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Title: Portuguese-American  
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Subject: Tom Hanks, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, Ludlow, Massachusetts, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Ironbound, Cheryl Araujo, Stephen Flemmi, Joaquim de Almeida, Barnstable High School, Joseph Barboza
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Portuguese American
Template:Image array
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 (occasionally known as Luso-Americans) are citizens of the United States whose ancestry originates in the southwest European nation of Portugal, including the offshore island groups of the Azores and Madeira.

Colloquially, the term is also incorrectly applied to people whose ancestry stems from Portuguese-speaking countries. Such use of the term "Portuguese American" is employed as a synonym to Luso American. Accurately, a Portuguese American denotes any person born in the United States whose family came to the United States from Portugal. Americans and others who are not native Europeans from Portugal but originate from countries that were former colonies of Portugal are not Portuguese American, rather, they are codified as Lusophone,[2] or simply referred to by their present-day nationalities (Cape Verdean, Brazilian, etc.), although many citizens of former Portuguese colonies are also ethnically Portuguese. Famous Portuguese Americans include Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, Meredith Vieira, James Franco, Daniela Ruah, Pedro Pinto, Tony Coelho and Joe Perry.


Portuguese people have had a very long history in the United States (from 1634), which may even be pre-Columbian, although there is lack of solid historical evidence. Navigators, like the Miguel Corte-Real family, may have visited the North American shores in first time at the beginning of the 16th century.[3] There is a monumental landmark, the Dighton Rock, in southeastern Massachusetts, that testifies their presence in the area. And João Rodrigues Cabrilho who explored the California coast for the first time.

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

Peter Francisco, the giant soldier in the US Continental Army, without whom, according to General George Washington, the US Revolutionary War would have been lost, 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.

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

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.

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, 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.[4] John Phillip 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.[5] There were very few marriages between European and Chinese people with the majority being between Portuguese and Chinese people.[6][7] 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.[8]


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.[9]

Biggest communities

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

  1. Metro Boston area: 192,017 (3.3% of Metro population)[10]
  2. Greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area: 129,865 (0.6% of total Metro population)[10]
  3. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area: 121,757 (1.7% of total Metro population)[10]

Other large areas of Portuguese are Santa Cruz, California; San Jose, 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.

See also Portuguese American neighborhoods.

By state

The states with the largest Portuguese populations:

The states with the highest percentages of Portuguese population:

See also


Further reading

  • 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

  • Portuguese-American Historical & Research Foundation
  • Portuguese Americans. - Culture, History & People
  • UMass-Dartmouth Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives
  • Portuguese-American Federation
  • Portuguese American Journal Portuguese American Journal
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