Azores Delegation Visits CalChamber for Portuguese Heritage Month

This week, the California Chamber of Commerce hosted a gathering with representatives having Azores connections.

Present at the June 24 meeting was Artur Lima, the vice president of the Azores, who was visiting Sacramento for the presentation of Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 205 (Aguiar-Curry; D-Winters) in honor of Portuguese Heritage month.

Also present were Diniz Borges, president of the California Portuguese-American Coalition, and Cliff Costa, vice president of California Advocates.

Greeting the delegation was Susanne T. Stirling, CalChamber senior vice president of international affairs.

ACR 205 establishes June as Portuguese Heritage month, recognizing June 10 as the Day of Portugal and May 20 as the Day of the Azores. The measure honors the continued influences of Portugal and the Azores communities in California that have established themselves and contribute to the state and its economy.

(From left) Zeto Carvalho, representative for Azores Airlines; Susanne T. Stirling, senior vice president, international affairs, CalChamber; The Honorable Artur Lima, vice president of the Azores; Cliff Costa, vice president, California Advocates; and Diniz Borges, president, California Portuguese-American Coalition.

Topics Discussed

The meeting focused on the continuing Azores and Portuguese relations in California, which have been strong and ongoing for many years. California continues to be the state with the largest Portuguese population. About 350,000 Portuguese Americans live in California; most hail from the Azores islands.

Also discussed was the future of California relations with the Azores. Climate change is a particular interest (the Azores are a good location for studying carbon dioxide between Europe and the United States), renewable energy sources, and the blue economy.

Worth noting is Google’s announcement that the Portuguese Azores islands will be an additional landing point for its upcoming transatlantic Nuvem cable.

First announced last year, Nuvem is a transatlantic subsea cable system that will connect Portugal, Bermuda and the United States. From Portugal, the cable can connect throughout Europe — making the Azores an attractive location for business development.

About the Azores

The Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands off the west coast of Portugal. It is one of two autonomous regions in Portugal, the other being Madeira, another small island archipelago. The primary sectors of the economy for this region are agriculture, dairy farming, fishing and tourism.

For many years during the 20th and 21st centuries, the Azores served as a waypoint for refueling aircraft, with one of the oldest companies in Portugal being Azores Airlines.

Despite being an autonomous region, the Azores are tied very closely with Portugal and its commitments to the European Union and Schengen area.

U.S-Portugal Ties

Portugal had a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $276 billon and a population of 10.3 million people as of 2023. A great deal of trade is with its neighboring EU members, but the United States is Portugal’s fourth largest export destination. The top five U.S. imports from Portugal are chemicals, petroleum and coal products, apparel and accessories, plastics and rubber products, and computer and electronic products.

U.S foreign direct investment into Portugal totaled roughly $3.8 billion in 2022, almost a 97% increase from 2021, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Top sectors for U.S investment are energy, agriculture, automotive, and information and communications technology.

California-Azores Ties

California and Portugal have longstanding ties that predate statehood, with Portuguese immigrants coming to the West Coast as early as the 19th century. The first large wave of Azores immigrants came to California in the late 1900s to 1920s, seeking better opportunities.

These communities have and continue to exist in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz, and the dairy farming areas in the Central Valley, Los Angeles Basin, and San Diego. Some of these areas also have a deep connection with Portuguese fishermen.

Trade between California and Portugal remains strong, with California being one of the top U.S. states for exporting to and importing from Portugal.

In 2023, California exported to Portugal a total of $74 million in goods, primarily computer and electronic products, non-electrical machinery, transportation equipment, fabricated metal products, and miscellaneous manufactures.

California imported roughly $517 million, according to the U.S Department of Commerce, with the top five imports being wood products, plastic and rubber products, apparel and accessories, leather and allied products, and processed foods.

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Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling