Waterville City Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, is stuck in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, uncertain when she will be able to return home to Waterville and her three children.

Oliveira, 36, traveled on March 3 to Sal, one of Cape Verde islands which is a tourist destination off the coast of West Africa. She was born there and went to visit her family, particularly her grandmother who has been ill. Her plan was to return to the U.S. within a couple weeks, but she was prohibited from doing so because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Waterville City Clerk Patti Dubois administers the oath of office Nov. 6, 2019, to new city councilors Flavia Oliveira, left, and Claude Francke. The two were elected Nov. 5. Morning Sentinel file photo by Amy Calder

Oliveira said Saturday in a Facebook interview that she was notified March 13 that her flight for March 17 had been canceled.

“On March 19 they informed us that all flights to the U.S. were canceled for 30 days,” she said. “The US embassy canceled all the flights back to the U.S. on March 17, and told us to wait for further notice.”

The Cape Verde archipelago, or group of islands, is in the Atlantic Ocean, about 350 miles off the western coast of Africa.

There are 10 Cape Verde islands, nine of which are inhabited, and they were discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century.


Oliveira said she now is in Praia, the capital and largest city of Cape Verde, where she was sent from Sal because it has fewer tourists than Sal. Praia is on the southern coast of Santiago island. The first case of coronavirus was identified Friday in Praia and two more were cited Saturday, according to Oliveira.


Flavia D. Oliveira Contributed photo

Elected to the City Council in November, Oliveira is an intern with Maine Equal Justice, a nonprofit civil legal aid and economic equal justice organization. Its mission is to increase economic security, opportunity and equity by advocating for public policies in the Legislature and governmental agencies; providing direct legal services and representation through impact litigation on systemic issues; and partnering with diverse, low-income communities and agencies through outreach, organizing and education.

“Maine Equal Justice has contacted me and assured me my job will be available when I get back,” Oliveria said. “They also provide services for my kids, like food and supplies.”

Oliveira has three children in Waterville, who are staying at her house with their father. She said she misses them.

“It’s lots of anxiety, not being able to be there,” she said. “I do miss being home. I miss my community. I’m trying my best to stay connected.”


She said the U.S. embassy has been a great help, and she is grateful for the work it is doing.

“I can’t wait to be back in America,” she said. “I’m hoping everyone stays safe and follows local instructions.”

Oliveira said it is a 7.5-hour direct flight from Cape Verde to the U.S.

She posted the following on her Facebook page Friday evening:

“I can’t go home to my babies. I can’t believe this is happening. It feels like a nightmare. All flights are canceled for 30 days. Just trying to stay calm and collected. Asking for prayer. This is hard to understand.”

As Councilor Oliveira already has many areas of concern, City Manager Michael Roy sought to alleviate at least one.

“The last thing she should worry about is her seat,” he said Saturday. “The City Council, I’m quite sure, understands that this is way beyond her control.”


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