Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mapping: Portuguese Immigration, Cultural and University Centers in the United States

            Between 1999 and 2008, I attended a Portuguese school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. For eighteen years, my mother taught myself, my brother, and over a hundred students how to read and write Portuguese. Perth Amboy was a mixed neighborhood with a heavy concentration of Portuguese immigrants, many of whom came to the United States during the oppressive Salazar regime, which was overthrown in the spring of 1974. I was interested to see how Portuguese immigrants were distributed throughout the United States. To map Portuguese communities in the U.S., I researched Portuguese cultural centers much like the one the one I grew up near in Perth Amboy. I began by using rounded red place markers because they were one of the larger icons that would draw the viewer’s attention to these places.         
A large view of the map I created to understand Portuguese settlement in the United States. The red markers indicate various Portuguese-American centers; the green circles indicate universities that offer Portuguese cultural studies programs; and the yellow flags represent Portuguese embassies and consulates. 
             What I found was not at all that surprising, at least initially. The heaviest concentration of Portuguese immigrants and communities is in New England, particularly in Massachusetts. There are also several communities spread out throughout California, but the Northeast is the most heavily concentrated area. This makes sense, seeing as Portugal bookends the other side of the Atlantic. The Azores and Madeira islands, situated in the Atlantic, were also the site of large numbers of Portuguese immigration. For this reason, I was intrigued about the frequency and reasoning for Portuguese settlement in California.
A map of northeastern United States, it has the highest concentration of Portuguese immigration. This is just a small sample of Portuguese communities scattered throughout the region. 

California boasts a large Portuguese community as well, particularly in the San Francisco area. What propelled Portuguese immigrants from the mainland as well as Azores and Madeira to relocate past the Northeast?
       While mapping these various cultural centers, I saw that many were founded between the 1920s and 1930s. This raises some interesting questions considering that immigration to the United States was curbed in the aftermath of the First World War. These centers are much more spread out in California, while the map shows that they are very heavily concentrated in New England. I wonder about any sort of collaboration, if any, that may have transpired among nearby centers. 

         After layering this first part of the map, I thought it would further enhance my overall understanding of this distribution by researching universities that offered Portuguese Cultural Studies programs. These programs are near local Portuguese cultural centers, found at universities such as Brown and the University of Massachusetts. Several campuses of the University of California also predominately offer such programs. After researching the programs, I saw that many of them had been founded in the 1970s. I tentatively argue that this may be due to a large wave of immigration to the U.S. from Portugal immediately before and after Portuguese independence in the spring of 1974. However, I venture that there may other reasons to support this, such as the counterculture revolutions within the United States that championed different and more varies types of cultural scholarship. 

        On a larger scale, I finally decided to map the various Portuguese consulates throughout the U.S. My suspicions were confirmed. The major consulate in the western U.S. is in San Francisco, but the remaining consulates are in the Northeast, with two in Massachusetts. I mapped these using yellow flag icons to represent them as a government entity.

         The process of mapping these various sites in layers raised several questions that would serve as fascinating research topics. Namely, what led to the creation of Portuguese cultural centers in the 1920s and 1930s? How did these community centers interact with the larger American culture? It would be interesting to see if and how writing this type of narrative would change how we think about the Northeastern United States during this period.  

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