When the Portuguese first immigrated to East Providence in the early 1900s, it wasn't the first place in New England they settled, but rather a place they migrated to later on.
"People of Portuguese descent originally lived in Fox Point section of Providence, or in Fall River and New Bedford," said Edna Anness, curator ofHunt House Museum and spokesperson for the East Providence Historical Society. "They came as fishermen."
However, as agriculture gave way to industry during the early 20th century, factories developed and other urban jobs became available. Workers were needed in those areas as well.
"A lot of manufacturing jobs became available in Phillipsdale section of Rumford along with the Rumford Baking Powder Co.," Anness said. "So, many Portuguese moved into central East Providence and commuted to work in Phillipsdale."
The Portuguese were industrious and adapted well to industrial labor. "They were excellent workers in the mills, including Washburn Wiere and Glenlyon Dye and Saylesville Finishing Co.," Anness said. Photographs of the Portuguese laborers during that time period are on display at the Hunt House Museum.
By 1915, so many Portuguese were living in East Providence that a church was devoted to them, Anness said. The Providence Catholic diocese built and dedicated St. Francis Xavier Church to the Portuguese on May 21, 1916.
This is relevant because it indicates the Portuguese immigrant's upward mobility and willingness to stay in East Providence permanently.
"It is common that as a group of people improve their lot in life they move out of the central city, in this case Providence, to the suburbs, in this case East Providence, where they settle in," Anness said.
Families of Portuguese heritage continue to prosper and flourish in East Providence, maintaining the area's rich Portuguese history. Immigrants from Cape Verde have also added to the mix.
Many of the city's restaurants and stores have Portuguese influence and continue to cultivate and expose Rhode Islanders to Portuguese culture.
East Providence Patch, aqui.