Portuguese Americans

Portuguese Americans (portugueses-americanos), also known as Luso-Americans (luso-americanos), are American citizens and residents of the United States who are connected to the country of Portugal by birth, ancestry or citizenship.

Americans and others who are not native Europeans from Portugal but originate from countries that were former colonies of Portugal do not necessarily self-identify as "Portuguese-American", but rather as their post-colonial nationalities, although the so-called retornados from former Portuguese colonies are ethnically or ancestrally Portuguese. An estimated 191,000 Portuguese nationals are currently living in the United States.[2]

Some Melungeon communities in rural Appalachia have historically self-identified as Portuguese. Given their complex ancestry, individual Melungeons may descend from Portuguese people, but not all do.

Portuguese Americans
Portugal United States
Total population
Portuguese ancestry
1,373,147 (2015)
0.4% of the US population[1]
Regions with significant populations
California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, among others.
Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups


Portuguese-American Veterans Monument New Bedford w Flags
Monument to Portuguese-American Veterans in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Bilateral ties date from the earliest years of the United States. Following the American Revolutionary War, Portugal was the first neutral country to recognize the United States.[3]

Portuguese people have had a very long history in the United States, since 1634. The first documented Portuguese to live in colonial America was Mathias de Sousa, a Sephardic Jew.[4] The oldest synagogue in the country, the Touro Synagogue, is named after one of these early Portuguese Jews, Isaac Touro.

Some of the earliest European explorers to reach continental North America in the Age of Discovery were Portuguese explorers, such as João Fernandes Lavrador. Navigators, like the Miguel Corte-Real family, may have visited the North American shores at the beginning of the 16th century.[5]

There is a historic landmark, the Dighton Rock, in southeastern Massachusetts, that a small minority of scholars believe testifies their presence in the area. Portuguese explorer João Rodrigues Cabrilho explored the California coast for the first time.

During the Colonial period, there was a small Portuguese emigration to the present-day U.S., especially to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Peter Francisco, the giant soldier in the US Continental Army, is generally thought to have been born Portuguese, from the Azores.

In the late 19th century, many Portuguese, mainly Azoreans and Madeirans, emigrated to the eastern U.S., establishing communities in New England coastal cities, primarily but not limited to Providence, Bristol and Pawtucket in Rhode Island, and Taunton, Brockton, Fall River and New Bedford in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Another part of Massachusetts that attracted many Portuguese immigrants was Northern Massachusetts, most notably Lowell and Lawerence.

A small number of Portuguese immigrants settled in the city of Boston. These Portuguese immigrants mainly settled in East Boston and North End.

A Portuguese community existed in the vicinity of the Carpenter Street Underpass in Springfield, Illinois, one of the earliest and largest Portuguese settlements in the Midwestern United States. By the early twentieth century, the project area represented the western extension of a neighborhood known as the "Badlands." The Badlands was included in the widespread destruction and violence of the Springfield Race Riot in August 1908, an event that led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Carpenter Street archaeological site possesses local and national significance for its potential to contribute to an understanding of the lifestyles of multiple ethnic/racial groups in Springfield during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[6]

On the West Coast in California there are Portuguese communities in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz, the Central Valley, the dairy producing areas of the Los Angeles Basin, and San Diego, in connection to Portuguese fishermen and settlers emigrating to California from the Azores. There are also connections with Portuguese communities in the Pacific Northwest in Astoria, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada as well.

Many Portuguese settled in the Kingdom of Hawaii, before its overthrow by the United States in the late 19th century.


In the 1840s, whaling ships were the way to get to America, after a slow voyage of two to three years.[7] In the early 1700s, Massachusetts dominated the whaling industry with Nantucket, Cape Cod and New Bedford. By the early 19th century, New Bedford had become the center of whaling in America. When whalers were out at sea, they would frequently stop in the Azores to recruit crew members for help.[7] At the end of their voyage, they docked in New England, where crew members often settled as immigrants. Today, one can visit the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts and encounter authentic Portuguese whaling history.[7]

20th century

In the mid-late 20th century, there was another surge of Portuguese immigration in America, mainly in the northeastern United States (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maryland), and also in California. There are Portuguese clubs, principally in the larger cities of these states, which operate with the intention of promoting sociocultural preservation as venues for community events, athletics, etc.

Lady of Fatima tiles
Many houses and apartments in The Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey are embellished with elaborate azulejos. One common image is Our Lady of Fatima, seen here.

Many Portuguese Americans may include descendants of Portuguese settlers born in Africa (like Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique) and Asia (mostly Macanese people), as well Oceania (Timor-Leste). There were around 1 million Portuguese Americans in the United States by 2000. An estimated 1 million of Portuguese descent in California as of 2018.

As with other immigrants that arrived in America, several Portuguese surnames have been changed to align with more American sounding names, for example Rodrigues to Rogers, Oliveira to Oliver, Martins to Martin, Pereira to Perry, Moraes or Morais to Morris, Magalhães to McLean, Souto to Sutton, Moura to Moore, Serrão to Serran, Silva to Silver or Sylvia, Rocha to Rock (or Stone), Madeira to Wood, Pontes to Bridges, Fernandes to Frederick, Costa to Charlie, and Emo or Emos to Emma.

A general contribution the Portuguese people have made to American music is the ukulele, which originated in Madeira and was initially popularized in the Kingdom of Hawaii.[8] John Philip Sousa was a famous Portuguese American composer most known for his patriotic compositions.

A large amount of mingling took place between Chinese and Portuguese in Hawaii.[9] There were very few marriages between European and Chinese people with the majority being between Portuguese and Chinese people.[10][11] These unions between Chinese men and Portuguese women resulted in children of mixed parentage, called Chinese-Portuguese. For two years to June 30, 1933, 38 of these children were born; they were classified as pure Chinese because their fathers were Chinese.[12]

Azorean Refugee Act of 1958

In 1957–58, the Capelinhos volcano erupted on the Azorean island of Faial, causing massive destruction from lava and smoke. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Azorean Refugee Act in 1958, making 1,500 visas available to the victims of the eruption.[13] An extension was enabled in 1962, providing opportunities for even more immigrants. According to the United States Census from 2000, there were 1,176,615 Portuguese-Americans, the majority being of Azorean descent.

This led to the passing of the 1965 Immigration Act, which stated if someone has legal or American relatives in the United States, they could serve as a sponsor and, therefore could be a legal alien. This act dramatically increased Portuguese immigration into the 1970s and 1980s.[7]

Portuguese-American literature

There are three anthologies of Portuguese-American literature: Luso-American Literature: Writings by Portuguese-Speaking Authors in North America edited by Robert Henry Moser and António Luciano de Andrade Tosta and published in 2011, The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry edited by Alice R. Clemente and George Monteiro, published in 2013, and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora in the United States and Canada: An Anthology edited by Luís Gonçalves and Carlo Matos, and published in 2015. The list of accomplished writers is considerable: Katherine Vaz, Frank X. Gaspar, Millicent Borges Accardi, Sam Pereira, Nancy Vieira Couto, Alfred Lewis, Charles Reis Felix and John dos Passos.


New England ancestry by county - updated
Largest self-reported ancestry groups in New England. Americans of Portuguese descent plurality shown in grey.

Portuguese-Americans are the fourth largest ethnic group in the state of Hawaii, fifth largest group in Rhode Island and the eighth largest group in Massachusetts.[14]

Biggest communities

Portuguese-American communities in the US according to the 5 Year Estimates of the (2016 American Community Survey):[15]

USA by Ancestry : 1,367,476
USA by Country of Birth : 176,286

Top CSA's by Ancestry:

  1. Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-RI-NH CSA: 393,457
  2. New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA: 141,522
  3. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA: 124,652
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA CSA: 49,465
  5. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, CA-NV CSA: 40,972
  6. Modesto-Merced, CA CSA: 38,031
  7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL CSA: 21,842
  8. Hartford-West Hartford-Willimantic, CT CSA: 21,599

Top CSA's by Country of Birth:

  1. Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-RI-NH CSA: 68,875
  2. New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA: 47,964
  3. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA: 10,570
  4. Modesto-Merced, CA CSA: 5,841
  5. Hartford-West Hartford-Willimantic, CT CSA: 3,873
  6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL CSA: 3,493
  7. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA CSA: 3,153
  8. Springfield-Greenfield Town, MA CSA: 3,105

Top States by Country of Ancestry:

  1. California: 346,172
  2. Massachusetts: 296,449
  3. Rhode Island: 96,433
  4. New Jersey: 76,952
  5. Florida: 69,147
  6. New York: 50,657
  7. Connecticut: 49,167
  8. Hawaii: 48,634

Top States by Country of Birth:

  1. Massachusetts: 54,869
  2. New Jersey: 31,493
  3. California: 26,107
  4. Rhode Island: 16,384
  5. New York: 10,858
  6. Connecticut: 10,282
  7. Florida: 9,124
  8. Pennsylvania: 2,501

See also


  1. ^ "2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: Selected Social Characteristics in the United States". United States Census Bureau. 2015. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-04-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Robert L. Santos (1995). "Azorean Immigration Into the United States". Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  5. ^ "Associação Dr. Manuel Luciano da Silva" Acervo Documental". Archived from the original on May 23, 2003. Retrieved December 17, 2006.
  6. ^ Martin, Andrea. "Carpenter Street Underpass" (PDF). Springfield Railroads Improvement Project. US Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
  7. ^ a b c d Ponta-Garça, Nelson, director. Portuguese in New England. 2016.
  8. ^ "Ukulele origins from Madeira Portugal". Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  9. ^ United States Bureau of Education (1921). Bulletin, Issues 13-18. U.S. G.P.O. p. 27. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
  10. ^ Romanzo Adams (2005). Interracial Marriage in Hawaii. Kessinger Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-4179-9268-3. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
  11. ^ Margaret M. Schwertfeger (1982). Interethnic Marriage and Divorce in Hawaii: A Panel Study of 1968 First Marriages. Kessinger Publishing. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
  12. ^ Romanzo Adams (2005). Interracial Marriage in Hawaii. Kessinger Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-4179-9268-3. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
  13. ^ "Text of H.Res. 1438 (110th): Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Azorean Refugee Act of 1958 and celebrating ... (Passed the House version) - GovTrack.us". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  14. ^ "Portuguese American Population Numbers". Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  15. ^ "2016 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2018-03-02.

Further reading

  • Barrow, Clyde W. (2002). Portuguese-Americans and Contemporary Civic Culture in Massachusetts.
  • Cardozo, Manoel da Silviera Soares (1976). The Portuguese in America, 590 B.C.–1974: A Chronology & Fact Book
  • Leal, João, and Wendy Graça (2011). Azorean Identity in Brazil and the United States: Arguments about History, Culture, and Transnational Connections. Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Tagus Press.
  • Warrin, Donald, and Geoffrey L. Gomes (2013). Land, as Far as the Eye Can See: Portuguese in the Old West. Dartmouth, Massachusetts: Tagus Press. 376 pages. Traces the experiences of Portuguese immigrants as frontier settlers.
  • Williams, Jerry R. (2007). In Pursuit of Their Dreams: A History of Azorean Immigration to the United States (2nd ed.). North Dartmouth, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
  • Wolforth, Sandra (1978). The Portuguese in America.

External links

African Americans in Alabama

African Americans in Alabama are residents of the state of Alabama who are of African American ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 26.5% of the state's population.

African Americans in Florida

African Americans in Florida are residents of the state of Florida who are of African ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 16.6% of the state's population. The African-American presence in the peninsula extends as far back as the early 18th century, when African-American slaves escaped from slavery in Georgia into the swamps of the peninsula.

African Americans in Georgia (U.S. state)

African-American Georgians are residents of the U.S. state of Georgia who are of African American ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 31.2% of the state's population.

African Americans in Mississippi

African Americans in Mississippi are residents of the state of Mississippi who are of African-American ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 37.4% of the state's population.

African Americans in North Carolina

African-American North Carolinians are residents of the state of North Carolina who are of African ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 22% of the state's population.

Bristol, Rhode Island

Bristol is a town in Bristol County, Rhode Island, as well as the historic county seat. It is a deep-water seaport named after Bristol, England.

The population of Bristol was 22,954 at the 2010 census. Major industries include boat building and related marine industries, manufacturing, and tourism. The town's school system is united with neighboring Warren, Rhode Island. Prominent communities include Luso-Americans (Portuguese-Americans), mostly Azorean, and Italian-Americans.

Five dots tattoo

The five dots tattoo is a tattoo of five dots arranged in a quincunx, usually on the outer surface of the hand, between the thumb and the index finger. The tattoo has different meanings in different cultures—it has been variously interpreted as a fertility symbol, a reminder of sayings on how to treat women or police, a recognition symbol among the Romani people, a group of close friends, standing alone in the world, or time spent in prison (with the outer four dots representing the prison walls and the inner dot representing the prisoner). Thomas Edison had this pattern tattooed on his forearm. The five dots tattoo is also most prevalent amongst gangsters. For example, in northern California it is a tattoo that symbolizes the membership of the "15 Street Locos", a juvenile institution gang, created and founded in Monterey County, CA and later spread across the county streets. In the US, it is also believed to have spread from Vietnamese gangs, who use it to mean, "A group of friends".The five dot tattoo resembles the five shields on the Portuguese flag--the shields representing the five Holy Wounds inflicted upon Jesus during his crucifixion--and was formerly worn by many members of the Portuguese armed forces. It has since become a popular tattoo for first generation Portuguese-Americans and Portuguese-Canadians.

Gabriel Marques (attorney)

Gabriel S. Marques is an American attorney who serves as the Fiscal Officer for Nassau County, New York and is an Adjunct Professor of Economics for Molloy College. He is an elected member of the Portuguese Government's Diaspora Advisory Council (Conselho das Comunidades Portuguesas) and the current president of the National Organization of Portuguese Americans.

German Nebraskan

German Nebraskans are residents of the state of Nebraska who are of German ancestry. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 738,894 German Americans living in Nebraska, making up 42.7% of the population, the third largest percentage of any state.

Guyanese Americans

Guyanese Americans are Americans who can trace their ancestry back to Guyana. As of 2011, there are 208,899 Guyanese Americans currently living in the United States. The majority of Guyanese live in New York City – some 140,000 – making them the fifth-largest foreign-born population in the city.

Katherine Vaz

Katherine Vaz (born August 26, 1955) is an American writer. A Briggs-Copeland Fellow in Fiction at Harvard University (2003-9), a 2006-7 Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Fall, 2012 Harman Fellow at Baruch College in New York, she is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Saudade (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), the first contemporary novel about Portuguese-Americans from a major New York publisher. It was optioned by Marlee Matlin/Solo One Productions and selected in the Barnes & Nobles Discover Great New Writers series.Her second novel, Mariana, (HarperCollins, 1997), was selected by the Library of Congress as one of the Top 30 International Books of 1998 and has been translated into six languages.Vaz's first short story collection Fado & Other Stories received the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and her second collection, Our Lady of the Artichokes, won the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize.Vaz is a recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1993) and the Davis Humanities Institute Fellowship (1999). She has been named by the Luso-Americano as one of the Top 50 Luso-Americanos of the twentieth century and is the first Portuguese-American to have her work recorded for the Library of Congress, housed in the Hispanic Division. The Portuguese-American Women’s Association (PAWA) named her 2003 Woman of the Year. She was appointed to the six-person U.S. Presidential Delegation to open the American Pavilion at the World’s Fair/Expo 98 in Lisbon. She lives in New York City and the Springs area of East Hampton with Christopher Cerf, whom she married in July, 2015.

List of Portuguese Americans

This is a list of notable Portuguese Americans, including both original immigrants who obtained American citizenship and their American descendants.

List of Spanish-language television networks in the United States

The following is a list of Spanish-language television networks in the United States. As of 2016 the largest Hispanic/Latino television audiences in the U.S. are in California (Los Angeles, San Francisco area), New York, Florida (Miami area), Texas (Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio), Illinois (Chicago), and Arizona (Phoenix).

Oceanian Americans

Oceanian Americans or Oceanic Americans are Americans whose ancestors came from Oceania, a region which is compose of the Australian continent and the Pacific Islands.

There are basically two Oceanian American groups, that well represent the racial and cultural population of Oceania: Euro Oceanic Americans (Australian Americans and New Zealand Americans) and the indigenous peoples of Oceania in the United States or Pacific Islands Americans (Chamorro Americans, Samoan Americans, etc.) Most of the Euro-Oceanians are descended from the European settlers in Oceania; while Pacific Islanders are of indigenous Oceanic descent.

Panamanian Americans

Panamanian Americans (Spanish: panameño-americano, norteamericano de origen panameño or estadounidense de origen panameño) are Americans of Panamanian descent.

The Panamanian population at the 2010 Census was 165,456. Panamanians are the sixth-smallest Hispanic group in the United States and the second smallest Central American population.

The largest population of Panamanians reside in Brooklyn and South Florida.

Portuguese-American neighborhoods

In the late 19th century, many Portuguese, mainly from the islands of Azores and Madeira, migrated to the United States and established communities in cities such as Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and San Jose, California. Many of them also moved to Hawaii. There are an estimated 1,500,000 Portuguese Americans based on the Government Census Community Survey.

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii began in 1878 when Portuguese residents made up less than 1% of the Island population. However, the migration that began that year of laborers from Madeira and the Azores to work in the sugarcane plantations rapidly increased the Portuguese presence in Hawaii, and by the end of 1911 nearly 16,000 Portuguese immigrants had arrived.

Portuguese sweet bread

Portuguese sweet bread (Portuguese: pão doce "sweet bread" or massa sovada "kneaded dough") is a bread made with milk, sugar, eggs, yeast, flour and sometimes lemon peel to produce a subtly sweet lightly textured loaf or rolls. A slightly different recipe is made during Easter that is known as folar and often contains a hard-boiled egg.Portuguese sweet bread is traditionally made around Christmas, and the Easter version is made around Easter, but it is also available year-round. It is traditionally baked in a stone oven known as a forno.The bread is usually served simply with butter and is sometimes served with a rice pudding known as arroz doce.

Portuguese sweet bread is common in areas with large populations of Portuguese Americans and Portuguese Canadians, such as New England, Hawaii, northern New Jersey, southern Florida, California, and Ontario, Canada especially Toronto, and it is prominent in Hawaiian and New England cuisines. At one time, Hawaii featured numerous fornos for baking Portuguese breads constructed by Portuguese immigrants. The California-based company King's Hawaiian and numerous regional bakeries produce Portuguese sweet bread.

Southeastern Massachusetts

Southeastern Massachusetts consists of those portions of Massachusetts that are, by their proximity, economically and culturally linked to Providence, Rhode Island as well as Boston. Despite the location of Cape Cod and the islands to its south, which are the southeasternmost parts of the state, they are not always grouped in this designation. At its broadest definition, it includes all of Massachusetts south of Boston and southeast of Worcester.

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Eastern Europe
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