Portuguese American Journal

Terceira: Angra do Heroísmo honors Vasco da Gama with statue – Azores

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (c.1460-1524), the first navigator to sail directly from Europe to India, was honored with a statue dedicated to him in Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira.

The unveiling of the statue, on June 10, memorializes Vasco da Gama’s stop at Terceira island, in 1499, to lay to rest his brother Paulo da Gama, perished at sea on the homeward voyage.

According to historical records, Vasco da Gama buried his brother at the monastery of São Francisco, in Angra do Heroísmo, and lingered there for 1 to 3 months in mourning.

Vasco da Gama’s fleet, consisting of four ships, had left Lisbon on July 18, 1497. The return trip, sailing against the wind, took 132 days, arriving in Lisbon on August 29, 1499.

The three ships were São Gabriel, commanded by Vasco da Gama; São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama; Berrio, commanded by Nicolau Coelho; and a storage ship, of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes.

The statue was a gift from Vitor Baptista, a Portuguese immigrant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, born in Terceira. This is the second statue commissioned by Vitor Baptista to honor a Portuguese hero.

Two decades ago, Vitor Baptista commissioned a statue of world famous Portuguese soccer player Eusébio, unveiled January 25, 1992, at Sport Lisboa Benfica in Lisbon. Eusébio (1942-2014) is considered by many as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Both statues were created by Duker Bower, a Vermont (US) figurative artist.

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