On June 28, around 400 people joined the President of the Regional Government of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque, and the Ambassador of Portugal, Domingos Fezas Vital, to celebrate the Independence of the United States of America and the longstanding friendship between Portugal and the United States. The “Toast to America” replicated one of the defining moments of the signing ceremony of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Founding Fathers raised a glass of Madeira wine for a joyful commemoration of the institution of the United States of America. The guests at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence included members of Congress and of the Federal Government, prominent business people, journalists, academics, members of the Portuguese community, and members of think tanks and of the diplomatic corps in Washington.
The program consisted of a highly praised acting performance by “President George Washington” and “Peter Francisco” about the historical ties between our two countries. Indeed, Portugal was the first neutral country to recognize the Independence of the United States, and the US Consulate in Madeira was the second consular mission to be established by US authorities. Still to this day, the US Consulate in Ponta Delgada, Azores, is the oldest diplomatic post of the United States. Peter Francisco, born in Terceira, Azores, had a significant role during the Independence War working closely with General George Washington, before glasses of Madeira wine were raised in honor of that historical moment. President George Washington later told this about Peter Francisco: “Without him, we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the war, and with it our freedom. He was truly a one-man army”.
The music act was brought by the Madeira folklore group, based in New Bedford, Ma., “Grupo Folclórico do Clube Madeirense S.S. Sacramento”, which entertained guests with the traditional sounds and costumes of the Island. Guests enjoyed delicacies from the US and Madeira, prepared by Portuguese Chef George Mendes, and, of course, a taste of Madeira wine.
Ambassador Fezas Vital, and his wife, Isabel, are determined to organize the “Toast to America” celebration every year from now on.