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WE THE PORTUGUESE
 
Portuguese settlement in Massachusetts was established in the Fall River/New Bedford area, with other significant settlements in Boston and Cambridge, Gloucester, Provincetown, Ludlow, and of course, here in Lowell.

The Early Immigrants
The first permanent Portuguese settlement in Lowell can be traced back to the year 1851.  Although initially many Portuguese settlers were introduced to the New England seacoast through the New Bedford whaling industry in which they played such a substantial role, many were eventually drawn to the booming industrial city of Lowell to gain more secure employment, leaving the old ways of the sea behind.

     Although immigration to the U. S. held prospects of greater opportunities, the early settlers faced many obstacles.  The first of these difficulties was surely the ocean voyage which stretched over more than a week, in dismal, cramped conditions and often included sleeping on damp decks, huddled together in groups.  Coming from the warmth of their island homes to the frigid expanses of the unfamiliar New England territory was an immense cultural shock.  Unable to speak the language or understand the customs, they tended to form tight-knit communities in which they could continue some traditions from home.

     The call of the industrial age brought Portuguese immigrants to Lowell.  Hard work was a hallmark of these people and soon, men, women, and children were assimilated into the mill system.  In many instances, both husband and wife worked in the mills, with children entering around the age of twelve.  Sometimes men would preceed their families, saving money with which to bring them to this country.  Young people often joined their relatives in sending money back to Portugal to support family members left behind.  Portuguese laborers worked in most of Lowell's mills, such as the Boott Cotton Mill, the Massachusetts Mills, the Appleton and the Hamilton.  Struggling through ten hour days, six days a week, may not seem advantageous to us today, but at that time, Portuguese immigrants likely viewed this as a significant opportunity to better their circumstances. At one time, so many male immigrants from Madeira worked at the Tremont Mills and lived in boardinghouses on that street they became known as "Treemonts. "

     Lowell's Portuguese immigration came to a virtual standstill from 1922 through the late 1950s when restrictive nationality quotas and stringent literacy laws were enacted.  Although Portuguese immigrants had a reputation for hard work and often furthered their schooling once in this country, educational opportunities were minimal, particularly on the Azores and Madeira, and most immigrants from there found it difficult to pass the more stringent literacy requirements then in effect.

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