Portuguese ambassador celebrates new agreement with Queen’s

José Moreira da Cunha signs two-year promise for course development

From left to right: Vice-dean Gordon Smith, José Moreira da Cunha, Professor Antonio Macedo and Department Head Donato Santeramo.
From left to right: Vice-dean Gordon Smith, José Moreira da Cunha, Professor Antonio Macedo and Department Head Donato Santeramo.

On Thursday, the Portuguese community of Kingston joined the Portuguese embassy and Queen’s University to celebrate a victory in language, literature and culture.  

The celebration was held in Richardson Hall. During the event, the Ambassador of Portugal, José Moreira da Cunha, signed an agreement with Queen’s to jointly fund the development of Portuguese language courses. 

The project began in the local Portuguese community of Kingston, where individual groups raised funds to implement the current courses — which consist of two 3.0 unit first-year courses. 

According to Donato Santeramo, head of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, the local community raised $60,000 for the initiative through various events including dinners and golf tournaments. 

“They’re the ones who started and initiated the whole idea of starting Portuguese courses at Queen’s. They actually came to see me about three-and-a-half years ago,” he said. 

Santeramo said he was then approached by a representative from the Institute Camões — the cultural branch of the Portuguese Embassy that promotes Portuguese culture and language abroad.

The institute contacted the embassy regarding the program, and connected Ambassador da Cunha to Queen’s. 

“Institute Camões will now be contributing to help finance for a course. So we are here today to celebrate, and to sign the agreement between Queen’s and the Government of Portugal,” Santeramo said. 

Although the current agreement is for a two-year term, both Santeramo and da Cunha hope it will be renewed. 

“The idea is to move forward and to do other things, because we feel it is important also to make available the history of Portugal and the Portugese people,” Santeramo said. 

He said he would like to see second-year courses implemented along with more historically-focused learning.

“Perhaps also a course on the Portuguese diaspora, the history of the Portuguese people who came to Canada, their contributions and how they are part of what created this great nation.” 

Queen’s Portuguese courses are taught by Professor Antonio Macedo. He says his courses are capped at 40 students to allow students to learn the language effectively. Macedo has spent a great deal of his life in Portugal himself. 

“I was here when I was a little kid, then I went back to Portugal for university, and stayed for quite a long time, and now I’m back again.” 

Ambassador da Cunha spoke warmly of his work in Canada, and said living here was “a great honour and a privilege” for both him and his family. 

When da Cunha signed the agreement on Thursday, the sky was overcast and rainy — quite unlike the warmer Portuguese climate.

He brushed off the weather as merely “a Portuguese winter day!”, and said jokingly that he plans to stay in Canada as long as possible. 

“When I go back to Lisbon, I always speak about the bad weather of Canada, because I know that many [other ambassadors] want to pick me up and steal my job!”

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