Institute to reinforce Portuguese-American ties

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Dervishian

Fresno State’s Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute has been developing programs aimed at reinforcing the Portuguese-American communities and provide opportunities for research, education and outreach.

Last year, Diniz Borges was named the founding director of the institute.

“It’s an honor for me,” Borges said. “I mean, I’ve been involved with the Portuguese community all my life since I came here from Portugal at the age of 10.”

Last year, the institute accepted a $130,000 grant from the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD). The foundation was created in 1985 by a joint venture between the Portuguese and American governments to advance relations between the two countries.

Borges said that besides any funding from foundations like FLAD, he believes that the Portuguese-American community will help fund programs that the institute envisions in the near future.

Lauren Silva, a liberal studies major, served as a representative for Tulare-Angra do Heroismo Sister City Foundation. Silva said that the Portuguese Institute has been a remedy to the lack of representation for Portuguese students on campus.

The institute has been hosting a series of lectures, including a visit from the Azores President Vasco Alves Cordeiro back in February of this year.

“It was awesome to see the president here really interacting with students and breaking ground here for the Portuguese community,” Silva said.

Fresno State Provost Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval has been involved in the institute since the beginning. Jiménez-Sandoval said that living in the Valley most of his life and studying in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has made him keenly aware of the cultural ties between the Valley and the Portuguese communities.

The institute also has been collecting and archiving oral histories from Portuguese-American communities from Bakersfield all the way to the Stockton and Sacramento areas.

“I’m excited to see the oral and video history project grow through documenting and preserving the memory of the Portuguese immigrants that made our Valley their home,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “This multiyear project will yield a wealth of information and treasured memories that will manifest the power of love of family, the value of hard work and the resilience of the human spirit to innovate, reinvent and thrive in the fertile land of the San Joaquin Valley.”

Borges said he is excited to see research and publishing from the institute, whether it be research-oriented or creative arts, like fiction and poetry.

Fresno State also has a new Portuguese club that was created last year to promote the Portuguese language and culture. Currently, there are 15 members and the club expects membership to grow in the future.

Blake Garcia, president of the club, said that institute has been a welcome addition to the university.

“Diniz Borges, President Castro and so many more people have been working tirelessly to make this institute a success for our university and community,” Garcia said. “I am very honored to be a part of it and hope to see this institute thrive in the coming years.”

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