Portugese in San Jose, Calif. want to alter proposed stamp

March 24, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Forget about the Elvis stamp.

Local Portuguese leaders say there are stickier matters with which to contend.

They have begun a campaign to alter a proposed stamp honoring Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, explorer of California, to let people know he was Portuguese.

The sailor was born Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho (pronounced "Cabril-yo"), but the stamp will carry the Spanish spelling. Members of San Jose's Portuguese community say that's misleading, and they're circulating a petition to get the word "Portuguese" added to "Explorer" to set the record straight.

"It's an insult to our community," said Carlos Almeida, secretary and treasurer of the San Leandro-based Supreme Council of United Portuguese of California. "All we're asking for is proper identification of the man."

Because Cabrillo was working in the service of Spain at the time he set sail for Western seas, his name has gone down in history with the Spanish spelling. Mr. Almeida said he would concede to leaving Cabrillo's name as it appears on the stamp, but insists the explorer's nationality appear on the seal.

Art Shealy, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said it is unlikely there will be a change in the stamp commemorating the 450th anniversary of Cabrillo's discovery of San Diego Bay for release Sept. 27.

"We're not commemorating Cabrillo's national descent, we're commemorating his accomplishment," he said.

Mr. Shealy said the spelling of Cabrillo's name is the one most commonly accepted in California history, and said there was little room left on the stamp to add the word "Portuguese."

Mr. Almeida said Portuguese-Americans throughout the state have worked for the past 15 years to promote a stamp honoring one of their greatest heroes.

"We're not going to let this just slip by after all our work," he said.

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