"Sometimes when I am working in the fields,
I reach down and get a handful of good clean dirt.
It feels warm in the palm of my hand.
I let it dribble through my fingers and I feel as if
I had just shaken hands with all my ancestors."
(Tony Jerome, C. 1900s, Turlock)
Azoreans to California
By Robert L. Santos
From Old world way station to New World home. The Azores, uninhabited until the age of discovery, were settled shortly thereafter by immigrants primarily from Portugal and Flanders. These immigrants in turn would immigrate again. They had fled Europe in the first place because of plagues, war, starvation, crime, rebellion and overpopulation. The New World was looked to as a place of hope and of refuge for the teeming thousands of tattered and struggling European peasants. The Azores provided Portugal with additional land where it could send a few criminals, a few rebels, a few adventurers and a few capitalists to serve the motherland. Some of the Portuguese migrants stayed in the Azores; others left for new lands when opportunity called - or when conditions on the islands forced them off.
Azoreans left the archipelago throughout its 500 years of history for much the same reasons as Europeans left Europe. First went those venturesome spirits touched by wanderlust. Soon, however, overpopulation on the islands led to starvation and lack of employment. (In 1640, there were 100,000 people in the Azores.) The land tenure system on the islands allowed no opportunity to better oneself, there were many natural disasters to fear, the Portuguese government's mandatory military conscription for 14-year-olds caused thousands of young men to flee and, finally, the discovery of gold in California lured thousands more from the islands.
When Portugal had some of her colonial lands taken away by other European nations, most frequently the Dutch, those Azoreans who joined Portuguese forces to retake these lands saw the wealth of these other colonies. Evidently, more opportunities awaited elsewhere. Toward the end of the 17th century, for example, many Azoreans left to mine for the gold discovered in Brazil. Azoreans also gained a window to the land just west of their doorstep when ships from Britain's American colonies began to stop at the Azores, which contact greatly increased when the United States was an infant nation. Mass immigra tion to the United States followed in three major waves: 1800-1870,1870-1930 and 1957 to the present.
Beginning in the 1830s, the Azorean economy staggered and many islanders faced starvation. Potato rot and grape fungus hit; the famed wine at the island of Pico was reduced to a trickle and orange blight struck in 1877, cutting the production by two-thirds. Drought occurred and recurred, further punishing a starving people. This short poem captures the feeling:
The land is poor, the children swarm, our fields lack seed:
Our cradles fill, - a double harm:
God sends drought upon the farm and a mouth to feed.
Yankee whaling provided a means for the young Azorean male both to seek opportunity beyond the share cropping land system and to escape the yoke of mandatory mili tary service. Whaling ships stopped at the Azores to take on supplies as well as Portuguese sailors. The Azorean teenager would find a way to secretively hoard the ship and leave the islands, hoping to return again after accumulating some wealth.
In 1880, when a new Portuguese law required that $300 be deposited for any male of military age leaving the country legally, stowing away on a whaling ship became even more common, and soon other types of ships cruised the Azores to "steal Portuguese" (i.e., looking for illegal immigrants to steal away to the United States). A traveler out of Boston, on the ship Surprize, witnessed such activity in the early 1870s:
About nine in the evening a brilliant light, the concerted signal, appeared, flashing at intervals on St. George [Sao Jorge Island]. We stood in, and at about ten a light shone out suddenly close to the ship, and a boat was soon vaguely discerned.
As they came up, "Is this an American ship?" was the hail.
Then they pulled alongside and boarded us, bringing four passengers. At one o'clock A.M. another boat came up with four more passengers, and informed us that several were waiting for us on the other side of St. George ...although they have slipped down steep ledges and sometimes swim several yards through the suff to the boats, as the sea is often too high to allow a boat to land. An English brig had taken off eight from that side a few days before our arrival.
Another ship, Jehu, would pick up Azoreans who lit fires on the shore:
It was now calm, the moon near the full; and soon the expected beacon-flame was seen blazing at intervals at Calheta on St. George. We ran in and showed our light in the rigging, and about eleven a large launch appeared bringing thirteen passengers, including several women and children. This completed the number we could get from St. George, full twenty less than promised.
If the young male Azorean worked his passage to the United States on a whaling ship, the voyage could sometimes last two or three years. In later years, though, the Azorean and his family might be passengers on a steamship: sometimes a benefactor would pay their way; in other cases the immigrants had agreed to pay back their fare once they had worked and saved.
Steerage passage on a steamship in 1900 cost $10-$15 -- two to three weeks' wages in the United States at that time.
For the Azoreans, immigration was a family affair. As soon as the immigrant saved up enough money, he would send for his family, usually one member at a time. Some immigrants would return and bring others back with them to the United States. One descendant recalls that "My grandfather made several trips to the Azores and each time he would bring someone else back."
By 1919, there were approximately 300,000 people in the Azores while there were 100,000 Azoreans in the United States.
Every Azorean family and village was affected by immigration.
Unlike earlier American immigrants, the Azoreans were not seeking religious freedom, political liberty or release from incarceration: they were drawn by economic opportunity, and were willing to work hard to achieve it.
One group of Portuguese immigrants who did come to the United States seeking reli- gious freedom did not come to America by way of the Azores: the Portuguese Jews. Many Sephardic Jews from Portugal fled persecution and came to the colonies.
Mathias de Sousa, one such Jew, arrived in Maryland in 1634, becoming the first documented Portuguese to live in the colonies. In 1654, 23 Sephardic Jews arrived in New Amsterdam fleeing persecution in Brazil. These Jews and other Jews in the area formed what became known as the "Portuguese Nation."
In 1733, 40 Portuguese and Spanish Jews left England and settled in Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. In 1752, Lisbon-born Aaron Lopez, who'd been baptized Catholic but proclaimed his true religious identity once he got to Newport, Rhode Island, helped build Americas first Jewish synagogue at Newport. Lopez also founded the sperm whale oil industry in the United States and had 30 ships in his fleet. He got his crews from the Azores --the first documented Azorean settlers in the United States -- and operated out of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Serving their newly-adopted nation.
Immigrant Portuguese and Azoreans felt strongly about their adopted country. John Paul Jones had 28 Portuguese aboard his ship the Bonhomme Richard, 11 of whom died in the battle with the British ship Serapis. Peter Francisco, a Portuguese, served in the Continental Army. A monument in Greensboro, North Carolina, commemorates his effort, reading: "strongest man in the Revolutionary armies." Francisco was an orphan who lived in Patrick Henry's uncle's home. He was shopkeeper, blacksmith, planter and eventually a wealthy country squire. Francisco also became a friend of Lafayette and accompanied him in his 1824 visit touring the United States.
Many Portuguese settled in Louisiana about 1800 and joined the French pirate Jean Lafitte in attacking British shipping. At the Battle of New Orleans toward the end of the War of 1812, there were Portuguese with "Old Hickory," and when Oliver Hazard Perry fought the great sea battles on Lake Brie, Portuguese sailors fought with him.
Later, in 1866, John Phillips, born on the Azorean island of Pico, became an American hero by riding 236 miles to Fort Laramie in a blizzard, through Indian country, to bring help to Fort Kearney's besieged Army troops. He received a U.S. Congressional award with this accolade: "In all the annals of heroism in the face of unusual dangers and difficulties on the American frontier, or in the world, there are few that can excel in gallantry, in heroism, in devotion, in self-sacrifice and
patriotism, the ride of John Phillips."
The strong young Azoreans who came to the United States in whaling ships first settled aroung the New Bedford area of Massachusetts, and eventually sent for their loved ones. When whaling was on the decline, the Azoreans gravitated toward New Bedford's textile mills and the fishing banks nearby. Though many Azoreans remained in New England, the youths were lured ever westward by new opportunity. Some went to California on whaling ships and soon were in the gold fields. But long before this, of course, the Portuguese had even earlier connections with California during the age of discovery.
The Portuguese in Old California. The world-traveling Portuguese were the first Europeans to step on California soil. João Rodrigues Cabrilho, employed by Spain but Portuguese by birth, was on a voyage of discovery when he sighted San Diego Bay on September 28.1542. He had sailed from Navidad in New Spain with two ships and with Portuguese sailors in his crew. From San Diego, he continued up the coast, stopping at the channel islands, then put ashore in the Ventura area, and sailed to Monterey Bay, discovering it on November 16th. Unfortunately, Cabrilho fell and broke a bone which became infected. He died onJanuary 3, 1543, and was buried on the channel island of San Miguel. Bartolome Ferrelo replaced Cabrilho as captain,and he explored the California coast to the Oregon border.
The next Portuguese to set foot on California was the pilot Nuno da Silva, captured by Sir Francis Drake in January of 1578.
Many nations employed Portuguese pilots; they were the world's finest: Drake's crew acknowledged Silva's ability as pilot of the Golden Hind, as noted by John Walton Brown in his thesis "Portuguese in California."
It was June of 1579 when the Golden Hind, piloted by Silva, stopped just north of San Francisco to repair the ship. A year later, California became a possession of Portugal, albeit indirectly. In 1580, Phillip II of Spain seized the Portuguese throne when it was vacated after the death of the Portuguese king, and for the ensuing 60 years all Portuguese and Spanish possessions, including California, were under one king.
Two Portuguese Franciscan missionaries, Fray Francisco de Nogueira and Fray Rufino, were the next Portuguese to see California. They were traveling on a ship commanded by Pedro de Unamuno, sailing from Macao, a Portuguese possession then temporarily under Spain. On October 18, 1587, they anchored in Morro Bay. Fray Nogueira went ashore as a member of a landing party that explored 15-18 miles into the interior. Another landing party, with Fray Rufino along, fell into a fight with some California Indians. The former landing party came to their rescue, and everyone fled to the ship with their wounded.
Another Portuguese under the employ of Spain was Captain Sebastião Rodrigues Cermeno, sailing from the Philippines. He sighted Cape Mendocino on November 4, 1595 and on November 7th went ashore to claim the land for Spain, naming the anchorage San Francisco Bay (later Drake's Bay). He sailed on down the coast to Monterey Bay, Morro Bay and the channel islands.
Deserting ship was not uncommon: voyages were long and rigorous, and many captains were tyrants. Two Portuguese deserted from the ships of Captain George Vancouver when, during his voyage around the world, he stopped at San Francisco in 1792.
Some historians believe that the Spanish might have lured them away, coveting their skills. In any case, two Portuguese deserters stayed in the area for two years, and were fined $281.33 each for room and board.
In general, the Spanish feared losing control of California but did allow foreigners to stay if they would convert to Catholicism, marry into one of the Spanish Californio families, raise their children Catholic and, interestingly, not teach the English language. Perhaps less wisely, the Mexican government that took California from Spain in the early 19th century was less demanding of foreigners who chose to stay.
California's first recorded Portuguese settler was Antonio Jose Rocha, who had jumped ship but was encouraged to stay because of his blacksmith and carpentry skills. Further, he was Catholic, somewhat akin to the Spanish, being Portuguese, and fit well into Mexican California. By 1815, Antonio was in Los Angeles and had a blacksmith shop.
In 1821, Rocha built El Molino, the old mill, for the missionaries at Mission San Gabriel. He also constructed the building that
would later be the first headquarters of
Los Angeles county and city governments. Rocha married Maria Josefa Alvarado, the daughter of a prominent Californio family, and had five children. He got a land grant in 1828, 4,600-acre Rancho La Brea, where he raised cattle. A generous man, Antonio allowed the public to use the tar from his La Brea tar pits to roof their houses. He and his family moved to Santa Barbara in the 1830s, and he died sometime shortly after that. Early Californian J.J. Warner said about Rocha that he was a pious man, quite a favorite with all the priests, a very industrious man, and one of the most respectable and esteemed citizens of Los Angeles from the time of my first acquaintance with him in 1831 until the time of his death.
Hubert Howe Bancroft lists five Portuguese who were pioneers in California before 1830. Rocha was one; the second was Manuel de Dios Pasos, a Brazilian who arrived at Monterey in 1822 at the age of 18. According to the census records, Dios Pasos was a hunter and was living in Santa Barbara in 1836, then in Los Angeles in 1845.
The third Portuguese pioneer, Joaquin Pereira, was only 20 when he arrived in Santa Barbara in 1826, on a Mexican ship that was wrecked, stranding him. He became a vaquero and lived in Santa Barbara. Joaquin once confided to a judge that he was a member of a group of 150 men under the leadership of José Antonio Carrillo who planned to attack Santa Barbara some time in August 1840. Cartillo was arrested and released; Pereira was never heard of again.
California's next Portuguese settler was Jordan Pacheco, who arrived in California in 1829 from San Blas at the age of 47, and settled in Los Angeles. He married Maria de Jesus Lopez and raised a family. He was a tavern keeper with assets valued at $4,500, according to the 1850 census.
The fifth and last Portuguese settler in Bancroft's pioneer list was Manuel de Oliveira, who came to California in 1829 at the age of 25. He married Micaela PolIorena and had four children. He became the chief steward at Mission San Gabriel, but was removed when problems arose under his authority.
There were at least seven Portuguese who came to California after 1830 and before the American conquest of 1846, and probably many more, but Portuguese immigrants swiftly anglicized their names, disguising their true origin. Foreign contacts with California at this time continued to be primarily through trade and whaling vessels. In the early 1840s, there were about 5,000 foreigners in California, a number of whom were Portuguese (such as those identified in Thomas Larkins' business ledgers in Monterey).
Whaling and the gold rush. Years before the gold rush in California, Yankee traders plied the California coast purchasing hides and tallow for the New England market. Though American whaling ships had been in the Pacific as early as 1787, it was 1819 when the first New England whaler stopped at Hawaii, and Bancroft lists nine American whaling ships in California ports in 1825. While in San Diego in 1830, the American ship Cyrus ordered 1,500 barrels coopered for whale oil, contributing to that city's commerce.
The California coast was busy with whaling and trading: in the 1840s, American traveler William Heath Davis saw 40 whaling ships in San Francisco Bay at one time. The whalers would remain in port four to six weeks, taking on provisions from the ranchos on the eastern side of the bay and doing necessary repairs. Down the coast, whaling ships in Monterey Bay hunted the humpback whale. Nearly all of these Yankee ships carried Azorean crew members who were working to pay for their passage to New England. Like so many other sailors, some of the Azoreans jumped ship to seek opportunities in California. A far higher percentage of crewmen would soon desert their ships after news of the gold discovery in the American River.
In 1848, great schools of bowbead whales were found in the Arctic near Alaska. Once the Yankee whaling fleet heard of this finding, the long arduous trek around the Horn to Alaska began, and San Francisco, like Honolulu, became a major port for the Pacific whalers. At first whaling ships would anchor at Richardson's Bay (Sausalito), in the northwest comer of San Francisco Bay, but shortly the great number of abandoned gold rush ships cluttered up the berthing area. This jingle was popular on the docks of New Bedford, Massachusetts:
Who jumps ship may go to prison
But all the gold he gits is hisn
The cry of gold brought not only whalers but also the whole world to California. As far away as Oporto, Portugal, a pamphlet appeared in 1849 announcing the gold discovery in California, titled "Information and Suggestions Extracted from Official Documents Concerning California and Her Gold Mines," but revealing more about California than just her gold:
A country teeming with gold and precious metals necessarily attracts a great multitude of people, as indeed we see. Moreover this has an excellent climate, a soil of incomparable fertility, and occupies a geographical position well suited for it to become the Universal Emporium of the Trade of Asia and Europe. These innumerable throngs of people which are flocking into California from every quarter of the globe are entirely employed in the exploration of gold, they lack even the most indispensable comforts of life although they have plenty of gold to buy them. So long as those mines continue to produce gold in such abundance and so easy to extract (and they are said to be inexhaustible) the people will not apply itself to any other labor, and for this reason the country will be for many years the best market for European products.
This unabashedly exaggerated promotional piece appealed not only to those souls already stricken by gold fever but also to merchants and farmers, of which mainland Portugal and the Azores had plenty.
San Francisco Bay filled with abandoned ships of all kinds, their crews and officers in the gold fields seeking instant wealth. Ship shortages were talked about even as far away as the Azorean island of Faial, which already had sons in the gold fields. The following letter, preserved by Roxana Dabney in her 1900 compilation of her family records in Faial, is dated October 11,1849, and is information coming from a trade merchant:
"We send you this time a vessel which does not command our unqualified admiration, but the demand for vessels is far greater than the supply; the late accounts having revived to a certain degree the "California emigration mania.
The question is beginning to pass from mouth to mouth, "what is to become of all the vessels sent to San Francisco?" Of course the old ones will lay their bones there, or on the way thither, but so many new ones have gone that there must be a time when they will all return or at least a large proportion; what then will become of the owners and ship builders, who are now reaping a golden harvest?"
Between 1850 and 1860, the number of Portuguese in California jumped from 109 to 1,560, 804 of whom were mining gold in the state's foothill counties. Portuguese were numerous at Shaw Flat and Columbia in Tuolumne County, and at Auburn in Placer County. Their numbers were also notable at Cathay's Valley in Mariposa County; 31 in Klamath County in 1860 and, that same year, eight Azoreans and nine other Portuguese were in Shasta County.
The Siskiyou County mining camp of Hawkinsville, three miles south of Yreka, still had 175 Portuguese in 1880, 70% of whom were still mining. The Yreka Journal ran this 1868 story headlined, "Portuguese Coming:"
"We learn that about 140 Portuguese are shortly coming to this country from the Portuguese Islands and other counties in this State, including a number of women and children. The Portuguese at Hawkinsville are already making preparations for them by holding a miners meeting tomorrow to regulate size of claims. Several of them intend securing ranches also, and the prospects are that a very large portion of out county population will consist of Portuguese, who seem to be a very industrious and hard working class."
Obviously, communication lines were open among the Portuguese in the mines, those elsewhere in California and in the Azores- a network connecting countrymen with countrymen, and providing information helpful in the immigration process and settlement.
The article also shows that the Portuguese were well-received.
In New England, the Portuguese and Azoreans were primarily interested in whaling, fishing and textiles, whereas in California their interest in whaling and fishing was minor as compared to their interest in gold mining and agriculture. Because gold mining, in most cases, did not pay off, many Portuguese soon redirected their efforts toward the traditional Azorean occupation of
And so the Portuguese began settling in the Sacramento Valley, Mission San Jose, San Leandro, Oakland and Castro Valley.
These fertile lowlands were well suited to the type of farming the Azorean knew best, intensive farming. Typically, the Portuguese immigrant would work for wages for awhile, then rent land, and then finally buy land. Soon he would send for his
family to come and join them.
The Portuguese in 1880: "Sea legs into plow legs." In 1880, 84% of the Portuguese living in California would be found in rural areas, with 82.6% of that group owning or operating farms. Of the entire California Portuguese population, only 9.1% were in mining and just 4% in maritime occupations.
In Where Opportunity Knocks Twice, Forrest Crissey wrote:
"Today you may visit whole sections of the Pacific slopes peopled by these Por tuguese islanders, and listen to scores of personal stories of how sea legs have been trained into steady plow legs, and of the individual transformation of ocean wanderers into plodding farmers who are disinclined to stray any farther from their homes than they can drive with their own teams.''
In 1880, California's North Coast had 219 Portuguese, 87% of whom lived in Mendocino County with 66 working in the lumber industry. In the North Central California area 549 Portuguese worked in Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties as miners and farmers.
In the Sierra Nevada counties 831 Portuguese were primarily employed as miners or in farming. But by far the greatest percentage of California's Portuguese - 75% --lived on the Central Coast and were primarily employed in intensive farming. In
the East Bay, their skill and industry constituted such a strong presence that Jac London referred to it in his novel Valley of theMoon, to be noted later
In the Sacramento Valley, 11% of the state's Portuguese worked in farming, fish ing and general labor Merritt Township in Yolo County alone had 218 Portuguese, Portuguese lived throughout the San Joaquin Valley, with the greatest concentrations in Fresno, Kern and Stanislaus counties. These Portuguese worked in farming or animal husbandry. Half of Fresno County's 449 Portuguese were sheep herders.
Very few Portuguese lived in Southen California - roughly, 163 - and those who did were in Los Angeles and Sant Barbara counties employed as whalers, fishermen and laborers.
Shore whaling and "the devotion o fisher folk. " Shore whaling in California conducted just as it had been in the Azores began in Monterey in 1851, initiated by either Captain Davenport or Captain Joseph Clark (nee Joao Machado). But not until 1854 was a company formed, described in the March 14, 1855 edition of the Sacramento Daily Union:
"During the year a number of Portuguese whalers have established themselves at Monterey Bay for the purpose of captuting such whales as are indigenous to the coast. They caught 5 grays, 9 hump-backs, four killers; six were lost; the crew was paid $438 each for its work from April to September"
In 1855 another company was formed of 17 Portuguese and, over three years, took in 800 barrels of oil. In 1858, Davenport formed another company that had harpoon guns and so was able to take in 600 to 1,000 barrels of oil annually for several years. In 1865, Monterey's whaling companies merged into one, forming a crew of 23 men, which took in $31,000 worth of oil and bone the first four months!
As was the Azorean custom, a shore whaling company divided their earnings: 1 barrel of oil in 35 went to the boat steerers, coopers and ship keepers; 1 barrel in 50 went to the oarsmen and blubber carriers; and the owner of the whaleboats got the rest. Most boats cost $500 each. An exceptionally good day's kill could bring $3,000 to $4,000.
Each shore whaling company consisted of a captain, one mate, a cooper, two boat steerers and 11 men. There were always two boats out, so that if, as often happened, a whale smashed one, the survivors had a boat in which to return to shore. Each boat took a crew of six, leaving four men on shore to work shifts in scanning the horizon for whales and tending the boiling blubber in the trypots. The boat crews got their signal from the shore flag as to where the whales were located.
Between 1850 and 1880, 17 shore stations operated intermittently along the California coast, at, for example, Crescent City, Half Moon Bay, Carmel Bay, San Simeon, Portuguese Bend, San Diego Bay and more. Nearly all of the whalers were Azoreans.
Edwin C. Starks of the California Fish and Game Commission wrote this while investigating the station at Moss Landing, Monterey Bay:
"Nearby are the try works, sending forth volumes of thick black smoke from the scrap- fire under the steaming caldrons of boiling oil. A little to one side is the primitive storehouse, covered with cypress boughs ... on the crest of a cone-shaped hill, of the shapeless mass of mutilated whale, together with the men shouting and heaving the capstans, the screaming of gulls and other sea fowl, mingles with the noise of the surf about the shores, and we have a picture of the general life at a California coast whaling station."
As for the men, Albert S. Evans recorded this in his travel journal in 1873 while visiting Pigeon Point station, six miles south of Pescadero: "These men are all 'Gees' Portuguese from the Azores or western Islands. They are a stout, hardy-looking race, grossly ignorant, dirty and superstitious. They work hard, and are doing well in business."
"Superstitious" was indeed apt for these men who had to fight the thrashing cetacean at sea, underlined by the following passage from Anne B. Fisher's biography of Robert Louis Stevenson, who spent some time in Monterey. The city's pavements had whale bones imbedded in them as a religious offering for the whalers' survival. Stevenson once walked with Joaquin, a Portuguese whaler, to the local church, and the whaler said:
"Nearby are the try works, sending forth volumes of thick black smoke from the scrap- fire under the steaming caldrons of boiling oil. A little to one side is the primitive storehouse, covered with cypress boughs ... on the crest of a cone-shaped hill, of the shapeless mass of mutilated whale, together with the men shouting and heaving the capstans, the screaming of gulls and other sea fowl, mingles with the noise of the surf about the shores, and we have a picture of the general life at a California coast whaling station."
I see, Stevenson nodded and looked on the beauty at his feet. Perhaps a fisher for words can someday honor the Saint by telling all the world about the devotion of fisher folk who come to the Mission At Carmel Bay station, Charles M. Scammon
described the residences of the shore whalers in his classic work on whaling. The picture is that of subsistence farmers living as they had in the Azores:
"Scattered around the foothills, which come to the water's edge, are the neatly whitewashed cabins of the whalers, nearly all of whom are Portuguese, from the Azores or Western Islands of the Atlantic. They have their families with them, and keep a pig, sheep, goat, or cow prowling around the premises; these, with a small garden-patch, yielding principally corn and pumpkins, make up the general picture of the hamlet, which is paradise to the thrifty clan in comparison with the homes of their childhood."
Azorean Antone Silva (née Antone Carvalho) was a whaling ship captain who settled in San Leandro with his wife. They had a 13-acre farm along Chicken Lane for which he paid $1,340 in 1861. He planted cherries and apricots, and prospered. Later his three children changed their name to Oakes (Carvalho in Portuguese), from which Gakes Boulevard drew its name.
Kanaka Road and Chicken Lane. Just as New Bedford was the "Portuguese capital of the East," San Leandro was certainly the "Portuguese capital of the West." In San Leandro as early as 1852 there were Portuguese in the poultry boating and fishing businesses. In 1851, Anthony Fountain (né Antonio Fonte) was taking milk from Oakland to San Francisco by boat. In 1860 there were 240 Portuguese living in San Leandro and Hayward, one of whom was Antonio Rogers, born in Faial as Antonio Soares. He worked as a whaler until 1895, when he settled on Chicken Lane in San Leandro. In 1870, it is estimated, there were 4,000 to 5,000 Portuguese living in that area.
Many of San Leandro's Portuguese lived on one of two) colorfully named streets: Chicken Lane (later Dutton Avenue), where most early Azoreans settled and raised chickens and followed other agricultural pursuits, and Kanaka Road, where Portuguese from Hawaii had settled. Later, when fruit trees were planted on a large scale, Kanaka Road became Orchard Avenue.
The story of the many Portuguese who came from Hawaii between 1890 and 1910 to Kanaka Road as well as to other communities around San Francisco Bay is interesting. The Portuguese first arrived in the Hawaiian Islands (then the Sandwich Islands) in 1794. Antonio Silva, arriving in 1828, brought sugar cane agriculture to the islands and the Portuguese John Elliot de Castro became King Kamehameha's friend, adviser and physician.
This longing for the homeland is the Azorean saudade that is, nostalgia buried deep in one's soul. The Hawaiian musical instrument, the ukelele ("jumping mosquito" in Hawaiian), was a Portuguese adaptation first made in 1877 by Portuguese cabinet maker Manuel Nunes, similar to the small Madeiran guitar called the cavaquinho.
Azoreans jumped ship when the whaling vessels they were aboard pulled into Hon olulu for supplies and repair By 1870, there were about 400 Portuguese living in the Hawaiian islands.
Azoreans to California
By Robert L. Santos
In 1877, the Hawaiian government needed sugar cane workers, and offered to pay transportation costs for anyone wanting to immigrate from the Madeira and Azorean islands. From 1878 to 1899, 12,780 islanders came to Hawaii, plus another 1,652 from mainland Portugal. These immigrants, sometimes entire families, worked in the sugar cane fields for 36 months, for which
they got $10 a month for men and $6.50 for women along with lodging, rations and medical care. These conditions soon discouraged many of the Portuguese in Hawaii, who also resented the fact that the local Hawaiian population regarded and treated them as underclass laborers. This was a particularly bitter pill for the Portuguese, who took pride in hard work and achievement. Many left the Islands, while those who stayed intermarried with other nationalities, left the plantations and more or less abandoned their Portuguese traditions. Assimilation, they hoped, would rid them of the underclass stigma. The Portuguese spread throughout the Hawaiian Islands, bought land, raised cattle and grew vegetables; others went into urban occupations. In 1920, there were at least 21,208 Portuguese living in Hawaii.
Between 1890 and 1914, many Portuguese rejected assimilation as a solution and instead chose to cleave to their community. They left Hawaii for California, primarily the San Francisco Bay area, and especially on San Leandro's "Kanaka Road." Since then there has been continuous movement of the Portuguese to and from the Hawaiian Islands. An Azorean who eventually settled in Turlock worked with the Portuguese who came from Hawaii:
"I especially enjoyed listening to the Hawaiian-Portuguese music. It was so sad and plaintive that it made shivers go up and down your spine. These men were from the Azores, but became indentured workers in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii. From there they came to California to work in the melon fields of Turlock, but their hearts were in the land of their youth, the lush, green fields of the Azores."
A certain ingenuity. The excerpt below from William Haley's book The Centennial Year Book of Alameda County, published in 1876 celebrating the centennial of the United States, concerns Alameda County's Portuguese population, whether
from the Sandwich Islands, the Azores or Portugal herself:
"What they called the Portuguese population in Alameda County commensed to settle here at an early date, and are amongst the most thriving portion of our population, occupying as they do, small farms of the best land and growing vegetables and fruits. They are natives of the Azores or Western Isles, and are an exceedingly industrious and thrifty class, with simple hearts and simple pleasures."
Intensive farming, also known as market gardening or truck farming, supplied fresh produce to the surrounding communities. The success the Azorean derived from this type of farming was based on his and his family's hard work, ingenuity and thrift. In Opportunity Knocks Twice , author Forrest Crissey remarks, after observing a farm in San Leandro in the early 1900s, that "When you see a house surrounded by an orchard, and the sides of the road planted to vegetables clear out to the wheel tracks, you may know that a Portuguese lieves there; but don't make the mistake of thinking that it's poverty that pushes his gardening up against the wheels of passing vehicles. It's thrift! These men with street gardens are the solid men of the town. They own business blocks and ranches, and have bank accounts that put some of us
Americans here "way in the shade." It hurts a Portuguese to waste an inch of land. He'll buy the best land out of doors --- knows the best when he sees it too--and will pay a top price without question or flinching; but after he gets it he wants every inch of it to be working for him, night and day every minute of the growing season. And he'll generally contrive to get three crops a year where an American will be content with two."
Another remark from Crissey on how intensive "intensive" can be:
"One of these town orchards in San Leandro has currants between the orchard rows, beans between the currant rows, a row of beans on each side of the trees, beans between the trees in the row and beans from the ends of the rows to the wheeltrack in the street. Not satisfied with this degree of intensiveness and interplanting, the owner doubled the number of rows in the space or corner where his private sidewalks joined the public street!"
The Azoreans had a knack or a certain ingenuity when it came to farming and marketing, as expressed in the below passage by an anonymous Azorean farmer who came to San Leandro with only the clothes on his back and worked on farms for 10 years. During that time he stiadied the various crops, finally deciding that tomatoes were for him:
"I began to study the tomato game by talking with everybody who grew them about here, and especially with the men connected with the canneries. There is generally about one main trick with every crop that makes it a big thing instead of just a fair thing or a failure. The trick was to plant the tomatoes so they would mature just perfect for the best price."
This man ended up operating 500 acres and employing between 40 to 100 seasonal workers (most of whom were fellow Azoreans).
Writing in Valley of the Moon, Jack London acknowledges the creativeness of the Portuguese farmer The main characters, Billy and Saxon, are walking through San Leandro, "Porchugeeze headquarters" as they call it, discussing why the Portuguese have succeeded where "Americans" have failed. They come upon a lineman whose family used to own the property now belonging to the Portuguese. They look at a fruit tree that has four main branches with "living braces" in the crotch. The lineman explains to them:
"You think it growed that way eh? Well it did. But it was old Silva that made it just the same - caught two sprouts, when the tree was young, an' twisted 'em together Pretty slick, eL? You bet. That tree'll never blow down. It's a natural, springy brace, an' beats iron braces stiff. Look along all the rows. Every tree's that way See? An' that's just one trick of the Porchugeeze. They got a million like it."
As they continue their discussion, the lineman explains how the Portuguese acquired heir land:
"My grandfather used to own this. ... Forty years ago old Silva come from the Azores. Went sheep-herding in the mountains for a couple of years, then blew in to San Leandro. These five acres was the first land he leased. That was the beginnin'. Then he began leasin' by the hundreds of acres, an' by the hundred-an-sixties. An' his sisters an' his uncles an' his aunts begun pourin' in from the Azores - they're all related there, you know; an' pretty soon San Leandro was a regular Porchugeeze settlement.
An' old Silva wound up by buy in' these five acres from grandfather. Pretty soon - an'father by that time was in the hole to the neck - he was buyin' father's land by the hundred-an'-sixties. An' all the rest of his relations was doin' the same thing. Father was always gettin' rich quick, an' he wound up by dyin' in debt. But old Silva never overlooked a bet, no matter how kinky. An' all the rest are just like home. You see outside the fence there, clear to the wheel-tracks in the road -- horse-beans. We'd a-scorned to do a picayune thing like that. Not Silva. Why he's got a town house in San Leandro now."
Some Azoreans owned large acreages, but the average c.1912 was 46.6 acres. The farms had orchards of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, cows, chickens and hogs. Though the local economy was a healthy one, urban sprawl would soon push these farmers eastward out into the Livermore Valley and then into the San Joaquin Valley
Not all the Portuguese in San Leandro were involved in farming. They also had jobs as carpenters, shoemakers, clerks, railway workers, cooks, store owners, blacksmiths and machinists. Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel even became the sister city of San Leandro. But the Azoreans had truly arrived when, in the May 12,1887, issue of the Portuguese language newspaper,Progresso Californiense , there was an advertisement for the Azores Hotel, owned by Joao D. Pinheiro, charging $5 a week for lodging.
Persisting from rags to riches. In the mid to late 19th century Portuguese built levees along the Sacramento River to reclaim the land, then farmed it in an area that soon became known as the "Lisbon District" because of its heavy concentration of Portuguese. This district had three ferryboats that crossed the river, transporting residents to school, church and to visit neighbors. In the 1890s, the ferryboat operator charged 10 cents per pedestrian, 25 cents for a horse and rider, 50 cents for a wagon and two horses, 75 cents for wagon with four horses, and livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle and hogs rode for 10 cents each.
Antonio Mendes, born in Terceira, was one of the first to navigate the Sacramento River Abandoning mining in 1855, he bought a boat that conveyed people and cargo from Stockton to Sacramento, and soon owned many boats coming from San Francisco, mostly paddlewheelers, flat-boats and scows.
Portuguese tried planting asparagus in Petaluma, but it was a failure because of rust damage. They then experimented with that crop in Sacramento with great success, leaving more than one Portuguese farmer with a rags-to-riches life. Many of the Portuguese who remained in Petaluma later went heavily into chicken farming, for which that Sonoma County town is still known.
Fortunes were made in lima beans in Ventura County by the Portuguese, who learned how to manage the soil and the terrain. One example is of Manuel Farias, who bought hill land for $25 an acre, then worked the slopes with two workhorses and one saddle horse, which he rode in front of the others to guide the plow. He and other farmers broke through the hardpan, then kept the clumps of soil on the surface to retain the moisture there.
Forrest Crissey had this to say about the Portuguese farmers he observed during his travels in California during the first decade of this century:
... once a Portuguese gets hold of a piece of land he never rests until it is paid for, and he sacrifices his personal ease and comfort until the mortgage is wiped out, to that end saving every dollar above the sternest actual necessities. A mortgaged homestead and an automobile are contrary to the Portuguese catechism! He never stints his land or his stock, however Again, in addition to being an untiring worker, he is an intelligent farmer I never knew a Portuguese farmer who was not a good farmer
Portuguese know-how also was brought to bear in the San Joaquin Valley There was a small wool industry in the Fresno and Hanford area that began in the 1 860s, in which the Portuguese served as shepherds, but the industry declined when drought struck in 1876 and 1877, and sheep and cattle perished by the thousands. Sheep that normally sold for $2 to $3 a head now sold for 25 cents. This was a sure sign that irrigation was needed to water the desertlike terrain if it was to become reliably productive agricultural land.
Until the drought, one could see many Portuguese shepherds with their dogs tending 2,000 or so sheep in Merced County. One citizen of the area commented that the Portuguese "all have a natural liking for animals, and stock in their hands always thrives.
As soon as the ranchowners found this out they encouraged the firstcomers to send back to the Azores for their husky young relatives."
As in their other endeavors, the Portuguese worked for awhile as shepherds, learned the ins and outs of the business, and only then bought their own land and flocks. Even after irrigation came, the Portuguese shepherds still drove flocks along the public roads outside their fences to use every inch of land in a productive form. This practice kept the grass down which, in turn, prevented fires and thus helped local governmental agencies. These roving flocks would travel four miles a day perhaps ending up as far as 20 miles from home. (The advent of automobile traffic put a stop to this practice.)
By 1910, Merced's sweet potato acreage had grown to 2,114 acres begun when Portuguese John B. Avila bought flood land for $1 an acre in 1888, then planted a patch of sweet potatoes from Azorean seedlings. Sweet potatoes were planted in
abundance in neighboring Stanislaus County and, soon, in other Valley counties as well. Pop ulation in the Merced area was also growing -- partly because of the sweet potato's success and partly because irrigation had begun.
Dairying, Azoreans & the San Joaquin Valley. Dairying and the Azoreans fulfill perfectly the cliché "goes together like hand and glove." Being unskilled and unused to tools and implements, most Azorcan foirmer peasants brought only their hands and their farming knowledge to the United States, as is eloquently put by Tony Jerome, an Azorean who migrated early in this century to the San Joaquin Valley:
I don't remember making a decision to become a farmer. It just seemed to be the most natural thing for me to do.
For centuries my ancestors were farmers, not from choice but oot of absolute necessity as a means for existence.
When you live on an island you eat only what you can grow. The clothing we wore and the blankets we slept under were made of the wool my father sheared from a small flock of sheep. My poor mother spent endless days spinning and weaving the wool into cloth. So generation after generation, the love of the land was inbred into us.
To the early Portuguese immigrant it was nearly unbelievable that here in the Turlock area there were thousands of acres of virgin soil, just waiting for the plow. "Sometimes when I am working in the fields, I reach down and get a handful of good clean dirt. It feels warm in the palm of my hand. I let it dribble through my fingers and I feel as if I had just shaken hands with all my ancestors".
Azorean women as well as men had the urge to become farmers and dairy farmers, well illustrated in Jack London's autobiogruphical novel Martin Eden. During his early years, London came to know the Portuguese who lived in Oakland, and he was very interested in their innovative farming practice. But this account also makes it clear that London respected the Portuguese character Martin Eden, a fledgling writer, promises his friend Maria an immigrant Azorean and neighbor who does domestic work for him -- that he will reward her and her children for her work and kindness when he becomes a successful
writer. When Martin asks her what would she want if he were God and could give her anything, Maria replies that " I lika da have one milka ranch good milka ranch. Plenty cow, plenty land, plenty grass. I lika da have near San Le-an; my sister liva dere. I sella da milk in Oakland. I maka da plentee mon. Joe an' Nick no runna da cow. Dey go-a to school. ... Yes, I lika da milka ranch."
Dairying had been a traditional livelihood on the Azorean islands of Sao Jorge, Flores and Terceira, so it is not surprising that during the l880s Azorean immigrants from Sao Jorge began milking cows on dairies found in Sausalito and Bolinas. Again the pattern of learning the business while saving up money is followed: first they were milkhands, then renters, then finally owners.
The San Francisco Bay area market was their hard-earned pot of gold.
Most milkers earned $36 a month plus room and board for a seven-day work week. Once the Azorean milkhand had saved enough money (about $2,000), he would try his hand at tenant dairying, a modified share-cropping scheme: when a large landholder -- say 55,000 acres in Marin County for example -- decided to break up his holdings for tenant dairying he would fence the land, provide the buildings (including a comforrtable house) and cows. The tenant was expected to provide the horses, wagons, farming implements, dairy equipment, furniture for the house and all necessary labor. The tenant would rent the cows for $27.50 annually, agree to take care of the stock and the farm and make repairs when needed. One-fifth of the calves went to the owner, and the tenant could sell for himself pigs, calves and dairy products. The tenant's net annual profit was $5 to
$15 per cow, from which he saved until he could buy his own dairy.
Just before the turn of the century, Portuguese began moving to the San Joaquin Valley where they could buy cheap land to farm. Selling their San Francisco Bay area property for fat profits when urban sprawl encroached, the Portuguese would move to an area where reasonably-priced, large acreages could be purchased. It also was about this time irrigation was introduced, an additional boon for the Portuguese who migrated and invested during this period.
One Merced resident, while riding with Forrest Crissey, the author of Where Opportunity Where Opportunity Knocks Twice, pointed out the irrigation canals and fenced-in land, saying that
"There is an example of Portuguese metho)ds that is worth the attention of any American in almost any part of the country This district through here is rapidly changing from a range country to a farming country. Every few miles you'll run across a new irrigation canal with freshly cut laterals. They welcomed it (irrigation) and said that they'd raise alfalfa and keep dairies of blood stock."
Dairying as a livelihood held great appeal for the Portuguese. For one thing, it provided security: there was always a monthly milk check to produce a steady cashflow. If one owned land, equipment and cattle, these things could always be sold to weather an economic crisis. And as it was the Portuguese habit to save their money continuously, initial investment was possible. Here, a hard-working and frugal but unskilled, mostly illiterate and non-English-speaking Azorean peasant could achieve profit and success.
The Azoreans, people who sacrifice and work together as a family unit towards a common goal, were ideally suited for dairying. No dairy partnerships are formed out side the family because the children can help with the work and later inherit the
Continuing contact with the Azores is important to the whole cycle: the Azorean dairy farmers commonly bring in relatives and friends from the Azores to join them in dairying, giving these new immigrants immediate jobs, homes and paychecks until each new immigrant has learned enough and saved enough to move out and buy his own dairy.
Soon Azorean enclaves were strung throughout the Valley. By the 1960s, 82% of the San Joaquin's dairy workers were employed by Azorean dairymen, and 32% of dairy workers were Portuguese who worked for non-Azorean dairymen. To quote from Alvin Graves' 1969 study,
"A.E Mendes of Riverdale recalls that when he migrated to the San Joaquin Valley, he first located in south-central Kings County, where no less than fifteen families had gathered that were from the village of Santa Barbara of the island of Terceira."
The west side of the Valley has been settled primarily by Terceirans, which is 60% of all Azorean dairymen. In eastern Merced County 50% of the dairymen are from Sao Jorge. This cultural similarity among the Azoreans gives them unity as a group which collectively makes them a force in the California dairy industry
By 1915, Azoreans owned one-half of the dairy land in the San Joaquin Valley and produced more than half of the dairy products. Milk producer's cooperatives sprang up, always having strong Azorean membership. In the 1930s, the Portuguese controlled 60 to 70% of the California dairy industry owning 450,000 head of dairy cattle representing $30 million in assets.
The natural disasters in the Azores of the late 1950s and early 1960s, combined with the resultant U.S. emergency refugee laws, funneled many more thousands of Azoreans into the California dairy industry so that by 1972, 1,062 dairies (52.6% of the total number) were owned by Portuguese in the San Joaquin Valley
Down to the sea in ships. The shore whaling discussed earlier was conducted almost exlusively by Azoreans. Deep sea whaling or ship whaling, as it is sometimes called, involved a lower percentage of Azoreans. One example of those Azorean teenage males sometimes smuggled aboard whaling ships, Frank J. Gomess, is discussed by Cecelia Cardozo Emilio in Azorean Folk Customs, published in 1990 by San Diego's Portuguese Historical Center:
Frank J. Gomes was born on the Island of Flores in 1855. At the age of eighteen he joined a whaling ship and voyaged four years under great hardship. He was given a mere $100 as his final share when he came ashore in San Francisco in 1877.
Indeed, the term "hardship" may be an understatement. Whaling voyages were notably treacherous and inhumane, as is described in this fictionalized account written by William H. Thomas in 1872, The Whaleman's Adventures in the Sandwich Islands and California We find the captain punishing Joe Frank, the Portuguese cook, for giving a black crew member some rum. The captain has just hit and kicked Frank, after which "The Portuguese arose with some difficulty and stood trembling before the quarter-deck tyrant [the captain ... [who] then drew back his arm and let his fist fall upon the unprotected face of the Portuguese, and he fell to the deck as though struck by lightning."
One would hope that Joe Frank might jump ship at first opportunity for his own safety.
Before the European whaler sailed the oceans hunting whales, the mammoth sea creatures would migrate winter and spring from the Arctic to Mexico, San Diego Bay being a favorite spot for female whales to calve in the spring. In 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino described the whales he saw in Monterey Bay:
"This bay also had been already surveyed by the Almirante [Vizcaino's ship] who gave it the name Bahia de Belenas or Whale Bay on account of the multitudes of that large fish they saw there, being drawn thither by the abundance of several kinds of fish."
The translator then appended this excerpt:
"But the most distinguished fish of both seas are the whales; which induced the ancient co)smographers to call [lower] California, Punta de Belenas, or Cape Whale; and these fish being found in multitudes along both coasts give name to a channel in the gulf and a bay in the south sea."
Even in 1876, as the whale supply was waning, R. Guy McClellan wrote in his work The Golden State : "hundreds of them can be seen spouting and blowing along the entire coast."
The slaughter of the whale is richly documented. Whaler Captain C.M. Scammon, who published a classic book on whaling and for whom Scammon's Lagoon in Baja California is named, described the massacre of whales in his lagoon in 1855:
"While the ships lay moored, as many as twenty whaleboats scoured the lagoons "mud-holing" for grays. By day the waters were noisy with the sounds of thrashing whales, the reports of bomb guns, and the cries from scores of whalemen. By night the sky was bright with the fiery glow of boiling try-pots aboard the anchored ships."
One can imagine the Azorean whalers Frank Gomes and Joe Frank, along with hundreds of their countrymen, busy in the lagoon, firing harpoon guns, rowing boats with a whale in tow, and manning the trypots on shore.
Shortly though, the lagoon's whales were gone and the Azoreans had to find other livelihoods. Some turned to farming or dairying ashore, others sought their place in the California fishing industry. Soon there were Portuguese fishing for salmon along the Sacramento River, and also operating fishing boats out of every major coastal seaport San Francisco, Pescadero, Monterey San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and San Diego. By 1880 there were at least 90 Portuguese fishermen and 228
fishing-related businesses operated by Portuguese in California.
Near San Francisco's Vallejo Street wharf, roughly two-thirds of the Portuguese there were single men who lived in cheap houusing and ate in low-class restaurants, where they paid 25 cents for a meal, or $3 a week. Some owed $20 to $150 to the restaurant for back meals. "Breakfast at the Fisherman's Home," the report specified, "consists of an egg, biscuit, and wine or coffee, and is served on a long pine table unpainted."
The tuna industry centered in San Diego, or 'Tunaville", as some have called it, was more lucrative. Though the first Portuguese fisherman came to San Diego in 1876 and fished for barracuda and yellowtail, by 1885 tuna fishing dominated. Joe Mederios and Manuel Madruga, both from the Azorean fishing island of Pico, came to California by way of Provincetown and then the Klondike gold rush, where they worked on codfish ships. Finally, settling in Point Loma on San Diego Bay they pioneered the highly profitable tuna business.
At first, fish were dried and salted, then sent to the markets. Next, the fresh fish were iced and transported to increasingly discriminating consumers on Southern California's coastal markets. Finally in 1919, the industry changed dramatically when the canning of fish began. Tuna fishing boats evolved right along with the industry, from small wooden craft to large sea-going tuna ships worth millions and able to travel great distances. The Portuguese were integral to this evolution.
Like the dairy industry, the tuna industry became a family business for the Portuguese: they brought relatives and friends from the Azores to work with them, ensuring continuing Portuguese dominance of the industry The tuna seasons control the life of the Point Loma community and its family atmosphere provides support for wives and children whose fishermen husbands and fathers are gone for long periods of time at sea.
The community's isolation and the immersion on ships where Portuguese is spoken is similar to the dairy industry in that assimilation is gradual: the immigrant doesn't need to learn English before beginning to function in the workplace or in his community.
The Portuguese culture in California.
A series of California county histories published between 1910 and 1925 contain biographical sketches of each area's "leading men and women," as some of the histories categorize these individuals. Actually very few women grace the pages of these volumes, as they were compiled in a still male dominated world. About 20 of these histoties concerned counties with high concentrations of Portuguese, yielding a wealth of individual biographies portraying California's Portuguese. Seventy-nine
percent of the Portuguese included in these biographies came to California between 1870 and 1900, and 21% had been born in California. Only one had been a Massachussetts resident for a substantial length oftime, but nearly 40% had stopped briefly in New England before continuing to California. Two came from Brazil, four from mainland Portugal and the rest primarily from the islands of Pico, Sao Jorge, Flores, Faial and Terceira.
Seventy percent of these individuals were in farming and dairying; only 25% were involved in business or commerce. Four percent were general laborers, 1% were professionals law, medicine, religion, engineering and a every few were bankers, accountants and insurance agents.
Though the Bay Area was the center of Portuguese immigrants during the 19th century by 1930 there was a clear inland drift to the San Joaquin Valley Yet second- and-third generation Portuguese, increasingly more educated, were now turning to city jobs and moving away from rural employment.
In 1930, of California's 99,194 Portuguese, 63,799 had one or two parents born in the Azores or Portugal, and 30,395 were Azorean immigrants. In 1940, the Portuguese population stopped growing, probably because of the Depression and unfavorable immigration laws. In Hayward: The First 100 Years, Eden Writers describe one Portuguese family's Depression-era life in the Oakland hills:
"Mrs. Joseph Silva reports how it was on their ranch in Palomares Canyon. Food was plentiful, but people were poor. The entire family butchered regularly. Everyone had a special job, even to holding the pan to catch the blood for the traditional Portuguese blood sausage. They salted down meat, cured bacon and hams and made linguisa. The family drove to Pittsburg to get sacks of oysters and salmon to salt in barrels. They canned fruit and dried apricots."
Movement to the urban areas was the Depression-era trend for California's Portuguese: well-assimilated, second- and third-generation Portuguese could find jobs in business and industry and higher land prices discouraged farming.
One of the best, most concise summations of the Azorean character is by One sionimo T. Almeida in his essay "A Profile of the Azorean," from Issues in Portuguese Bilingua! Education
The Azoreans are seen as possessing a character that is deeply religious, good- natured, submissive, indolent, sensitive, pacific, orderly family oriented, industrious, nostalgic and somewhat sad. That character is deeply endowed with a strong sense of family responsibility, one which transmits to children a worldview calling for adherence to a hard-work ethic and to well-disciplined obedience.
Further revealing the nature of Azoreans in America, Walton John Brown's 1944 USC master's thesis, "Portuguese in California," describes the Azoreans as
... home lovers and home owners. They have attained middle-class economic status, and are satisfied, and [have] no thought of leaving. They are proud of their achievement as well as of the fact that they have seldom needed welfare aid, even in times of depresion. ... They are peace-loving people and seldom come before the courts.
Though it is always risky to describe groups (cof individuals in terms of personality types, Almeida and others have seen distinctions in the personalities of Azoreans depending not only on which island they came from but also on the origins of the immigrants to a given island. For example, Sao Miguel absorbed a greater number of southern Portuguese settlers and more Spanish influence than did the middle and western islands, which were settled primarily by the northern Portuguese and
Flemings. Consequently, Almeida speculates, Sao Miguelans are "rough, industrious, sturdy and tenacious," while Azoreans from the middle and western island are "affable, somewhat cunning, fond of festivities, and indolent." The people of Pico are a mixture, being "vigorous, wholesome, sometimes heroic, and always take life seriously"
All Azoreans, of course, have been affected by the sea. the isolation of the islands, by earthquakes and by volcanic eruptions. The influence of these natural phenomena on the psyche of the Azorean has been written about often, but seldom as poetically as Terceirense ethnologist Luis Ribeiro puts it:
"The contemplation of the sea makes men dreamers, saddens and depresses them with its monotony ... The cadence of the waves and of the tides regulates his slow steps and wooden gestures, gives a tone to his drawl and song-like intonation, wrinkles his face and sharpens his sight. ...
During a volcanic eruption or an earthquake, man feels both his own weakness and power of the unfathomable natural forces around him, with the usual violence. Surprised, terrorized, he seeks desperately for the shelter ofdivine protection, because the forces unleashed about him vastly exceed his every possibility of defence."
The thriftiness of the Azoreansion is a legacy of their peasant forebears, who needed every resource for survival. Thus the Azorean immigrant carefully sets goals for his money, and saves enough either to bring his family to America or buy a house or land. Too, Azorean families tend to be large, dictating frugality. Family means survival to the Azorean peasant: everyone is needed to work the land to provide food, shelter and clothing for everyone. Raising healthy children dictates a continuation of the family and hence the culture.
Historical writings frequently state that "Azoreans make good citizens." For exampIe, one Kings County citizen described his Azorean neighbors as "law-abiding, God-fearing folk, good neighbors and liberal givers to any good cause." And a Cape Cod visitor wrote of the New England Portuguese that "They manage to do their work without fuss or ostentation. They even create beauty as they work."
In the Azores, women are considered working equals because of the manual labor required in the fields and around the homestead. This role slipped a bit in New Eng land's Portuguese communities because outside work, typically in the factories, was necessary to the family. But in California, most Azorean women work at home in rural areas. Even so, some Azorean families have broken up because the strongly male-dominated family tradition is being eroded in America; even divorce is no longer uncommon. Other Azorean family traditions have been lost in America, such as respect for the elderly -- kissing the elderly person's hand and asking their blessing as well as addressing them as sir or madam --and no backtalk from children. Also the Azorean Godparent system, which traditionally provided security for children, rarely survives the first generation in America. On the islands, Godparents are expected to help Godchildren if the parents have died or become incapable. (In America, the need for aid is not as great.)
One tradition that has continued, however, is religion. To be Azorean is to be Roman Catholic; even though Portuguese Jews are accepted and Portuguese Protestants are tolerated, the non-Catholic is always suspect. The church once gave the Azorean peasant security because of its conservatism. Things had to remain the same because the peasant's livelihood is so marginal that only a static society and steady economy guarantees survival. In the French Revolution, for example, the revolutionists were shocked when so many peasants failed to embrace the liberation effort but instead clung to their priests and thus, to revolutionary eyes, clove to their enemy. Catholic ritual is important for the stability of the peasant class, as Jerry R. Williams explains in And Yet They Come:
From a peasant perspective, it was not necessary to understand the tenets of the church as long as one had faith and followed the religious dictates of the priest. Bordering on mysticism, their religion combined the inordinate faith in the power of the saints with a strict devotion to the ritual and ceremony of the mass.
In general, women have given impetus to the spiritual in the Azorean culture. Men are basically inactive church members (though they expect their children and women to attend). Though male Azoreans are anti-clerical, suspicious of the devout priest and his lack of real-world practicality, they neverthless expect him to remain moral and to teach their children. Many Azorean men refer to priests as "mother-in-laws" because of their censorious attitude, and to even utter the word "priest" aboard ship is to bring bad luck. Even so, the church remains the nerve center of the traditional Azorean society
Universal public education eventually allows the Azorean to slip into American society: in the classroom and on the playground, basic citizenship and tolerance are learned. Azorean children learning the English language and the ways of the surrounding Protestant society bring about intermarriage and assimilation, all of which throws a good many heretofore insular Portuguese homes into conflict.
The working place too acculturates the immigrant. As new ways are learned, the peasant's backwardness and ignorance comes to an abrupt end. The Azoreans make this transition as well as any other Southern European immigrant group, and soon own their own houses, their own farms. their own sea vessels and their own businesses.
In California, assimilation came at a slower pace than in New England because of the Azorean immigrant's isolation in various farming enclaves, without having to quickly learn English, a new culture or to change occupational techniques. In the dairy no English was needed to talk to the animals. Hands and basic farming skills were all that was needed. Only in the second- and third-generation Azoreans would full Americanization take place.
Several cultural similarities between the Azorean and his adopted countrymen made the procession of assimilation easier than it has been for some other immigrant groups. Most notably, in Azorean peasant society everyone was equal, a basic American political concept. In the Azores one had to work hard to survive, which again is American, typical of an individualistic, democratic society. Finally the Azorean's strong interest in family reflects the very core of American society.
How well have the Portuguese been accepted in American society? The answer is revealed by a non-Portuguese in the Bay Area who contributed this observation shortly after World War 11 in a doctoral dissertation survey administered by Hans Howard Leder:
"The Portagees? Sure. Two of my mechanics are Portagee fellas. Over around the church, on Park Boulevard, is where you'll find them. They aren't as clannish as the Mexicans or the Italians either ... There isn't what you could call a Portuguese neighborhood. ... No, nobody would even think about it if a Portagee was to move in next to them. I wouldn't have thought about it myself if you hadn't asked.
From author to reader: The foregoing article is an excerpt adapted from a book-length work that covers Azorean migration from Europe to New England and California. The point of my study was to show how the Azorean, a composite of many European nationalities, was drawn to the West, constantly seeking a land that would provide a livelihood to raise a family successfully without suppression of his or her own class. The tale is one of hardship and endurance, but like an old movie, it has a happy ending - an American success story that ranks with the many multitudes of the genre. The complete study has been researched in great detail and is well-documented by sources far to numerous to cite here. Please contact the author for further information for purchase of the full study or if a bibliography is desired.
Robert Santos is a reference librarian and university archivist at California State University Stanislaus, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1970. He took his M.S. in library sciences at the University of Southern California and has published articles on library science, local history and California history. He spent a year in Florence, Italy studying history and art. The Summer 1994 issue of Southern California Quarterly (SCQ) contains his article "Dairying in California through 1910." In three 1996 issues of SCQ his work "Eucalyptus in California: Seeds of Good or Seeds of Evil" will appear. He has privately published a comprehensive annotated bibliography with the title A Bibliography of Early California and Neighboring Territories Through 1846. Mr Santos is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy, appears in the 1994 edition of Who's Whoin American Education and is a fourth generation Californian of Azorean ancestry who grew up on his family's dairy near Modesto.
The Article appeared in " The Californians" Volume 13 Number 1.