By Albert Eisele - 05/17/05 12:00 AM EDT
When freshman Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) became the House’s fourth Portuguese-American member this January, he unwittingly joined an elite fraternity — at least in Portugal.
Costa, along with Democrat Dennis Cardoza and Republicans Richard Pombo and Devin Nunes share geography as well as national ancestry — they all represent districts in California’s Central Valley.
And the Portuguese, both in America and Europe, can’t get enough of them. Pombo, for one, has been awarded The Grand Order of Infante D. Henrique, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the Portuguese government.
“We’re not that big here, but we’re huge in Portugal!” Costa said.
Pedro Bicudo, Washington correspondent for Radio Television Portugal, readily agrees. “To have this kind of representation in the federal government” is a victory for Portuguese-Americans as well as Portuguese nationals, he said.
Bicudo pointed out that the families of all four are from the Azores, a chain of islands off the coast of Portugal that was a huge source of immigrants to American during the heyday of New England whaling. The gold rush in the mid-1800s, as well as the path of the whaling ships around South America to the Pacific, led to Portuguese settlements in California.
Azorean descendants now control 60 percent of the dairy industry in the Central Valley, Bicudo said. “No one else was willing to take care of the land in the Central Valley” in the 1800s, he said. “But when California boomed, they became fabulously rich.”
Then, of course, they went to Congress.
A warm welcome for the Clintons at Oceanaire
He’s still got that presidential pizzazz.
A spontaneous standing ovation burst out when former President Bill Clinton walked into the Oceanaire Seafood Room restaurant in downtown D.C. last week.
The old smoothie took his time walking around the dining room, shaking hands and signing autographs.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) arrived about an hour later, and the couple dined with about six other members of the Rodham family, we’re told.
“President Clinton went out of his way to shake my hand and was very gracious and friendly. Hillary was also quite nice and signed menus for the staff,” Executive Sous Chef Paul Jarrett said.
“Of all the celebrity guests we’ve had dine with us, President Clinton and Muhammad Ali are the only two that have ever received standing ovations in our restaurant,” said General Manager Christine de Clerfay.
Sounds as if the former president is warming up for his wife’s 2006 campaign and maybe 2008 as well.