Cinematic Portrayals of Portuguese-Americans: Geoffrey L. Gomes, a professor at Hayward, CA has recently written an article about the different movies portraying Portuguese characters.  The article was published by the Gavea-Brown Journal of Portuguese-American Studies at the Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. The Journal's director is Professor Onésimo Teotónio de Almeida. Well known movie actors, like Spencer Tracy, Julia Roberts, Edward G. Robinson, Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck and others  have played the Portuguese character in the movies. This study goes back to 1918.

The Azoreans in Trinidad -- Real Life Drama in 1835: Our research department about Portuguese in America and their participation in the making of the Americas has come accross drama of a group of Azoreans when they left their homeland to look for better life in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of them paid the ultimate price, their lives.
     The following are transcriptions of documents found:


Sir George Hill, Gov. of Trinidad to the Right Honourable Thomas Spring Rice, Miscellaneous Despatch No 4 of 1834, published by the courtesy of His Excellency the Governor of Trinidad. Trinidad, 20 July 1834 (an abstract).

     Gov. Hill reports that on 15 July the British Schooner "Watchful" arrived in Trinidad from "Fayal" with "44 of the natives of that place by previous engagement", to work as indentured field laborers, or "in any manner most advantageous to the employer for a period of 3 years in return for which they are to receive 6 dollars per month wages, a piece of land for their own use and cultivation, and to be rovisioned...until their lands are productive". One half of their wages were to be retained until the laborer's passage had been paid for, the amount per person being 60 dollars.
     The report states that the laborers had been "accordingly taken as apprentices by some of the planters". It also states that "these people have been accustomed to work in the field in their own climate and will be able to withstand the sun heat here - they are looked upon as a very valuable acquisition to an Island such as this" and it was expected that such laborers would render the island "the most valuable of His Majesty's West India colonies." Because of the reputation of the Azoreans as good workers, planters were desirous of engaging a larger number of them.
     End of despatch


Trinidad in 1835. A Petition, To the Governor of Trinidad in 1835.

     The humble Petition of the undersigned subjects of the Crown of Portugal respectfully sheweth that with many others of their countrymen, they were induced by certain evil disposed persons, under false pretences, to quit their native country, Fayal, to become agricultural labourers in this Colony.
     Of the whole number thus cajoled, one third only are still in existence. The rest have fallen victims to the unhealthiness of the climate or to the cruelties of the slavery system to which we, equally with the unfortunate blacks, have been subjected. For let speculators in human blood deny it as they will, the awful calamity which has occurred among our countrymen, in so short a period as ten months, must have resulted from one or the other of these fatal causes, or from both combined.
     Men, women and children, have suffered the greatest misery and oppression on the several estates where they have been forced to work far beyond their strength by coercion of the whip, without proper shelter at night or adequate food during the day.
     The consolation of religion has been denied them in the hours of sickness and death; whilst the bodies of the miserable victims of avarice have been thrown into holes and ditches without Christian burial.
     The cries of the fatherless children and widows have been loud in the land, but there was no response from Christian charity to soften their grief, no arm of justice to relieve them from the hands of oppressors.
     Few are they who are left to tell their tale of woe.
     Your Excellency has often been apprised of these truths but our sufferings are unheeded. We have been advised that an appeal to the Governor General for the information of His Britannic Majesty’s Government, would be attended to; but we hope Your Excellency will obviate the necessity for such an appeal by mercifully acceding to the prayer of your humble petitioners; which is that Your Excellency will be pleased to collect together the few Portuguese labourers yet in existence in this Colony; That you will humanely relieve their immediate and pressing wants, particularly those of the poor and helpless orphans; And that you will cause them to be transported back to their native country.
 Rosa Constancia (who has lost her husband and three children in 10 months).
Felicia Perpetua de Castro (who has lost her husband and one child in 10 months).
Maria Constancia (who has lost two children in 10 months).
Mariana Francisca (who has lost four children in 10 months).
Josef Francisco Macieda (who has lost his wife and four children in 10 months).
Antonio Francisco Dabla (who has lost two children).
Anna Perpetua (the mother of seven children).
Francisco de Utro Perreira (whose wife and four children are at Fayal) and 28 others.


A Petition from Josef da Costa, a Portuguese, To the Lieutenant Governor of Trinidad in 1835.

     The humble Petition of Josef da Costa, free Portuguese by birth, but now an apprenticed labourer, states That he came to Trinidad on certain conditions and sailed from Fayal on 31st October 1834. He and 27 others were clandestinely landed on the north coast, 15 days after their arrival, were carried to Mr. Graham’s estate at Chaguanas. There they remained two months where they worked with the negroes in the fields. The consequence was that they all fell sick and many died.
     The Petitioner and his wife were, through the humanity of Mr Graham, removed to town and placed in Marie Ursula’s hospital where his unhappy wife died.
     After this, his services were bought by one Mr. Lock and he was sent down the coast where he was badly treated and, when unable to work as the negroes did, cruelly beaten.
     To escape from this misery, he left the estate on the 18th of the present month, and is now lying in town in the last stages of misery and starvation.
     He humbly implores that his case be inquired into;

Josef da Costa.
Witness; A. Shaw.

Source:– Truths from the West Indies. By Captain Studholme Hodgson (19th Regiment of Foot). 1838.
Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago. Publications no. 796 and 797.
We thank Augusta Elmwood for the kind help in providing the above information.

 

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  • Updated:
    November 8, 2012