Members of the Portuguese Navy were in St. John’s on Friday to honour the life of a Portuguese sailor who lost his life at sea on the Grand Banks almost 50 years ago.
The unmarked grave of Dionisio Esteves is located in the Mount Carmel Cemetery. He died while fishing aboard the Santa Maria Manuela in 1966, a tall ship schooner that was also a member of the Portuguese White Fleet of fishing vessels.
A brief remembrance service was held Friday morning by Esteves’ burial plot. Thirteen crewmembers from the Portuguese Navy vessel Antonio Enes were on hand for the service.
“They die here and never return home,” said Portuguese Navy Cmdr. Nuno Rodrigues. “We have strange feelings about people that lose their lives at sea, because we are always at sea. We have much respect for the ones that lost their life at sea.”
The link between Newfoundland and Labrador and Portugal dates back centuries, largely relating to fishing activities. The Santa Maria Manuela visited St. John’s in May 2011 for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate more than 400 years of Portuguese visits to the island.
According to Jean Pierre Andrieux of the Spanish Vice-Consulate in St. John’s, plans are being made to raise funds to erect a monument to honour Portuguese fish harvesters who have lost their lives at sea.
Antonio Enes is currently involved in a fisheries-related mission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and is in St. John’s to restock supplies. It arrived in St. John’s Friday morning and is schedule to stay in the city for two days.
Rodrigues and his fellow Navy members were also scheduled Friday to visit the Basilica of St. John the Baptist to see the Our Lady of Fatima statue. The Portuguese government donated the statue to the Basilica in 1955 to honour its 100th anniversary. It has since become an attraction for people of faith visiting Newfoundland from Portugal.