CLICK ON THE RED WORDS TO TRAVEL THROUGH PORTUGUESE-CANADIAN MEMORY
Cá nada! (Nothing here!)
The frustration upon facing the inhospitable and frozen land might have
been contained in this remark by the first Portuguese navigators who arrived
upon the shores of present day Canada.
Regardless of the remark
being fable or not, the Portuguese presence at New Foundland and along the North Atlantic coast of
Canada is historically backed by the immense cartography of the period as well
as by the Portuguese origins of some of the named places on the East Coast of
Canada. According to credibly Historians,the Portuguese presence in
Newfoundland goes back to the XVI century, or perhaps even earlier, and marked
the beginning of the the cod fish sagas.
It is likely that the first Newfoundland church, in the Placentia region, has also been founded by the
Until recently, when the fishing banks
seemed inexhaustible, the presence of the Portuguese fishing fleets in
Newfoundland harbors were cause for celebration. Ships such as Gil Eanes and
Creoula will stay forever imprinted on the collective imagination
and the memory of their accomplishments will not be forgotten. The statue of
Gaspar Corte-Real, erected in 1965 on Prince Phillip Drive, as well as the
image of Our Lady of Fátima gifted, in appreciation, by the Portuguese
fishermen to the people of Newfoundland.
In 1918 Professor Edmund Burke Delabarre, from Brown University,
stirred controversy by defending a theory that the various inscriptions on the
notable Dighton Rock, found on the Taunton River, proved the presence of Miguel
Corte Real in North American land.
Read too the fantastic legend from Acadia of the boat phantom
of Gaspar Corte-Real who, since a few centuries, appears in storm eves.
Through the centuries various explorers traveled through Canada on
behalf of the kings of France and England. The most famous was a certain Pedro
da Silva, born in Lisbon, having arrived on an unknown date. On 1677
Greslon, and fathered numerous children. He died in 1717 in Quebec
City. Nearly all the present daSilva, Sylva and Dasylva are believed to be his
Many others left behind their name and historical mark, such as a
certain João Afonso a famous pilot who accompanied Lord Roberval on an
expedition to Canada, as well as Mathieu da Costa, who participated in the
colonization of Acadia, and even a certain João Rodrigues, who
died in Beauport in 1720 and of whom it is said to be the ancestor of many of
the present Rodrigue.
Did you know that Jacques Cartier learned the art to sail with the
Portuguese sailors and that he was
interpreter of Portuguese language?
By the way, do you know that the romantic history of port wine in Canada began by chance in 1679?
Many more Portuguese continued to settle in Canada including Francisco
da Silva (1841-1920), a known painter who lived most of his life in Hanstpont,
Nova Scotia. Another well-known Portuguese, António da Silva, arrived in
Newfoundland in 1920, at the age of thirteen, where he lived until his death,
leaving behind many descendents. The story of his life has been immortalized in
the movie "The Stowaway".
Nevertheless the Portuguese emigration to Canada only reached significant
numbers on the second half of the XX century, particularly after May 13th
of 1953, with the first contingent of 85 Portuguese immigrants (67 from
mainland Portugal and 18 from the Azores Islands). The emigrants had departed
Lisbon on the 8th of May and arrived at the Halifax Port aboard the Satúrnia ship, entering Canadian
territory through the now famous Pier 21.
Soon after, on the first of June, another contingent of 102 Portuguese,
this time from Madeira Island, arrived in Halifax aboard the
Nea Hellas. At present, from coast to
coast, it is estimated that Portuguese-Canadians are four hundred thousand
The most important community of Portuguese-Canadians is based in
Toronto, in the province of Ontario, where about 200 thousand Portuguese-Canadians
live and work. Recently, a 2001 by-law officially recognized June 10th
as the day of the Portuguese community of Ontario.
n Montreal, the beautiful French-speaking City of North America, in
the province of Quebec, is home to about 50 thousand Portuguese-Canadians, the
great majority originating from the Azores Islands.
Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to nearly 10 thousand
Portuguese-Canadians. They began settling the city mostly after the Sixties.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, there are nearly 8 thousand
Portuguese-Canadians. They gather in an area already considered "the heart
of the Portuguese community", and around institutions such as the Church
of Imaculada Conceição and the Portuguese Association of Manitoba.
In Calgary, Alberta, a growing city, live 6 thousand
Portuguese-Canadians. Their main organizations are the Portuguese club of
Calgary and the Church of Our Lady of Fátima.
The Portuguese accomplishments are presently well documented in the
vast bibliography produced over the last 50 years by various Portuguese and
In the past half a century, as the Portuguese community expanded across
the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, in search of a better
life, there have been many Portuguese-Canadian authors sharing their
experiences and feelings through an increasing number of Portuguese books,
newspapers and magazines. In the last few years there have also been a few Canadian authors
inspired by the Portuguese experience and which they depict in their works.
Occasional newspapers in Portugal publish articles that cover the
More recently, with the advent of modern technologies and mass media,
it is possible to catalogue and register the Portuguese-Canadians connected to
the letters and the arts working in promoting the Portuguese culture.
is also possible to find on the seas of the Internet a vast and
indispensable number of academic works that aid us in understanding the
socio-cultural trajectory of the Portuguese community.
Thanks to the effort and dedication of the Portuguese-Canadian
communities, the teaching of Portuguese to the young second generation takes
place across Canada through the successful "Escolas de Sábado"
As a consequence of the larger visibility of the Portuguese-Canadian
community and the growing importance of the Portuguese experience in the world,
the teaching of Portuguese has taken a larger role in several Canadian
During the celebration of the 50 years of the official arrival of the
Portuguese in Canada, the Portuguese community will face the challenge of
finding its IDENTITY. So far the community has been condemned to isolation,
caught between the deadly vertigo of the ghetto and assimilation. Now thanks to
the present technological revolution, the community has seen its ties to the
vast Portuguese speaking world strengthened (resumed). This will allow the
community to dream a more promising destiny where the Portuguese language will
simultaneously become a measure of identity and a means of communication and
will become is primary crystallizing factor.