WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Professionally and personally, Westchester County is home for Paul Fernandes of The Westchester Bank.
Roots run deep, however, for Fernandes, a bank vice president and branch manager of the White Plains office. His parents immigrated to the United States from Portugal. His grandfather still lives there. And while Fernandes’ heart is firmly entrenched here, he also actively works to keep the Portuguese heritage alive in Westchester.
“It’s something to be proud of,’’ Fernandes said. “The reason why my parents came here is to make a better life. I want my children to understand and be proud of where we are and where we’re from, and not take it for granted. This is our home now. But the values that I have and that my parents have were brought over from Portugal.”
Fernandes has been a member of the Mount Vernon Portuguese Club since 1986 and regularly participates in events relating to Our Lady of Fatima, whose roots trace back to Portugal.
Mostly though, Fernandes takes it upon himself to capture the culture of Portugal at his home. “We’ll do the typical Portuguese food for Christmas and Easter,’’ he said. “In the summer we’ll have a celebration at our house to celebrate with all Portuguese food.”
He also makes his own wine, and the family has a smokehouse where it makes sausages, prosciutto and other meats.
“I brought the recipe for making wine back from my grandfather in Portugal,’’ he said. “My kids get happy when it comes time to make the wine. The thing that’s important is you keep the traditions alive. It’s like going back home. I want that instilled in family.”
Fernandes said the Portuguese community has been long-established in several Westchester County pockets, such as Mount Vernon, Yonkers and Tarrytown. There is also a huge Portuguese community in Danbury, Conn., which includes one of the largest cultural centers in the country.
Fernandes is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Mamaroneck, which also has many residents of Portuguese descent.
Fernandes has over 20 years of banking experience and has lived in Westchester his whole life. He said it’s a privilege to work for The Westchester Bank and serve clients whom he has known for decades.
“So many people don’t work where they live,’’ Fernandes said. “It’s a privilege for me to touch so many people locally and to give back to the community. To me, Westchester County is a great representation of the United States. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids anywhere else.”