By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The Ladies Auxiliary of the Portuguese Club launched the annual Sao Paio Festival over half a century ago and on Friday, Sept. 2, the Portuguese community honored the auxiliary’s president to kick off the three-day festival.
Maria Catarina Santos was named Portuguese Mayor of the Day in front of Town Hall. The ceremony kicked off the Portuguese Club’s 72nd festival, which the Ladies Auxiliary started in 1950.
“She’s not only a volunteer, she’s always willing to help in anything that we need at the club,” Jaime DaSilva, festival chairman, said of Santos. “She will roll up her sleeves and get to work helping anybody who needs help.”
DaSilva thanked Santos, a borough resident, for all her hard work for the club over the past 14 years, including the last 12 as auxiliary president.
Santos said it was a big surprise when she found out she would receive the honor.
“It is an honor to be able to serve,” she said.
Santos, who is married to Joe DaSilva and has four daughters, said she came to the United States in 1984 from Brazil at the age of 18 without speaking almost any English.
“I knew this great country is where I believe my future was,” Santos recalled. “A few years later, I moved to Naugatuck where it was a great community of Portuguese-speaking people, who helped me.”
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess and state Rep. Rosa C. Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, awarded Santos with proclamations from the borough and the state General Assembly, respectively.
“In every club there are people who have to do the work and there is someone who has to roll up their sleeves and do the work. Santos is an extremely worthy candidate,” Hess said.
Rebimbas said the Portuguese community has been a fabric of the borough for many years.
“I see her as the needle that literally threads that fabric of our quilt that we have in this beautiful community,” Rebimbas said of Santos. “She is there constantly, tirelessly, working in the club, outside the club, for the club.”
Santos said she loves being part of the borough community and, though it hasn’t always been easy, she has had good people around her who value hard work and dedication.
“I truly believe if you give 110% effort, in time, you’ll see good outcomes in whatever you want in life,” Santos said. “Never be afraid to ask for help and be willing to help others.”
Santos said the club and ladies auxiliary are wonderful, with great people, but they need new, younger members.
“People should come and we can have new ideas,” Santos said. “We need to come out with new things for the new generation to come.”
Santos described the club like a family where members can get together and enjoy each other’s company.
The Sao Paio Festival continues today and Sunday at the club, 110 Rubber Ave., featuring live music, dancing, food and a 5K road race.