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Portuguese Settlement in the United States

Although there were scattered Portuguese settlements in the American colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sustained immigration began in the early nineteenth century when young men from the Azores were employed in the New England whaling industry. In fact, approximately seventy percent of Portuguese immigrants to the United States came from the Azores, while most of the remainder came from the other Portuguese islands in the Atlantic -- Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands. Most of the emigrants from mainland Portugal went to Brazil, although the more recent immigration to the United States during the middle of the twentieth century has originated from mainland Portugal.

Portuguese immigration and settlements were not nearly as large or as geographically widespread throughout the northeastern and midwestern regions of the United States as the Irish and German immigration that dominated the nineteenth century. Rather, Portuguese settlements focused on several specific regions -- southern New England, the San Francisco Bay area of California, and Hawaii, all linked by their mutual involvement in the whaling industry.

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Distribution of Portuguese Ancestry in the United States, 1980