The Portuguese American Digital Archive seeks to expand the oral history work on Portuguese in the Greater Boston Area. Since the 1970s, oral history projects have been undertaken in several of the region’s communities. One in Gloucester and one in Lowell focused specifically on the Portuguese, while others included Portuguese Americans as part of a larger series of oral history interviews in cities such as Hudson, Lawrence, Salem, and Lynn, and covered a variety of topics and members of various immigrant groups. The focus of these interviews included work, family life, recreational activities, civic activism, cultural traditions, gender roles in the home and workplace, and politics. Many of these interviews and transcriptions are available through PADA, notably those carried out in Lowell, from the 1980s through the 2010s. 

New Projects and Priorities

In 2021, PADA will commence a new series of oral history interviews, concentrating on Portuguese communities in Hudson, Lowell, Lawrence, and Gloucester. In accordance with the methodology and guidelines of the Oral History Association and using a new generation of digital technologies, these oral histories will be available in digital audio format, as well as through full transcriptions of each interview, and, in cases where the technology permits, audio and visual format. 

Our priorities are:

  • Community Elders: We are especially focused on members of Portuguese-American communities who are children of the First Great Wave of Portuguese immigrants (1880s-1920s) and were born in the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately we are losing members of this generation at an increasing rate and with their passing we are losing stories of their experiences as first-and second-generation Portuguese.
  • Immigrants from the Second Wave of Portuguese Immigration: We are also committed to interviewing more recent immigrants to the United States, notably those who arrived in the late 1950s and into the early 1980s. Many were responsible for reinvigorating Portuguese culture in previously settled Portuguese neighborhoods. 

Oral history topics include (although not limited to):

  • Growing Up in a Portuguese Community: We seek to explore the experiences of Portuguese in their youth, their relationship to family and traditional culture, the tensions and developments in navigating through the dominant culture, their educational attainments, their dealing with issues of race, ethnic identity and gender, religious faith and work and career opportunities.
  • Maintaining Traditional Cultural Practices: We seek to examine — through family, recreational, educational, and religious and festival experiences — the challenges, accomplishments, and processes in retaining cultural traditions, while assimilating into the larger society. We also seek to explore the various musical, artistic, and literary expressions, as well as the physical shaping of the land and neighborhoods that relate to these practices.
  • Working Lives: We seek to uncover the work experiences of Portuguese women and men, in various settings — from homes, factories, businesses and offices to vessels on the sea — and examine the conditions, rewards, skills and struggles — physically, emotionally and financially.
  • Social and Political Activism: We seek to explore the various activities of Portuguese in social reforms at the local, state, and national levels, along with the engagement in civic actions and in political party politics within and outside the two-party system. In addition, we seek to examine the relationship and experiences of Portuguese in their social and political activism in connection to their ancestral homes.

Access the PADA Oral History Project

The most recent history interviews conducted in Lowell (2016-2018) and interviews carried out for this project are accessible online.