America needs a poet like the Portuguese Camões!
By Manuel Luciano da Silva, Medical Doctor

 
Luis Vaz de Camões, Portuguese Epic Poet 1524-1580

In June 1949, when I was a student at New York University, I came, purposely, to  New England, to visit Dighton Rock, which is located only 10 miles north of  Fall River, Massachusetts,  on the left margin of the Taunton River.

  More than fifty years ago the Braga Bridge did not exist, the City Hall of Fall River  over the highway did not exist,  and the Dighton Rock Museum was only a dream in my head, when I was already in love with the Portuguese Discoveries.

More than fifty years ago  I want to be like Saint Thomas:  "See  it, to believe it".  I came from New York to verify the evidence of the Portuguese inscriptions on Dighton Rock. It was love at first sight.  I never forgot the emotion I felt seeing engraved on Dighton Rock the name of Miguel Corte Real, the Portuguese National Symbols, four Crosses of  the Order of Christ and the date 1511.

  Since then Dighton Rock became my "mistress". In 1971, I published  "Portuguese Pilgrims and Dighton Rock" and in 1974  its Portuguese edition "Os Pioneiros Portugueses e a Pedra de Dighton". Both books describe the Portuguese  history of  Dighton Rock and both are sold out,  since 1976! 

For more than 50 years, I have written  also many articles in English and Portuguese, did many radio an television programs, delivered up to now 344 illustrated  lectures,  and I was able to coordinate the efforts of several Portuguese-Americans  to send three replicas in fiberglass  of  the face of Dighton Rock to  Portugal: one in Lisbon, the second  in  Oliveira  de Azeméis  and  the third  in  my house-museum, in   Cavião,   Vale de Cambra.

I have been the guide to many thousands of students to see the Dighton Rock Museum and examined with them the face of the Dighton Rock inscriptions. 

I always welcome the opportunity to show to the American youth the most important monument in America  attesting that the Portuguese navigators were the first discoverers of  New England, and therefore Dighton Rock is  the best symbol of Day of Portugal in the United States.  

June Portuguese American Month in Massachusetts

On Sunday, June 11, 2000,  we are going to celebrate "June Portuguese American Mont" in the State of Massachusetts and also "Portugal Day" at the Dighton Rock Museum and State Park.

Besides explaining to the visitors the Portuguese inscriptions engraved on Dighton Rock,  I will also explain to them  the meaning of "Portugal Day" and why we also will be  honoring  the memory of the great Poet Luis  Vaz de Camões.

I will also explain to the visitors that the United States of America needs of a Poet like the Portuguese Luis de Camões to sing in epic verse the great achievements of the American People.

The American Camões

 Today there are 204 nations or independent states in the world.

  Of these 204 nations only Greece and Portugal, are the only  nations, that possess epic poems,  describing  their history in verse.

  Homer -- who was blind --  wrote  in epic verse -- that is in group of eight verses or oitavas -- the history of the  Greek people  in the  "Iliad"  and the "Odyssey".

Camões  -- who was also blind in  the right eye -- wrote  the Portuguese epic poem, entitle "Os Lusíadas, which means "The Portuguese" describing  in epic verse,   four centuries of the Portuguese History.

The Portuguese poem has 8,816 verses and 55 thousand words.

If we compare Camões with other poetic  genius of the world, we verify that the others did not choose to write about the history of their own country.

Shakespeare wrote 39 theatrical poems , with various dramatic protagonists, but did not write about the history of England in epic verse.

Milton,  another English  poet, also blind, wrote a poem entitled "Paradise Lost", concerning  the metaphysics of the eternity, but he did  not write about the naval  victory over the  Invincible Armada!

Dante, known all over the world by his "Divine Comedy", did not write about the achievements of the Italian  people. 

Napoleon,  does not have an epic poem that  describes the History of France.

The United States of America is the only nation in the world able to send men to the moon and have them return safely to earth, with the greatest scientific discoveries in the world, where is the American Camões  that is able to sing in epic verse, the glorious history of the United States of America?

The XV century is called the Portuguese Century because the Portuguese navigators were able to discover more than  two thirds of the world.

The Americans are going to have the right of  calling the XX century --the American Century.

But I repeat, when are the Americans   going to have an American Camões to sing in verse the great odyssey of the American people including the conquests of the outer space?

I am doubly proud of being a Portuguese-American because I am descendent of a nation which was the champion of  the world discoveries five centuries ago, and  am also   a citizen of a nation which is the world champion of the conquest of outer space!

Camões the greatest Portuguese Emigrant

Another message that I am going to give the visitors  is that Camões was  the greatest  Portuguese emigrant. He was an emigrant for sixteen years in Africa, India, Goa and Far East, Macao.

As an emigrant Camões went through  much hunger, ate bread prepared  by the devil, suffered  diseases and  also fell in love. As emigrant he had  to adapted himself to strange peoples, of dark  and yellow skins,   and deal with  kind or  hostile peoples.

To make his daily living, Camões as an emigrant had to do several jobs, including digging graves in the cemetery of  Macao.

As an emigrant Camões suffered many  painful experiences. It is himself who he describes his pains in his verses,  such as : "leaving pieces of his life scattered all over,"  and also "such bad experiences  that made my soul bleed profusely...

But it was during his dramatic life of an emigrant that Camões wrote his best sonnets and wrote also The  Lusíadas", which  is indeed the Bible of the Portuguese people.

Emigrants the most important Portuguese

Strangely as it  may seem, when he make an analysis of the  Portuguese writers and  historians  we verify the greatest achievers were all Portuguese emigrants:

Damião de Goes, Francisco Manuel de Melo, Eça de Queiróz, António Nobre, Antero de Quental, Alexandre Herculano, Almeida Garrett, Bocage, Sá de Miranda, Ramalho Ortigão, Pedro Vaz de Caminha, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Almirante Gago Coutinho, Ferreira de Castro, Fernando Pessoa,  nine years in  África,  and so many others.   Even  Santo António of  Lisboa,  one hundred Portuguese Saints and two Portuguese Popes were  all Portuguese Emigrants!!!

There is no doubt that the most glorious names of the Portuguese History, from navigators, missionaries, historians, and writers, ALL were Portuguese emigrants!

When I go to Portugal and have occasion to speak with university professors I tell  them that Camões was the greatest Portuguese emigrant, they do not like it. Why? Because they want Camões just for themselves. 

Too bad for the professors.  They have to learn  the truth.  To be an emigrant is painful, but we became better men and more complete men! 

We even have the courage of stating that even though we live  many miles away from  our native homeland,  we are able to  sublime our sentiments to such a degree that we feel deeper  the sentiment of being Portuguese. 

Universal Portuguese Emigrant's Day

  It was a good measure  that the Portuguese Government in 1977 declared June 10  a trinity to celebrate:  "Portugal Day", "Camões Day" and   "Portuguese Communities'  Day".

We gladly accept June 10th to mean also emigrants' Day, because we are also  part of the Portuguese Pilgrim Nation scattered all over the world, comprising  forty per cent of the Portuguese. We make a total of four million Portuguese  on this planet. Forty per cent of the Portuguese living on this planet are emigrants!!! 

  Dighton Rock symbol of the Emigrants

We Portuguese-Americans should feel happy that we have in our back yard a genuine Portuguese land marker -- The Dighton Rock -- which unites us  and at the same time gives  much us pride  our Portuguese ancestry, but at the same time is the corner stone of the American History.

As Portuguese-Americans we should also feel very grateful to our fellow Americans in Massachusetts who approved unanimously a Proclamation establishing annually June as Portuguese American Month. 

  From now on we  feel very much at home. Indeed,  we feel the United States of America is also Querida Pátria, our Beloved Country! 

  I take this opportunity to invite all of you, and your family,  to visit the Dighton Rock Museum. It is free of charge. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the visit.

  Take Route 24, to exit 10 and follow the signs to the Dighton Rock State Park.

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