The President of Portugal’s busy schedule even saw him throw the first pitch at a major baseball game in California between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies on Tuesday
The President of Portugal’s busy schedule even saw him throw the first pitch at a major baseball game in California between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies on Tuesday Photo: ANTÓNIO COTRIM/LUSA

President Marcelo visits Portuguese communities in California

From declaring Portugal is ahead in decarbonisation and transition to renewable energy to throwing the first pitch at a baseball game, Portuguese President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa made sure to make a strong impression during his five-day trip to California.

Portugal’s ‘President of Selfies’ (as he is sometimes referred to due to his constant willingness to take photos with those who ask) arrived on Saturday in California – the American state with the highest number of citizens of Portuguese descent: around 300,000, according to official censuses.

The 73-year-old head of state embarked on a tour of the state which saw him visiting Portuguese communities in San Diego, Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley, San Jose, and San Francisco.

One of the main highlights of his visit happened in the San Francisco Bay Area where he declared that Portugal has been something of a pioneer in decarbonisation and transition to renewable energy.

Before an audience of teachers, students, and businessmen of various nationalities at Sanford University, Marcelo presented Portugal as a country that “is ahead” when it comes to sustainability and where there is “a kind of national agreement on this matter between parties”.

President Marcelo’s statement came on Monday afternoon (early Tuesday morning in Portugal) at the recently created Faculty of Sustainability of Stanford University during a seminar on “Solutions for a sustainable future in Portugal and California.”

“There is a political continuity of different governments, it started with a left-wing government, a right-wing government continued on the same path and now a left-wing government has followed that same path,” he said, adding: “We are not going to change.”

According to the President of the Republic, the policies followed in Portugal are not only the result of “the opinion of various academics”, they also correspond to the “position of public opinion” on decarbonisation and energy transition, oceans and biodiversity.

“There is a national consensus on this matter,” he said.

At the end of this seminar, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa reiterated the understanding that there are no rifts between parties on this issue in Portugal, defending that “nobody doubts in Portugal that there is climate change” and “nobody doubts about the urgency of the problem”.

“No one doubts the need to find clean forms of energy. Nobody doubts about the need to accelerate this; the war in Ukraine has made it more evident. No one doubts the need for the protection of nature, the commitment to the oceans, which is a national commitment, to biodiversity, to scientific and technological research, to international cooperation,” he continued.

The head of state stressed that “there may be differences in certain specific aspects of policy definition, that is part of democracy”, and that with regard to concrete measures and timetables “there will be differences”.

“But essentially, we have been united on the major goals, this has not divided parliament or the parties, on the major goals, inside and outside,” he reiterated.

Portuguese investment and heritage

President Marcelo’s tour of USA’s Western Coast also featured a visit to a cork factory owned by the Portuguese group Grupo Amorim in Napa Valley – which he described as an “example of Portuguese investment in California”.

He also took part in the ‘Festas dos Santos Populares’ festivities held every September by the Portuguese community living in Artesia, in the outskirts of Los Angeles, and called on the members of the community to not forget their Portuguese heritage.

“We want you to be Portuguese living in the United States. While you are American, also never forget that you are Portuguese,” the Portuguese president declared.

New baseball star?

But perhaps the moment of President Marcelo’s visit to California that will be best remembered will be when he threw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball (MLB) match between the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Raiders on Tuesday night (early Wednesday morning in Portugal).

“I don’t even want to think about the adventure that throwing the pitch will be,” Marcelo told reporters shortly before.

For the eighth year straight, the Giants chose Portugal as the theme of one of their matches to celebrate the sizable Portuguese community living in the state.

Marcelo said it was “spectacular” to see the Portuguese flag hoisted alongside the American flag at Oracle Park, “one of the biggest stadiums in America”.

Portuguese folk dancing groups also took to the pitch to dance and give baseball fans a glimpse of traditional Portuguese culture.

During the match, President Marcelo was also shown on the stadium’s jumbo screens, prompting the applause of those in attendance.

Jorge Costa, Senior Vice President & Chief Venue Officer at the Oracle Park (as well as a native of the Madeira archipelago), described Marcelo’s visit as “very special”.

“This is all very exciting for me. It is a very special day for me, my family, everyone who works here at the stadium and for the Portuguese community,” he told reporters.

Marcelo even found time in his busy schedule to watch Portugal’s football match against Spain for the UEFA Nations League at a restaurant, owned by a Portuguese emigrant from the Azores, in the wine region of Sonoma.

While Portugal lost the match due to a lone goal by Spain’s Álvaro Morata, Marcelo opted to focus on the positives and said he had a lot of fun.

“This place couldn’t be more pleasant, serving Portuguese food and having a euphoric Portuguese atmosphere in the middle of California,” he said, expressing his confidence that Portugal will be able to avenge its defeat and elimination from the Nations League with a victory at this winter’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

As we went to press on Wednesday, Marcelo was due to wrap up his trip by attending the laying of the first stone of a monument in honour of the Portuguese dairy farmers of Tiburon in the Marin Country, followed by a walk in Sausalito, a twin town of Cascais.

This was the first visit of a Portuguese President to California since 2011, when Cavaco Silva visited San Jose and San Francisco.

By Michael Bruxo