Manuel da Costa, a life dedicated to the Portuguese community
Report and Photos by Leila Monteiro Lins | Published 28/09/2016
Officially, there are 429,000 Portuguese and their descendants in Canada (Census 2011), with the majority located in Ontario. It is estimated that between 60% and 70% are from Azores. The pioneers came in 1953.
Manuel da Costa arrived in Canada at the age of 14 with many dreams. He dedicated himself to studying hard and working even harder. Today, the 60-year-old has lots to celebrate. He became a successful entrepreneur and a community leader. He was also awarded Comendador by the Portuguese government for his contributions towards the Portuguese community.
DISCOVER – Who is Manuel da Costa?
Manuel da Costa – I was born in a poor farmers and fishermen’s village. From an early age, I was asked to help my parents to take care of my younger siblings. My mother worked in the fields and my father lived abroad as an immigrant. I had no choice but to help at home. We had neither electricity nor running water. We had to fight hard to survive. Since we had no access to school, I knew I would have to be resourceful. I became a self-taught man. I used to borrow books from the biblioteca ambulante (mobile library) that stationed near my house.
DISCOVER – What was your journey like in the first years living in this country?
Manuel da Costa – I worked night and day and still managed to go to school. At that time, I learned that I would only be able to achieve a better life by studying hard. I finished high school, but, unfortunately, my parents could not afford to pay for my university studies. Since then, I started investing in my education. I worked in construction for a period, but always considered my studies a priority in order to obtain better opportunities.
DISCOVER – What life events were able to bring you a better perspective?
Manuel da Costa – At the age of 21, I decided I should leave my parents` house and invest in my own future. I studied for five years at night at Ryerson University and finally graduated as an architect. It was a very tough period, but I reached my goal. I got married and worked at an engineering company with designs and inspections. After eight years, I felt ready to open my own business. I started with four employees and opened Viana Roofing, which I own until today. Eventually, I was able to acquire other companies in the construction and renovations business.
DISCOVER – What would you say, based on your life experience, were the key elements to achieve your most successful goals?
Manuel da Costa – Firstly, it was very important to have learned how to survive in very basic conditions in Portugal. In Canada, my focus on education and hard work, as well as dedication, gave me opportunities. I always minded my own business. Ethics and honesty have always been my compass.
DISCOVER – What’s the relationship between the accomplishment of your dreams and the Portuguese Community in Canada?
Manuel da Costa – One of my greatest accomplishments was the purchase of the building that belonged to the First Portuguese Canadian Club (722 College), located in the heart of the Portuguese community in Toronto. It is a landmark of the Portuguese-Canadian culture and has a historical significance to the journey of those immigrants in this country. That is why I decided to preserve it.
DISCOVER – Tell us about two of your biggest projects amounting to $1 million that were gifted to the Portuguese Community – The Camões Square and the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers.
Manuel da Costa – Camões Square was built in 2013 with the intention to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the official arrival of Portuguese people in Canada. The space houses the Luis de Camões statue (the greatest figure of the Portuguese literature) and the Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame (to celebrate Individuals of Portuguese descent whom have made profound, powerful contributions to Canada). There is also a fountain to celebrate the pioneers who opened the doors to the immigration. The goal of the Camoes Square is to celebrate the Portuguese-Canadian culture through an exploration and discovery of language and history. The Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers honours the first immigrants who came to Canada in 1953.
DISCOVER – One of your most recent acquisitions was Camoes Radio. What does it mean to you?
Manuel da Costa – I was not very happy with the news content provided by the Portuguese radio. That led me to Camoes Radio acquisition in 2014. My goal is to offer a programming full of trustworthy information, comments, and different types of documentaries.
Camões Square & Camoes Radio: 722 College St – Toronto
Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers: 960 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto – Tuesday|Thursday: 3pm-7pm, Friday: 11am-4pm, Saturday: 11pm-3pm
There are approximately 250 million Portuguese speakers in the word and they account for about 3.7% of the global population.
Portuguese is the fourth most spoken language in the world with one of the highest growth rates in social networks as a foreign language.
Portuguese is the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere.