Antonio J. Cardoso ranch, 1870s, La Grange, Stanislaus County,
from History of Stanislaus County, California (San Francisco: Elliott and Moore, 1881)
This project records the stories of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond who represent various aspects of the history of this early immigrant group. Portuguese began arriving in California aboard American whaling ships—upon which many served—well before the Gold Rush. Although settling in urban areas as well, Portuguese have traditionally preferred to follow agricultural pursuits, where they have been especially active in the state’s dairy industry.
Immigration from Portugal (mainly from the Atlantic archipelagoes of the Azores and Madeira, as well as Cape Verde, now an independent nation) peaked in the first years of the past century and then again in a second wave in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the voices of these people and their descendants that have been the target of this oral history series, which began in the fall of 2002.
Carlos Almeida A Lifetime of Service to the Portuguese American Communities of California and Nevada
Interviewer: Don Warrin
The two sessions of this interview were completed in November and December of 2002. We met each time in the library of the U.P.E.C. in San Leandro. Carlos Almeida spoke at length about his early life as a student in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores, under the Salazar regime and his subsequent emigration, first to Canada and then to California. The interview sessions were recorded on minidisc, then transcribed and lightly edited. They were also recorded on video disc with the assistance of UC Berkeley students Sam Schramski and Jenny Velazco.
I interviewed Joe at his home in Novato in May of 2012. He spoke about his family origins in the Azores, his father’s immigration experience and eventual ownership of the 1,000-acre Hilarita Dairy in Tiburon. We learn what life was like for family and hired hands on the ranch. He describes, as well, life in working-class Tiburon at the time and also names several other Portuguese dairies in the vicinity.
On the second tape, Joe describes his educational experience, his service in Korea, and his family life. He finishes by speaking of local Portuguese community activities such as the Holy Ghost festivals and the IDESST.
Stella Adoa Baptista Recollections on Life in the Canneries
Interviewers: Don Warrin and Deolinda Adao
This interview took place in the home of Stella Baptista in February of 2004. Many Portuguese and Portuguese Americans, especially women, worked in the canneries in various parts of California, and so we wanted to get a sense of this experience. Stella followed her mother in this occupation. In this interview she talks about her childhood, growing up with immigrant parents, first in Sausalito and then Oakland. Stella talks about life in the canneries during the War Effort (World War II) and also discusses the effects of unionization on the work experience. She also discusses several aspects of life in a Portuguese immigrant community.
On March 12, 2004, I traveled to the Napa Valley for a series of interview sessions with Mr. and Mrs. Beirao. Deolinda Adao assisted with occasional questions, and UC Berkeley student Tammy Elrod handled the video camera. Maria Beirao elected to be the first interviewee, followed by her husband. A third short session was dedicated to the performance of these two immigrant artists from the island of Terceira, Azores. Helio played a song of his own composition on his unique Terceiran guitar. This was followed by the recital of one of her poems by Maria das Dores.
Manuel was born on the small island of Graciosa in the Azores. He describes the rather primitive living conditions at the time, both at his home and in school. No one in the family, including his parents, wore shoes (although, uniquely, his mother had a pair of sandals). Compulsory schooling lasted for just four years; and then he was off to a series of full-time jobs. But instilled in Manuel early in his youth was the strong desire to continue his education. Fortunately he was finally able to graduate from high school on the island of Faial. We then follow him through his military service in the Portuguese Air Force and on to the US to catch up with his family members, all of whom had recently emigrated to California.
Just as advanced education was extremely difficult to obtain in the Azores, it required a supreme effort on Manuel’s part to continue once in California. But often working two hotel jobs gave him the funds to continue. Dental school in Guadalajara, Mexico, followed his graduation from college. And then he was on to a successful career in the field of dentistry.
Much of the two sessions was taken up with a description of family life and social customs in Graciosa. He speaks of folk medicine and superstitions, as well as communal activities such as wine making and the matança do porco (killing of the pig). The end of the interview is taken up principally with a discussion of his significant contributions to the Portuguese communities of California.
Don Warrin interviewed Tony at his ranch home in Petaluma. He was born in Sausalito in 1926 and graduated from high school in 1945. Raised on the family dairy in Muir Woods, he describes in detail the functioning of a dairy in the first half of the 20th century, as well as naming all the many other Portuguese dairies in the area. After he grew up he took over the dairy. Subsequently Tony and his brother went into the cattle business and Tony then purchased the Petaluma Livestock Auction Yard. To this day he continues to auction livestock and gives us a brief sample of how it sounds. In the second session Tony speaks of his long experience with the Holy Ghost societies and of his years as president of the IDESST of Sausalito during the 1980s. He also speaks of his charity work, in particular his activities with the Petaluma Little League.
On December 4, 2008, Deolinda Adao, with the assistance of Lionel Goularte, interviewed Joe and Joanne Camara at their home in Hayward. Joe talked extensively about his experience emigrating from the island of Pico at the age of twenty-three, and then his various experiences around the Bay Area, first as a milker and then in construction. Over the course of the interview Joe relates his various responsibilities with several Portuguese-American fraternal organizations, the I.D.E.S. and the U.P.E.C. in particular. Joanne is a Portuguese American, descended on both sides from immigrants from the Azores, one of whom arrived in America long ago on a whaleship. She remarks how Portuguese was always the language spoken in her home as she grew up; and she details her close ties to the community over the course of her lifetime. She notes, for instance, how her family, rather than travel to places such as Disneyland, would spend their vacation time at conventions of the Portuguese societies to which they belonged. And she details her own very significant contributions to the community, including her leadership roles in various Portuguese American organizations over many years.
Frank Castro [Donated] The Skills of a Cowboy Interviewed by Steve Fisher in 1978
Francisco Silveira (1901-1992), was born on the island of São Jorge in the Azores. At the age of nine months he arrived in the U.S. with his mother. At some point his name was changed to Frank Castro, possibly when his mother remarried. One of the last of the old-time cowboys, he reminisces about his experiences as cowhand, line rider, twenty-mule team driver, and rodeo team roper. He discusses friends and acquaintances such as Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Will Rogers, and black rodeo stars Bill Pickett and Jessie Stahl.
Anthony L. "Tony" Coelho Congressional Advocate for Disability Rights, Chair of the Epilepsy Foundation Interviewer: Ann Lage
Two major influences have shaped the life of this ex-congressman from the San Joaquin Valley: His Portuguese American background and his epilepsy. Rising well before dawn to milk cows on his family’s dairy farm, rushing off to school, and then returning for the evening milking, would have discouraged most youths from taking a sincere interest in their education. But with the encouragement of a friendly school superintendent Tony was able to leave the farm and head off to Loyola College in Los Angeles.
The other defining element in Coelho’s early life was the epileptic seizures that began after an accident in the farm’s pickup truck. It would not be until his twenty-second year, however, that he had a label for his illness. Haunted by the Portuguese concept that the disease was punishment for a family sin, his parents apparently not only kept the diagnosis from him, but continued to send him to what he has termed “witch doctors” for a cure. It was only while having a physical for entry into the seminary after college that Tony learned the exact nature of his disability, as well as the fact that this disqualified him from the priesthood.
After brief stints teaching at Cambridge University and in Mexico City, in 1962 Prof. Eduardo Mayone Dias came to California to teach at the Monterey
Defense Language Institute. From there he moved to UCLA where he enjoyed a
long and distinguished career as Professor of Portuguese. He has been
recognized for many years as one of the most significant figures among the
Portuguese communities of California. Our interview spanned two days in
September of 2008 and covered, however briefly, the major events of his
life, from childhood on. As he remarked on the second day, only a week or
two earlier he had been interviewed in his home by RTP (Portuguese Radio and
Television); but, as with similar interviews, its range was rather
circumscribed. This interview, on the other hand, had been quite unique;
and it was particularly moving for him to look back on his formative
Photo by Dianne Hagaman
Rose Peters Emery A Nonagenarian Looks Back on Ranch Life in San Ramon, California
Interviewer: Don Warrin
In December, 2002, I traveled with Deolinda Adao to San Francisco to interview Rose Peters Emery. At that time Mrs. Emery was 98 years old and both mentally and physically active. She was about to publish a very interesting volume of memoirs, still walked the City’s hills, and was enrolled in a writing class. Deolinda handled the video camera during the session. Rose’s daughter Helen Giambruni was also present, and her voice can be heard from time to time assisting her mother with an answer. I had had the opportunity to read the manuscript of her forthcoming book, and so was able to pursue some topics raised in her text.The interview is short but reveals quite a bit about rural immigrant life at the beginning of the last century. For further details I highly suggest reading her book: Footprints in the Soil: A Portugues-Californian Remembers (San Jose, Calif.: Portuguese Heritage Publications, 2003).
Richard Gump and Paul Faria
Venice, Italy, 1960
Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band, ca. 1958
Paul Faria An Interview with Paul Faria and Clariece Graham from Richard B. Gump: Composer, Artist, and President of Gump’s, San Francisco, pp. 195-226.
Interviewed by Suzanne B. Riess in 1988
In 1989, as part of an oral history of Richard Gump, Suzanne Riess interviewed one of Gump’s assistants, Paul Faria. Faria states that his grandparents had emigrated from Portugal but gives no further details. He talks about working with Gump and traveling to Europe on antiques buying trips with him. Faria was also a professional musician, as was Gump himself. Faria became the business manager of Gump’s commercially successful Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band, which recorded for RCA Victor and appeared on TV in such programs as the “Arthur Godfrey Show” and Arlene Frances’s “Today Show.” The band even played at opening night at the San Francisco Opera in 1962. Faria also took over the band whenever Gump was otherwise occupied.
Interviewer: Judith Dunning
Date of Interview: 3/6/2003
Stella Faria was born and raised in Pinole, California. Her family was from Portugal, via Brazil. She remembers Richmond during World War II, especially the changing worlds of work, school, and family. She talks about her consternation at the internment of the Japanese in the area, including classmates and people she had grown with all of her life. She remembers her work in the Kaiser Shipyards, in the administrative office of Yard Three and recalls the Port Chicago explosion. She also remembers the environmental toxicity of the wartime industries and discusses the impacts of Richmond industry on the health of her family members. This interview is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront Oral History Project.
Date of Interview: 6/2/06
Interviewer: Nadine Wilmot
Joe Gomes's parents came to the United States from Portugal in the early 1900s,
arriving first in New York, making their way to San Jose, California, and then
settling in San Pablo, where Mr.Gomes resides currently. Mr. Gomes was 90 years
old at the time of this interview, and a leader in his community. He is past
director of the San Pablo Holy Ghost Association, past state president of the
Luso-American Fraternal Federation, and currently sits on the City Council of
San Pablo. In this interview, Mr. Gomes chronicles his family background, his
years growing up in San Pablo, the Portuguese community in San Pablo, the shift
to and then away from wartime work during his years at American Standard,
working in the shipyards, changing gender roles during wartime work, raising a
family, and his work on the City of San Pablo City Council. The interview offers insight into immigrant identity and experience, a changing San Pablo, and the
Bay Area home front during WWII. This interview is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront Oral History Project.
W. R. "Reg" Gomes UCOP Vice President ANR, Emeritus
Interviewers: Don Warrin and Vic Geraci
This interview is composed of two parts. The first was conducted by Don Warrin between November, 2007 and January, 2008. Its intent was to detail Dr. Gomes’s formative years, with particular reference to his Portuguese-American background. All four of his grandparents had immigrated separately from the Azores. And his father followed an occupation closely identified with these Portuguese islanders, working as a dairyman in the San Joaquin Valley. Encouraged to continue his education, Dr. Gomes’s path led eventually to a vice-presidency at the University of California; but dairying continued to be a fundamental element of his career. Besides discussing his Portuguese-American roots, Dr. Gomes spoke in some detail about various aspects of the dairy industry. The second, extensive, segment of the interview was conducted by
Vic Geraci, a description of which can be seen at the oral history project ANR: Taking the University to the People.
In order to record these sessions, I met with the Goulartes at their home in Fremont in October and November of 2002. It was decided that Bernadine would be the first interviewed, followed by Lionel, and that subsequently there would be a joint interview with the two of them. Following their individual stories of growing up in rural southern Alameda County , the couple discussed their substantial joint efforts assisting Portuguese immigrants and ultimately thos from many different cultures. The interview was recorded on minidisc, then transcribed and lightly edited.
In January of 2012 Lissa McKee and Don Warrin sat down with Shirley Dias Larkins to talk about her life, which began on her father’s dairy at the Marin Headlands. Three of her grandparents had emigrated from the island of São Jorge in the Azores and became involved in the dairy industry of Marin beginning in the late 19th century. She speaks about the typical roles of men, women, and children in everyday life on a dairy. We learn of her grandfather’s intense interest in his children’s education, and we follow as well her own educational process and her later career.
Alberto S. Lemos Publisher of the Jornal Português (Portuguese Journal), 1957-1994
Interviewer: Don Warrin
The interview took place at the home of Mr. Lemos on January 21, 2008. We talked about his growing up in Portugal, his education, and his employment before emigrating to this country. Much of the interview was spent discussing his experience with the newspaper, his contacts with community leaders and consular officials, and his relations with the Portuguese-American community.
Felicie and daughter Christine on the last run of the Richmond-San Rafael ferry in 1956
Felicie Marshall was born in Alameda, California. Her parents were both immigrants from the island of Graciosa in the Azores. Her father, John Quadros Bettencourt, was born in 1874 and her mother in 1885. Much of the interview is dedicated to the story of her father, who served as a ferryboat captain on San Francisco Bay from the 1920s to the 50s. She also speaks extensively about her mother’s and her own close relationships with several Portuguese fraternal societies in the Bay Area, as well as her own extensive career in music, in which she continues to be active.
Nathan Oliveira Painter and Sculptor
Professor of Studio Arts, Stanford University, 1964-1996
Nathan Oliveira (1928-2010),was born in Oakland, California. His father was an immigrant from Madeira; his grandfather on his mother’s side was born in Lisbon; and a great-grandfather come from the Azores. After earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, he taught there and then at the San Francisco Art Institute. From 1964 to his retirement in 1995 he taught painting and printmaking at Stanford University. He was the recipient of many awards, including the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator. His work has been included in numerous international exhibitions, and is found in hundreds of major collections and museums. This oral history transcript with Nathan Oliveira is part of the SFMOMA Oral History Project.
Fr. David Orique Reflections of a Portuguese American Priest
Interviewer: Kathleen Zvanovec-Higbee
Father David Orique is a priest in the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church. In June of 2003, Kathy Zvanovec-Higbee traveled to Eugene, Oregon, for this interview with him. Fr. Orique begins by talking about his early childhood and its Portuguese influence. His continuing interest in his cultural background becomes clear as he speaks of a recent summer class in the Azores, the land of his immigrant grandfather. The interview soon turns philosophical, as he discusses religion, the Church, Bartolomé de las Casas, and so forth—never neglecting, however, to forge a link back to the Portuguese.
In October of 2006 Deolinda Adao and I traveled to Mountain View, Calif., to interview Orlando Pascoa, who had immigrated from northern Portugal over sixty years before. He was assisted in the interview at times by Mrs. Pascoa, a Portuguese American from California. Mr. Pascoa is best known as a musician and leader of the Pascoa Brothers band, very active in the Portuguese community for half a century. Besides relating interesting moments of his life history, Pascoa spent considerable time telling the story of his band and its interactions with the Portuguese community. He told, as well, an interesting tale of leaving Portugal and flying to the U.S. in 1945. Because the war was still going on, the flight was by way of Senegal and Liberia, before the plane headed off to Brazil. In mid-ocean, he recalled, the passengers began to jump up and down and kiss each other. It took him a moment to realize that the pilot had just announced the German surrender. After stops in Trinidad and Puerto Rico, they finally reached their destination in New York. From there his story of traveling by train across the country to California without knowing a word of English is a tale related more than once by immigrants from Portugal.
Mel Ramos [Donated] West Coast Pop Art Pioneer
Interviewed by Paul J. Karlstrom in 2007
Mel Ramos was born in Sacramento, California, in 1935. His grandparents came to California from the Azores, and as a youth he was exposed to elements of Portuguese immigrant culture. But as he explains, the inspiration for his art began with American comic books and media advertising. Ramos was a pioneer in the 1960s in Pop Art, along with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. It was not long before he became internationally recognized. Today his work is represented in museums around the world, as well as in many private collections.
Ramos taught for many years in the art department at California State University, Hayward (now East Bay). He maintains an active exhibition schedule, and divides his time between California and Spain, where he has owned a second home in Barcelona since the 1970s.
Manuel Reis Portuguese Community Leader
Interviewer: Don Warrin
This series of interviews was conducted over a two-week period in November and December of 2002. We met each time in the apartment of Manuel Reis near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Unfortunately, Mr. Reis had slowed down considerably and was soon to pass away the following February at the age of 101. “If you had only talked to me last year,” he lamented at the time, “many things would have been clearer in my mind.” Nevertheless, in spite of their hesitancies and moments of confusion, these three sessions help to round out a portrait of a man who was intimately connected with various of the Portuguese American community organizations since shortly after his arrival from Lisbon in 1925. Most revealing of the personality of Manuel Reis, perhaps, was his singular and longheld desire to unite the people of Portuguese descent of northern California in one overarching organization, a dream repeatedly expressed here, but that ultimately would be frustrated.
Wayne Roderick at the UC Botanical Garden, 1991
Wayne Roderick California Native Plantsman: UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Tilden Botanic Garden Interviewed by Suzanne B. Riess in 1990
Wayne Vernon Roderick was born in Petaluma, California, in 1920. His grandfather, Joseph Rodrigues e Caetano, had come to California from the Azores during the Gold Rush. As was typical at the time his surname was soon Anglicized. In the late 1860s the elder Roderick resettled in Petaluma, eventually establishing a large-scale chicken ranch that remained in the family into the next century.
From his mother Wayne developed very early an interest in horticulture. After WW II he became engaged in the nursery business. The great part of this oral history covers his years at the UC Botanical Garden (1960-76) and the Tilden Botanic Garden (1976-82).
Julian Silva Novelist and Short Story Writer Interviewer: Don Warrin
This interview took place in San Francisco at the home of Julian Silva during two sessions in November, 2011. Julian talks about family life as he was growing up in San Lorenzo in the East Bay. This was the source for his two novels, The Gunnysack Castle and The Death of Mae Ramos, in the fictional town of San Oriel (published together recently as Distant Music by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth). And he talks about his links to Azorean culture. As he mentions, “We lived in a town that didn’t have a movie house, didn’t have anything. It had the IDES hall.” We learn of his early interest in fiction writing; and he talks about his short stories, novels, and the novella “Move Over, Scopes.” We also learn of his interesting years of teaching and traveling.
Interviewer: Judith Dunning
Date of Interview: 3/31/2003
Celeste is the sister of Stella Faria, also born and raised in Pinole. She talks about wartime in Richmond, her work in an administrative office in the shipyards, and then her work after the war for Richmond Unified School District. Like Stella, she has been an active member of the Portuguese community in Richmond/Pinole and reflects here on being the daughter of immigrants. This interview is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront Oral History Project.
Ethel Souza at the Junipero Serra Bookshop, ca. 1960s
Ethel G. Souza The Junipero Serra Shop, Maiden Lane, San Francisco from Renaissance of Religious Art and Architecture in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1946-1948, Volume I, pp. 60-69.
Interview conducted by Micaela DuCasse in 1982
Ethel Gloria Souza was born in 1926 in Exeter, Tulare County, California, to Azorean-American parents. After graduating from UC Berkeley she attended Hastings College of the Law but dropped out after two years. It was at that point, in 1950, that she co-founded the Junipero Serra Bookshop.
In his article “Prelude to Reform: The Church in San Francisco Before the Council,” Jeffrey M. Burns notes that “Catholics too were caught up in the excitement and turmoil of the 1960s. By the end of the decade Bay Area Catholics were not only active in the anti-war movement and ongoing civil rights struggles, they also ardently supported Cesar Chavez and the farm workers struggle; several parishes provided their halls for the Black Panther Breakfast Program for Children. The protests were not only directed outward against society, but also inward toward Church authority.” And he notes that, “Perhaps the single most important place in the emergence of a liberal, activist Catholicism was the Junipero Serra Bookshop located on Maiden Lane just off Union Square in San Francisco.” And Ethel Souza was “the heart and soul of the store.” [U.S. Catholic Historian, 23 (Fall, 2005), pp. 2, 14]
Related Oral History Transcripts
Elsie Casina Adams Elsie Casina Adams, Granddaughter of Pt. Hope, Alaska, Settler, Joseph Ferreira
On August 3, 2005, I met with Elsie Adams at her home in Anchorage, Alaska. Also present was her niece, Carolyn Harris. Mrs. Adams is the granddaughter of Joseph Ferreira, who immigrated from the Cape Verde Islands to Massachusetts at an early age and later became a whaler. His father was apparently from the Azores, and his mother was Cape Verdean. Ferreira came to the North Slope of Alaska at the end of the nineteenth century, settling down as a shore whaler and marrying an Inupiat woman. Mrs. Adams’s contacts with her grandfather were limited, but she related what she remembered of him. Much of the interview concerns her growing up in the native environment of Arctic Alaska.
Major Vítor Alves, at the command post of the Movimento das Forças Armadas, on the morning of April 26, 1974, announcing to the world the Program of the Movement
Col. Vítor Alves Col. Vítor Manuel Rodrigues Alves, Member of the Movimento das Forças Armadas, and one of the leaders of the Portuguese Revolution of April 25, 1974
Interviewer: Don Warrin and
In April, 2004, retired Col. Vítor Alves was invited to attend the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Portuguese Revolution of April 25, 1974. The occasion was the annual meeting of the Luso-American Education Foundation, held that year on the UC Berkeley campus. On Monday, April 26, Deolinda Adao and I sat down with Col. Alves to discuss briefly his major role in the Revolution and its aftermath. He also talked a bit about his formative years and the influence they had on his career.