Portuguese Americans

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Portuguese Americans
Total population
(Portuguese ancestry
0.5% 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 Americans (portugueses-americanos), also known as Luso-Americans (luso-americanos) in English as well, are Americans whose ancestry originates in Portugal.

Colloquially, the term is also incorrectly applied to people whose ancestry stems from Portuguese-speaking countries. Accurately, a Portuguese American denotes any person born in the United States whose family came to the United States from Portugal, or an immigrant from Portugal who becomes a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S.[2]

Americans and others who are not native Europeans from Portugal but originate from countries that were former colonies of Portugal are not Portuguese-Americans, rather, they are simply referred to by their present-day nationalities, although many citizens of former Portuguese colonies are in fact also ethnically Portuguese. An estimated 191,000 Portuguese nationals are currently living in the United States.[3]

As with other European Americans, some Portuguese surnames have been changed to align with more American sounding names, for example Rodrigues to Rogers, Oliveira to Oliver, Martins to Martin, Silva to Silver, Carneiro to Carney and Pereira to Perry.


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] Some of the earliest European explorers to reach portions of the New World were said to be Portuguese. 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 monumental landmark, the Dighton Rock, in southeastern Massachusetts, that 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 Azorean and Madeiran, emigrated to the eastern U.S., establishing communities in various New England coastal cities, primarily but not limited to:

Providence, Bristol and Pawtucket in Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Taunton and Fall River in Southeastern Massachusetts. On the West Coast in California there are Portuguese communities in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz, the Central Valley, 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.[citation needed]

Many Portuguese relocated to the Kingdom of Hawaii, prior to its overthrow by the United States in the late 19th century.

20th century[edit]

In the mid-late 20th century, there was another surge of Portuguese immigration in America, mainly in the Northeast (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts). There are various 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. 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 the year 2000.

As with other European Americans, some Portuguese surnames have been changed to align with more American sounding names, for example Rodrigues to Rogers, Oliveira to Oliver, Martins to Martin, Silva to Silver, Carneiro to Carney and Pereira to Perry.

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.[6] 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.[7] There were very few marriages between European and Chinese people with the majority being between Portuguese and Chinese people.[8][9] These unions between Chinese men and Portuguese women resulted in children of mixed Chinese Portuguese 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.[10]

Portuguese-American Literature[edit]

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 finally "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, John dos Passos, Lara Gularte, George Monteiro, Donna Freitas, Carlo T. Matos, Anthony Barcellos, Brian Sousa, Darrell Kastin, Joseph M. Faria, Michael Spring Garcia, David Oliveira, Francisco Cota Fagundes, Lawrence Oliver, Charles Peters, Laurinda C. Andrade, Julian Silva, Emily Daniels, Art Coelho, Sue Fagalde Lick, and Thomas J. Braga.


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.[11]

Biggest communities[edit]

The three largest Portuguese-American communities in the US (2000 Census):

  1. Metro Boston area: 192,017 (3.3% of Metro population)[12]
  2. Greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area: 129,865 (0.6% of total Metro population)[12]
  3. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area: 121,757 (1.7% of total Metro population)[12]

Other large areas of Portuguese are Santa Cruz, California; San Jose, California; San Diego/Point Loma, California; Fresno, California; Bakersfield, California; New Orleans, Louisiana and Newark, New Jersey.

Oakland, California – Large Portuguese immigration established a community, the Portuguese were one of the city's largest ethnicities in the mid 20th century.[citation needed]

By state[edit]

The states with the largest Portuguese populations:[citation needed]

The states with the highest percentages of Portuguese population:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2008 Community Survey". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionaries
  3. ^ http://www.observatorioemigracao.secomunidades.pt/np4/2454.html
  4. ^ Robert L. Santos (1995). "Azorean Immigration Into the United States". Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Associação Dr. Manuel Luciano da Silva" Acervo Documental". Retrieved December 17, 2006. 
  6. ^ "Ukulele origins from Madeira Portugal". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  7. ^ United States Bureau of Education (1921). Bulletin, Issues 13-18. U.S. G.P.O. p. 27. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  8. ^ Romanzo Adams (2005). Interracial Marriage in Hawaii. Kessinger Publishing. p. 396. ISBN 1-4179-9268-9. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  9. ^ Margaret M. Schwertfeger (1982). Interethnic Marriage and Divorce in Hawaii A Panel Study of 1968 First Marriages. Kessinger Publishing. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  10. ^ Romanzo Adams (2005). Interracial Marriage in Hawaii. Kessinger Publishing. p. 396. ISBN 1-4179-9268-9. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  11. ^ "Portuguese American Population Numbers". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  12. ^ a b c "Census 2000- Population of European-American and other ethnic groups in major American metropolitan areas". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]