who won the presidency in 2021, had visited Boston when he was prime minister, but this was his first visit to Massachusetts as president. While he also visited Brockton, New Bedford, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, he spent the better part of the week in Boston, participating in a panel discussion at St. Peter’s Teen Center and concluding the visit with a dinner at Cesaria’s Restaurant on Bowdoin Street that was hosted by state Sen. Liz Miranda.

There are an estimated 500,000 Cape Verdeans in New England – a large number of them centered in Dorchester. That figure is nearly equivalent to the entire population of the ten-island country. Cape Verdeans abroad are allowed to vote in elections if they are dual citizens or gain dual citizenship through a special process that links them to the politics of their homeland.

“I firmly believe that no matter where we are, we should all get together for the development of Cape Verde,” Neves said in comments at the dinner through a translator. “I believe it’s possible to do this…The challenges are great, but we have the capacity to overcome all of them.”

Miranda said that the diaspora has never been more important and noted that 25 percent of Cape Verde’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the pandemic came from remittances.

“I invited him here because I wanted to remind us all that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors,” she said. “They need your help back home, too. Whether it’s literacy and learning English or whether it’s tech or business, I encourage each of you to do one thing to move this community and Cape Verdeans forward…It’s incredibly important to understand that they need us, and we need them.”

State Rep. Chris Worrell was part of several of the events, representing a district with one of the largest Cape Verdean populations. He, too, stressed a message of unity.

“Dorchester and Roxbury represent a beautiful diaspora of Black and Brown people of different backgrounds. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a place where unity is at the forefront of our community values,” he said. “Without our Cape Verdean brothers and sisters I would never have tried cachupa or danced to the music of Funana. Because of my upbringing, I was welcomed into this culture and continue to learn about and value it.”

Paulo DeBarros, director of the Cape Verdean Association of Boston, said that Neves is popular both in Cape Verde and abroad. Her noted that the president has been delivering a message of unity and progress by bringing every Cape Verdean together from all over the world – a message that was echoed during the panel discussion at the Teen Center on April 2.

“He said he wants to hear the people and listen more,” said DeBarros. “His message here was that he sees change and that the Cape Verdean community is growing. We have people running for office and people elected to office in state government and in the city. We also have a lot of professionals and young professionals who are successful. He noticed all those things.”

DeBarros added that part of the trip was also to say thank you to everyone who voted in the election, and to reinforce that he is everyone’s president no matter what party they belong to.

Carla B. Monteiro, a former city council candidate and part of the Cape Verdean Providers Network, participated in several of the events and left inspired.

“As a first-generation Cape Verdean American, words cannot describe how heartfelt and empowering it was to see President Neves here in Boston, a man whom I met during his presidential campaign in 2021,” she said. “We must use our citizen privilege and opportunities as Cape Verdean Americans, such as education, language access, and mental and emotional development, to elevate Cape Verdeans globally and mentor youth.

“He asked us to imagine if Cabo Verde had more leaders like us; And for us to imagine if they had the educational opportunities we did, where we would be as a country,” she said.

Photos by Flavio DeBarros

President Neves, state Sen. Liz Miranda, and Evandro Carvalho, director of the Boston Human Rights Commission.

President Neves with Di Djofa Tavares, who wrote what is believed to be the first children’s’ book in English and Cape Verdean Criolo – “Tiagu Y Vovo.”

Helder George Brandao, owner of Estella Restaurant, state Sen. Liz Miranda, and Flavio DeBarros. Photo courtesy Sen. Miranda

State Sen. Liz Miranda and Manuel da Luz Goncalves, author of Cape Verdean dictionary.

Jose Fonseca Barros, co-owner of Cesaria’s Restaurant, with state Sen. Liz Miranda.

At left during the Cesaria’s reception on April 4: Jose Quintino, state Sen. Liz Miranda, President Neves, Manuela Santos, Tony Lopes, and Claudia Lopes.

City Council liaison Chantal Lima Barbosa, state Rep. Chris Worrell, and state Sen. Liz Miranda.

Cesaria’s Restaurant co-owner Tony Barros and President Neves.

Chanda Smart, President Neves, and Attorney Shabnam Mashmasarmi.

Councillor Brian Worrell, Pastor Matthew Thompson of Jubilee Christian Church, and state Rep. Chris Worrell.

Carla B. Monteiro and President Neves.

Councillor Tania Fernandes Anderson with President Neves.


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