CENTER FOR LOWELL HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL LIBRARIES

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WE THE PORTUGUESE
 
     When recounting the history of Portuguese immigration to the United States, specifically the Lowell area, there were two definitive waves of mass immigration which occurred for distinctly different reasons.  The first instance of a large migration of Portuguese to this area began during the late 1800s.  To understand the reasons they came, it is necessary to know something about the lives of these people in their homeland.  The Azores and Madeiras possess delightful semi-tropical climates suitable for fishing and farming.  Yet opportunities for economic improvement were extremely limited.  The need to better their impoverished circumstances, coupled with compulsory military service and that historical "spirit of adventure" gave the Portuguese the impetus required to emigrate.

     Throughout the years, most immigrants of Portuguese ancestry have settled either in New England, Southern California, or Hawaii, with New England, the dominant choice.  Of the official total of 241,916 Portuguese immigrants admitted to the United States during the first wave of mass immigration between 1820 and 1921, more than 75% remained in New England, the majority settling right here in Massachusetts, with smaller numbers in Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The largest 


   

                   Two Portuguese sisters: (left to right:) Maria
                   Santana Medina and Julia Anelia Cunha, of 
                   the Island of Graciosa, Azores, circa 1900.
                   (Donated by Mr. & Mrs. Manuel Cunha)

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