While Mira does well to present readers and future researchers with thoughtful questions and a great many resources with which to pursue those questions, there are four important flaws in the work that should be addressed in future works on the topic. First, the book is poorly edited. Useful citations and sparks of creative insight are interspersed with redundancies, contradictions, and ideas that need further reflection. This being the case, reading this book takes a bit of work, but a readers patience will be well rewarded with Mira's provocation for future investigation and contemplation. Second, many of the sources cited and / or included in the text need more critical interrogation. (The journals and travel writings of the early Spanish expeditions, for example, are notoriously contradictory, unreliable, and, at times, false. Of course, the explorers wrote these documents to suit their own interests, not necessarily to advance our knowledge of the human experience.) The third important flaw is that Melungeon identity challenges common misconceptions about race and ethnicity, but the book relies on problematic racial categories that are so simplistic that they undermine everything else the book attempts to do. This brings us to the final major flaw of the book its lack of grounding in contemporary scholarship. While this work certainly raises important questions that resonate with contemporary concerns in the fields of anthropology, history, and other social sciences (such as questions about race, ethnicity, group formation, imagined communities), it does not engage those literatures directly.
Future researchers will do well to refer to anthropologists and historians who have studied Appalachian identities (such as Patricia Beaver at Appalachian State University) or other groups, like the Lumbee, who defy typical racial classification (on which Karen Blu, at New York University, has done interesting work). Reference to the voluminous literature on contemporary race and ethnicity would also add to this research (see, for example, the American Anthropological Association "Position on Race," accessible at: -www.ameranthassn.org).
As a member of the Portuguese American Historical Research Foundation and an amateur historian, Mr. Mira has devoted a substantial amount of his time and resources to producing The Forgotten Portuguese in the hopes of inspiring future study of the topics at hand. The author has illuminated some infinitely interesting questions that deserve more public attention as well as more scholarly investigation.
Thaddeus C. Guldbrandsen
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Portuguese Studies Review, Volume 8, Number 1, Fall-Winter, 1999-2000, pp. 166-168. Published by the International Conference Group on Portugal, University of New Hampshire, Department of History, HSSC 408, Durham, NH 03824 USA.
Portuguese-American Chronicle, Tracy - California. January 20, 1999 - Page 23 - Community Sunday Standard-Times, New Bedford, MA, November 1, 1998, page C3
Exhaustive book chronicles role of the Portuguese in America - Luso Life - by Pedro M. Amaral
We all know the Portuguese sailed the uncharted seas to discover more than two-thirds of the world. They made alliances with previously unknown peoples and civilizations to secure a sea route to spice-rich India. But what do we know about the Portuguese role in the birth of America? Theres an easy way to find out; just read a book titled "The Forgotten Portuguese."It was published this year by the Luso-American Foundation of Historic Investigation and authored by Manuel Mira of North Carolina. Throughout its 344 pages, the book sheds light on the often obscure beginnings of the young nation.
The luxury-bound volume has more than 100 illustrations, pictures and charts to guide the reader through very informative reading. The authors narrative style makes the reader constantly want to turn the page to immerse himself in such rich history. Mr. Mira said the book is an investigation of the Portuguese presence in America since its beginning.
Many of us have heard about Peter Francisco, the Civil War hero, but what is Abraham Lincoln's connection to the Portuguese people? Where did the Melungeons come from to settle in North and South Carolina, and 10 other southern states? Who built the Newport Tower with eight arches? Did others arrive here before Columbus (Colon)? Who were the white people discovered by the French Huguenots in North Carolina?
Lately, more and more books about Portugal and its people are being written in English. These books are not the tourism-pamphlet books with pretty pictures and predictable writing. They portray a believable picture of a country full of history and promising future, as well as its struggles to claim its place in the worlds history.
"The Forgotten Portuguese" is a book full of surprises, taking us through centuries of explorations, voyages and settlements. How many people know that the first letter carrier on record was named Pedro da Silva? He was paid 20 sols to carry a bundle of letters from Montreal and Quebec City.
The book is based on Portuguese peoples history with a focus on all that relates to North America since the 15th century, especially all that was done by our people and its role in the birth of America, just like any other people, but with a difference," Mr. Mira said in an e-mail message to me. The book also has a summary of the history of Portugal, listing Portuguese discovery ships, captains and many other historic features.
Mr. Mira said the public has reacted very favorably toward the book, and both public and school libraries from more than 20 states have requested it. He also said the professors and scholars who have read it have shown interest in the book.
Locally, the book can be purchased at Pimentels Books on Acushnet Avenue for $29.95. All the proceeds are going to the foundation and its investigative program.
"The Forgotten Portuguese" is Mr. Mira's first book, but the positive response generated by it should encourage the author to continue publishing his investigative research. This book is certainly a very good addition to any library, especially research and data-collecting organizations...