Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

June 10, 1997

Library of Congress Exhibition Celebrates Portuguese Communities in the United States

A Library of Congress exhibition that opens today in the corridor outside the Geography and Map Division of the James Madison Memorial Building celebrates Portuguese communities in the United States and the contributions that Portuguese speaking immigrants have made to America. The exhibition, which is presented in cooperation with the Embassy of Portugal, will remain on view through Nov. 28.

With 32 maps and photographs drawn from the Library's collections, "Celebrating the Portuguese Communities in America: A Cartographic Perspective" documents the migration of Portuguese people to America and their subsequent settlement in their new homeland. Although the Portuguese did not establish major settlements in North America during the Colonial period, they did become an important immigrant group during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Most of the immigrants who came to America earlier in the 19th century came from the Azores and were involved in the whaling industry. Consequently these settlements were concentrated in southeastern New England (especially New Bedford, Mass.) with smaller numbers in the Pacific area. The largest numbers of Portuguese immigrants came in the last two decades of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century and settled in the industrial towns of southeastern New England and the agricultural communities around the San Francisco Bay and throughout the San Joaquin Valley in central California.

The exhibition opens with some early maps detailing the important role the Portuguese played in the exploration and charting of the New World and the waters bordering the northeast and Pacific coasts of North America during the 16th century: two 16th century maps by Abraham Ortelius of "Portugal During the Age of Discoveries" and "The Azores"; a map from the Library's Johann Georg Kohl collection showing "Portuguese Exploration along the Northeast Coast of North America" (1529); and a 1630 map by Joo Teixeira providing a Portuguese view of the world at the beginning of the 17th century.

Other sections of the exhibition tell the story of Portuguese immigrants' involvement in the whaling and fishing industries of southeastern New England, their agricultural settlements in central California, and other groups who settled in Illinois and Newark, N.J. Engravings and photographs depicting cod fishing in New England, a Portuguese school in New Bedford, the first Portuguese mayor of San Leandro, Calif., and a festival in Santa Clara, Calif., provide additional interest.

The final section of the exhibition discusses the use of "Lisbon" as a place name in the United States; ironically, it is not used in any of the four states traditionally associated with Portuguese settlement: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California or Hawaii.

A facsimile version of the exhibition will travel to Portuguese communities around the United States under the auspices of the Portuguese Embassy, beginning in Provincetown, Mass., where it opens on June 26 at the Heritage Museum in time for the traditional ceremonies surrounding the blessing of the fleet.

"Celebrating the Portuguese Communities in America" was made possible through the generous support of the Portuguese Embassy; the Luso-American Development Foundation; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities; and Newport Concrete Inc. It was prepared by the Geography and Map and Hispanic divisions of the Library of Congress and produced by the Interpretive Programs Office.

Hours for the exhibition, which is located on the B- level of the Madison Building, are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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PR 97-108
ISSN 0731-3527

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