Portuguese Immigrants in the United States

Laurinda C. Andrade

Laurinda C. Andrade arrived in Massachusetts from the Azores in May of 1917, leaving her family behind. Although she had received little education and did not know English, and despite infirmities, in 1931 she graduated from Pembroke College of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, having received a number of scholarships, but also having borrowed a substantial amount of money. Andrade later attended business school and became a teacher of Americanization. After searching for months for a job in New York City, she became editor and director of the weekly Tribuna out of Newark, New Jersey. Next she became secretary to the Portuguese Envoy in Washington, D.C., Dr. João A. de Bianchi, who would later become the Portuguese ambassador to the United States.

In January of 1942 Andrade returned to New Bedford to bring the instruction of the Portuguese language to the city's high school, and she taught English and French as well. In her years in the New Bedford school system, Andrade encountered much resistance to the teaching of the Portuguese language and expansion of cultural understanding, despite a remarkable interest on the part of large numbers of students. After considerable struggle, in 1955 the New Bedford High Portuguese Department, the first Portuguese language department in a United States high school, was created and in 1960 Portuguese was made available to New Bedford's ninth-grade students. Andrade was the department's first director.

In September of 1944, Andrade succeeded in founding the Portuguese Educational Society of New Bedford with the help of the owner and director of the Diário de notícias, João R. Rocha. The society, which was formed to promote cultural exchange between the United States, Portugal, and Brazil, granted scholarships to students of Portuguese and disseminated information on Lusophone topics.

In 1948, after spending four summers in New York at Columbia University, Andrade earned a master's degree from the Spanish Department, having concentrated on the great Brazilian writer Machado de Assis. Her diploma was signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, president of Columbia University at the time. Two years later she was invited to attend the First Luso-Brazilian Colloquium, held at the Library of Congress, and through a grant from the Embassy of Portugal, she brought with her New Bedford High's Portuguese student with the highest grades.

Nelson H. Vieira, who had attended New Bedford High, received a scholarship through the National Defense Education Act, which was passed in 1958 and listed Portuguese as a much-needed language for national security and foreign relations. Vieira, who majored in Portuguese and graduated from the University of Wisconsin, went on to teach Portuguese and French at New Bedford High. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently a professor and graduate advisor in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University. The Library of Congress holds a translation into Portuguese of his dissertation, entitled Brasil e Portugal, a imagem recíproca, dedicated to Laurinda C. Andrade and Francis M. Rogers.

Andrade retired in December of 1966 and her autobiography, which was published in 1968, is among the collections of the Library of Congress. In 1971, five years after Andrade's retirement, Portuguese was being taught in four New Bedford public schools and almost 300 people on the school system's payroll had Portuguese last names.

Suggested reading:

Laurinda C. Andrade, The Open Door (New Bedford, Mass.: Reynolds-DeWalt, 1968).

Nelson H. Vieira, Brasil e Portugal, a imagem recíproca: O mito e a realidade na expressão literária (Lisbon: Instituto de Cultura e Língua Portuguesa, Ministério da Educação, 1991).

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