The President of the Government of the Azores, José Manuel Bolieiro, wrote a letter to Hawaii’s Governor, Josh Green, extending his solidarity and support in response to the devastating fires that have engulfed Maui island, a part of the Hawaiian archipelago.
The catastrophic wildfire has left families of Portuguese descent, many with roots in the Azores, among those still unaccounted for.
President Bolieiro’s letter stresses the profound bond between the two distant archipelagos, referring to them as “sibling” islands despite their geographical separation.
“In this missive, I extend my sincerest condolences on behalf of the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, mourning the grievous loss of numerous lives in the relentless forest fires that have swept through your islands. Our hearts beat in unison with the people of the Hawaiian archipelago during these trying days of adversity,” writes President Bolieiro.
Citing the historical ties linking the Azores and Hawaii, President Bolieiro emphasizes the friendship between the two regions. He underscores that, despite the miles that set them apart, a profound sense of closeness endures.
President Bolieiro also points to the 1982 agreement between the then Azorean executive president, Mota Amaral, and Hawaii’s governor at the time, George R. Ariyoshi, cementing the “fraternal” relationship.
“As we reflect on our historical and institutional connections, it becomes clear that the Azores and Hawaii share a rich tapestry of interconnectedness. Although official emigration from our Atlantic islands to your Pacific ones has ceased, the legacy of this migration, dating back to 1878, persists. This shared history spans 145 years and stands as a testament to the lasting bond that brings us pride,” recalls President Bolieiro.
President Bolieiro concludes his letter by reiterating the commitment of the Autonomous Region of the Azores to provide solidarity and collaborative assistance to Hawaii, hoping that the current situation will soon be overcome with minimal material damage and loss of life.
According to the latest data released by local authorities, the fires have tragically claimed at least 99 lives. With only a quarter of Maui having been searched, officials anticipate the discovery of more victims as search efforts persist in the devastated regions, as the authorities are set to begin releasing the names of the deceased.
Portuguese immigrants first arrived in Hawaii during the late 1800s, primarily as laborers for sugarcane and pineapple plantations. Over time, their presence has flourished, enriching the cultural fabric of the islands.
The Portuguese community in Hawaii has preserved its heritage, language, cuisine, and religious practices. Festivals like the annual Maui Portuguese Festival now stand as a testament to Portuguese culture.
This wildfire incident ranks among the deadliest in the United States. For Hawaii, this disaster marks the most severe since the 1960 tsunami, which claimed 61 lives, and the even deadlier tsunami of 1946, resulting in over 150 deaths on the Big Island.
The Azores (population 250,000) is a region of Portugal composed of nine islands. The archipelago discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal. According to the latest US census over 1.3 million individuals of Portuguese descent live in the United States, the majority with roots in the Azores. It is estimated that over 20,000 US citizens live in Portugal.