London’s Portuguese Gala
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th April, 2012
Among the many newspapers that serve London’s multicultural community, the Portuguese language As Noticias is something of a leader. There are reputedly around 400,000 Portuguese in Britain — not to mention the large numbers of Brazilians, Angolans, etc. — a substantial proportion of whom are in London, notably in the Vauxhall area of Lambeth. But it was in Battersea, at the Portuguese-owned Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel, that Joao Noronha of As Noticias hosted the fourth Portuguese community Gala dinner last night, with splendid live entertainment flown in from Lisbon. The guests of honour included the Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities, José Cesario (pictured), who is one of four members of the Portuguese parliament elected by expatriates: two for Europe and two for the rest of the world, the latter being Mr Cesario’s constituency. That means a huge amount of travelling for him, from Brazil to Goa to Macau and points in between. It’s an interesting system of representation which I suspect Britain will one day have to consider following. There are hundreds of thousands of Brits who live abroad — notably in Spain — who become disenfranchised after 15 years away. Moreover, the concept of a Diaspora helps maintain a nationality’s sense of identity and community, as many of the ethnic groups in London demonstrate. The Portuguese community in Britain originally consisted largely of people working in the hospitality business and low-skilled jobs but these days they are of all types, including bankers, as was illustrated by the sponsorship of last night’s event by four of the leading Portuguese banks with operations in London. I was there as a guest as a Portuguese-speaking LibDem, alongside the similarly lusophone Conservative MEP Charles Tannock.