Palm Coast Consulate is the nearest location to obtain official documents without going to Washington, D.C.
The third floor office of the Portuguese consulate in Palm Coast was filled with dignitaries and members of the Portuguese American Club in Palm Coast, many in colorful folklore dress, all gathered to welcome Secretary of State of Portuguese Communities Abroad, Jose Cesario, and the new Honorary Consul, Caesar DePaco.
The consulate at 145 City Place, officially opened on April 1, 2015, is a little bit of Portugal right in Palm Coast. As with all American consulates and embassies, the area they occupy is sovereign soil.
“Right now you are on Portuguese soil,” Consulate Assessor Eddie Branquinho said.
The group anxiously awaited the arrival of Cesario, DePaco and Congresswoman Maria Joao Avila, one of two elected representative in the Portuguese parliament for citizens living abroad, to officially open the consulate and introduce the new Honorary Consul.
Cesario spoke in Portuguese to those gathered, slipping into English for the benefit of the few present who did not speak the language.
“It is very important for our government to be here with you,” Cesario said.
The high population of Portuguese residents in Palm Coast was an integral part of moving the consulate from Orlando to Palm Coast. Branquinho said there are approximately 10,000 Portuguese residents in Palm Coast and 100,000 in Florida.
The increase in the Portuguese community in Palm Coast and Florida is being credited in part to a shift in retirement destinations.
“There are more Portuguese who after working in the U.S. are not returning to Portugal to retire, but moving to Florida,” DePaco said.
The consulate office is one of 16 in the United States, including the embassy in Washington, D.C. Palm Coast is the only consulate in the state that can provide passports, birth and death certificates and other legal documents. The nearest office to Palm Coast to obtain documents is in Washington, D.C. Visas are not available because they are not required to travel to Portugal.
“We are a country that gets along with other countries,” Cesario said.
Accompanying DePaco was his wife, Deanna Padovani-DePaco, their six-year old daughter, Valentina, and Padovani-DePaco's parents. The DePaco's will initially split their time between their home in New Jersey and Palm Coast to accommodate Valentina's schooling, but a full-time move is expected.
DePaco has a PhD in Psychology, and was a psychologist in Jersey City when he came to this county in 1994. He is also the founder and CEO of a family business, Summit Nutritionals, manufacturers of nutritional and nutraceutical raw materials.
The consulate will be moving to the first floor of the same building this fall increasing the Portuguese consulate office space to 3,000 square feet.