Sister city delegation takes in 500th anniversary exhibition at Southworth

May 13, 2022

One of Dartmouth’s older sisters just hit a big milestone.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of sister city Lagoa’s official incorporation as a municipality in Portugal’s Azores islands and the city is celebrating by hosting an exhibition highlighting its history in each of its North American sister cities, beginning right here in Dartmouth.

The new exhibit, located at the Southworth library, displays more than 40 photos showcasing Lagoa dating from 1870, along with a timeline spanning from the discovery of the Azores in the 1400s to the present day.

“500 years? You look great,” Select Board Vice Chair Stanley Mickelson said with a laugh.

Present at the exhibition’s kickoff was a delegation consisting of Lagoa’s vice-mayor, Frederico Sousa; City Councilor Albertina Oliveira; Education and Culture Coordinator Igor França; Eduardo Borges, the group’s photographer; and João Arruda, a figurine maker.

Along with the unveiling of the photo panels, the envoys were treated to a series of traditional Portuguese dances from students of New Bedford’s Discovery Language Academy & Hub.

“Welcome to your sister city,” Select Board Member Shawn McDonald said to the delegation. “We are very happy and very proud to have this display here.”

Sousa thanked the town for helping showcase his city’s culture.

“It’s a way we can show all Lagoans not living in the Azores how much we’ve evolved,” he said.

The mayor added that setting up a final exhibition was no easy task.

“It was very hard to choose only 44 pictures,” the Azorean vice-mayor said. “Each one of them has a meaning — a very special meaning.”

Lagoa, which is located southwestern part of São Miguel Island in the Azores, was first settled not long after the islands were discovered by Portuguese explorers in the early 15th Century. 

Within a century after initial settlement, the village of Lagoa was officially incorporated as a municipality, eventually becoming a city 490 years later in 2012.

“It’s a very, very recent city with big possibilities,” Sousa said.

Dartmouth and Lagoa have been sister cities since 2003.

Peggy Cabral, a member of the Dartmouth Sister City Delegation Committee, noted that despite the different histories the municipalities have, both have a strong cultural bond.

“Portuguese never have to worry about finding a place to stay here,” she said. “A lot of people have relatives here.”

Since becoming sister cities with Lagoa, the two communities have conducted several student exchanges. A Lagoan delegation was also present for Dartmouth’s 350th anniversary in 2014.

“They treated us very nicely,” Cabral recalled.

Dartmouth's other sister cities include the Portuguese cities of Nordeste and Povoção, and Dartmouth, Devon in the United Kingdom.

In 2020, the town also became siblings with the Lagoa on the Portuguese mainland.

The sister program is intended to create community partnerships and unite international communities through the establishment of formal connections and cultural programs.

While the program is still a relatively recent endeavor for Dartmouth, McDonald said he and other town officials are looking forward to more collaboration with town’s siblings.

“It’s just a wonderful experience to be involved with,” he said. 

The public can view the exhibition from Friday, May 13 through Thursday, May 26 during regular library hours inside the Elsie Haskell Auditorium located at 732 Dartmouth St.