Portuguese Immigrants in the United States
1492-1769 | 1770-1869 | 1870-1899 | 1900-1919 | 1920-1957 | 1958-present


The island of Faial, Azores experienced earthquakes and volcanic eruptions so intense that a new island came into being, only to be swallowed up by the sea again. A 1958 bill, co-sponsored by Senators John Kennedy of Massachusetts and John Pastore of Rhode Island, was passed, authorizing non-quota visas for displaced Portuguese citizens. Under the Azorean refugees acts, which were extended through June 1962, almost 5,000 Portuguese came to the United States.

The National Defense Education Act was passed by Congress, putting Portuguese among the six scarce languages considered most critically needed for successful international relations. Nelson H. Vieira was among the first students to receive scholarships under this act.


On February 28, a son of Azorean immigrants from São Miguel was sworn in as associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. The Honorable Arthur A. Carrellas had twelve brothers and sisters, six of whom, along with himself, received college degrees. Their parents were the owners of a shoe store in Newport, Rhode Island.


Over 73,000 legal Portuguese immigrants arrived in the United States, more than five times the 14,500 that arrived in the previous decade.


There were Portuguese communities in Bridgeport, Hartford, and Danbury, Connecticut, three of the largest cities in the state, all of which were very industrial. There were others outside of New Haven and in Waterbury and Naugatuck.


Portuguese-American Representative George Miller, a Democrat from California, was selected to chair the House Space Committee at a time when the exploration of outer space, in particular landing a man on the moon, was an extremely important issue.


Joe A. Gonsalves, of a Portuguese dairy family in Southern California, was elected by a 270-vote majority to the California Assembly. A member until 1974, Gonsalves served as chairman of the Committee on Revenue and as chairman of the Taxation and Rules Committee. Prior to his membership in the California Assembly, he served as mayor of Cerritos (1961-62) and as a member of the Cerritos City Council (1958-62).

The American Catholic Historical Association elected as its president Manoel Cardozo, curator of the Oliveira Lima Library of The Catholic University of America and professor of history, who later authored The Portuguese in America.


The Luso-American Educational Foundation, a division of the United National Life Insurance Society, formerly the A.P.P.B., based out of San Francisco, was formed. Its purpose, besides the education of the Portuguese people, was to promote their cultural development.


In California, the União Madeirense was being run by a woman, the daughter of one of the association's founders.

After several years of hard work and a number of challenges, a monument to the Portuguese Immigrant sculpted by Numidico Bessone was unveiled in Marina Park, San Leandro, California, across the street from the Home Office of the União Portuguesa do Estado da Califórnia (U.P.E.C.).

Manuel Luciano da Silva was instrumental in the founding of the Portuguese-American Federation, which brought together nearly 200 Portuguese organizations from throughout New England.

In Bristol County, Massachusetts, where New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton are located, 35 percent of the population was of Portuguese birth or descent, but 60 percent of the county's divorce cases were between Portuguese. Pap points to this statistic as being evidence of deethnization or Americanization, as divorce was not a common phenomenon in Catholic Portugal, but he notes that divorce rates among the Portuguese in Hawaii and California did not differ greatly from those of the general population.


The Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated the previous quota system and set a 20,000-person limit for the immigration of citizens of each nation.


The bridge over the Taunton River, connecting Fall River and Somerset, Massachusetts, was named for Charles Braga Jr., the first hero of World War II from Fall River. Braga died in the sinking of the U.S.S. Pennsylvania at Pearl Harbor. The bridge was constructed by the United States Steel Company of Pittsburg, which then proceeded to construct a suspension bridge over the Tejo, or Tagus, River in Lisbon.

The Luso-American Federation was formed to provide scholarships for Luso-American students and to assist immigrants in adjusting to the United States.


In Fall River, Massachusetts, the First Baptist Church reportedly had hundreds of members of Portuguese Catholic background.


António Alberto Costa was the commentator-producer of a telephone talk show, the first in the United States in the Portuguese language. Costa later received a number of awards for his work on behalf of the Portuguese-American community in television, radio, and print media, including an official citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and a commandery of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator from the Portuguese government, both in 1972.


Richard H. Marriott, the son of a Portuguese woman, began his long career as mayor of Sacramento, California.


Former President Ronald Reagan, who was at the time the governor of California, proclaimed March 2-8 Portuguese Immigrant Week.

After a tidal wave in Portugal drowned many people and destroyed many homes, Portuguese Americans sent money and clothing for the victims.

The Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies was founded. It publishes its Bulletin three times a year and conducts annual meetings.


According to the 1970 census there were 318,458 first- and second-generation Portuguese residing in the United States. Of those, 198,559 had been born in the United States with at least one parent who was a native of Portugal, and the remaining 119,899 had themselves been born in Portugal. These figures include Continental Portuguese and Azoreans but not Madeirans or Cape Verdeans.

WGCY of New Bedford, Massachusetts began broadcasting full-time in Portuguese. A number of other radio stations in New England had programs in Portuguese.

c. 1970

Of the 2,000 dairy farms in San Joaquin Valley, approximately half (or at least one third of the state's dairy farms) were owned and operated by descendants of Portuguese.


New Bedford, Massachusetts had 281 persons with Portuguese surnames on the public school system payroll, of whom seven were principals and nine were assistant principals. Portuguese instruction was offered at the town's high school and three junior high schools.

In San Leandro, California, the U.P.E.C. Cultural Center, housing the headquarters of the União Portuguesa do Estado da Califórnia and of the organization's Council No. 1, as well as the J. A. Freitas Library, conference rooms, and an auditorium, was dedicated on March 13, 1971.

An organization with the purpose of teaching Portuguese history, culture, and dance, called Crianças de Portugal (Children of Portugal), was founded in Honolulu, with membership open only to children. The following year a club with similar purposes, Passarinho de Portugal (Little Bird of Portugal), was also founded in Honolulu.


New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Horta, on the Azorean island of Faial, officially became sister cities.


Humberto S. Medeiros became Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was born in São Miguel in 1915 and moved in 1931 to Fall River, where he worked in the textile mills. Sixteen years later he received a doctorate degree in theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., becoming pastor of a Portuguese immigrant church in Fall River around 1958. Medeiros spent several years in Texas heading a bishopric, and in 1970 he was selected to become Archbishop of Boston, succeeding Cardinal Cushing. He was the first non-Irish to hold the position in 124 years.

The Portuguese parish Our Lady of Fátima Roman Catholic Church was founded in Elizabeth, New Jersey.


The Portuguese Continental Union of the United States of America began bestowing its Peter Francisco Award upon distinguished Americans who have contributed to the Portuguese cause.

A bill exempting Portuguese fraternal organizations from turning over unclaimed insurance funds if the proceeds were instead used to provide scholarship aid to California residents of Portuguese descent was signed into law by then-governor of California Ronald Reagan.


Elmar de Oliveira of Connecticut won the Tchaikovsky competition of Moscow.

Mary Mathias, born Cardoza, was the first woman to be elected Supreme President of U.P.E.C.


The Portuguese Tribune of San Jose, California was founded by John P. Brum.


The International Conference Group on Modern Portugal was established.

The Portuguese-American Caucus, an entity of the U.S. Congress, came into being.

The Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) was formed in Washington, DC.


According to the 1980 U.S. census, there were more than one million people of Portuguese ancestry residing in the United States.


On May 20 the Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (Luso-American Development Foundation, FLAD) was established.


Congressman Tony Coelho became an honorary member of U.P.E.C.

Larry Teixeira began the California Dry Bean Festival in Tracy. Held the first weekend in August, the festival attracts 30,000 people annually.


The Camões Center for the Study of the Portuguese-Speaking World was established at Columbia University.


The Portuguese Heritage Scholarship Foundation (PHSF) was founded in Bethesda, Maryland with the goal of providing undergraduate scholarships to Portuguese Americans, thereby making higher education a possibility for a greater number of them.


Graça Almeida Rodrigues, Cultural Counsellor at the Embassy of Portugal, was instrumental in bringing many lectures and programs on Portuguese topics to the Library of Congress through cooperation with the Hispanic Division. Collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Embassy of Portugal has continued under her successor, José Sasportes, as well as Maria Theresa Greenwald, Social and Portuguese Communities Counselor.

Major centers for the study of Portuguese culture and politics, as well as the Portuguese in the United States, include Brown University, the Camões Center for the Study of the Portuguese-Speaking World at Columbia University, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.


The Hispanic Division hosted a two-day conference with the American Portuguese Society.


At the Library of Congress, Dr. Kenneth Maxwell, director of the Camões Center for the Study of the Portuguese-Speaking World at Columbia University and of the Latin America Program, Council of Foreign Relations, gave a lecture sponsored by the Hispanic Division, entitled Jefferson and the Abbé Correia da Serra: Transatlantic Partners in the Enlightenment.

Johns Hopkins eminent historian A. J. R. Russell-Wood's A World on the Move: The Portuguese in Africa, Asia, and America, 1415-1808 was published. In the words of its author, "this book saw its genesis as a [1990] lecture at the Library of Congress."


The Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress sponsored several lectures: Professor Ana Hatherly, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, The Luso-Brazilian World of Translations: Finding the Author's Intentions; Helder Macedo, president of the International Association of Lusitanists, Camoens Professor of Portuguese, University of London, Portugal: The New Frontier; Ana Vicente, president of the Commission for Equality and Women's Rights, Lisbon, Portuguese Women in the 1990s: Where Are We Two Decades after the Revolution?

Jo-Anne S. Ferreira's The Portuguese of Trinidad and Tobago: Portrait of an Ethnic Minority was published. Much of the research for the volume was performed at the Hispanic Division.

The journal Santa Barbara Portuguese Studies was founded by João Camilo dos Santos, professor of Portuguese literature at the University of California.


Among the lectures sponsored by the Hispanic Division were: Merle Severy, retired editor of National Geographic, Portugal of the Discoverers; Professor Maria Teresa Alves, Universidade Clássica de Lisboa, Adding Up: Saul Bellow and the Art of Fiction. A round table discussion, Luso-Brazilian Studies in the Greater Washington Area, was held the same year with the assistance of the Gulbenkian Foundation, and Scholar in Residence Professor Ana Hatherly of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa researched Camões translations at the Library of Congress.


In celebration of the Day of Portugal, the Library of Congress, the Embassy of Portugal, and Madison Council Member Marguerite S. Roll sponsored the round table discussion Portuguese Communities in the United States.

Luso-American Bethany Letalien became the first Luso-American Development Foundation Fellow at the Hispanic Division in order to assist with the preparation of the Handbook of Portuguese Studies, due to be published in 1998.


June 10, the Day of Portugal, was celebrated by the Library of Congress with the opening of Celebrating the Portuguese in America: A Cartographic Perspective, which was displayed for several months outside of the Geography and Map Division. The Library of Congress Information Bulletin published a report on the event. Iêda Siqueira Wiarda, Hispanic Division, and Ronald Grim, Geography and Map Division, were co-curators of the exhibit.


The Handbook of Portuguese Studies, a collaborative effort between the Hispanic Division and the Luso-American Development Foundation, is scheduled for publication this year.

Iêda Siqueira Wiarda, Hispanic Division, and Kohar Rony, Asian Division, were co-editors of The Portuguese in Southeast Asia: Malacca, Moluccas, East Timor, a bibliography of Library of Congress holdings pertaining to this area of the world, in which the Portuguese were very active.

This "Portuguese Immigration in the United States" project, sponsored by the Luso-American Development Foundation, was researched by Bethany Letalien and developed by Tracy North, Webmaster, Hispanic Division.

1492-1769 1770-1869 1870-1899 1900-1919 1920-1957 1958-present

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