Saturday, May 5, 2012

Azorean Migration to California Part 2

In Part 1, I indicated that the city of San Leandro, Caliornia attracted the greatest number of Azoreans in the west. Some of the foreign born people enumerated in San Leandro in each of the decades did identify their country of birth as Portugal. Without further investigation, I cannot determine if these are Azoreans or from Portugal or some of each.

Robert Santos' paper on the Azorean to California migration noted that Massachusetts was the first area in the United States that attracted the Azoreans. By the 1850s the busiest ports were in New England. Each week dozens of whaling ships left the ports in New England. Those Azoreans working on whaling ships had the opportunity to come to Massachusetts.

In some cases, the men jumped ship and permanently settled in and around New Bedford, Massachusetts. Others served on the ships until discharged and then permanently settled in America. By the 1870s, direct shipping was begun from Horta, the location of the US Consulate in the Azores, to Boston. This allowed for an easier journey by family members to New England. As the male immigrants in New England saved enough money for passage, they sent for family members.

San Francisco was also a whaling ship port in the 1800s. With the discovery of gold in California, people from within the United States and throughout the world were attracted by the prospect of becoming wealthy. The some Azoreans working on whaling ships used the opportunity when they were in port at San Francisco to jump ship.

By 1860, the majority (86%) had settled in the Central Coast, Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada. About equal numbers were in the Central Coast (35%) as were in the gold country (34%). They were occupied in whaling, farming or gold mining.

Twenty years later, interest in gold mining greatly diminished. Only 6% of the Azorean immigrants are found in the gold country, whereas almost 83% are found in the Central Coast (71.5%) and Sacramento Valley (11%). They are primarily engaged in farming in the East Bay where San Leandro is situated.

I also happened to notice that some of the people I found in the census between 1900 and 1940 were born in Hawaii and whose parents were born in the Azores. Mr. Santos' paper included a subheading, "From Hawaii."

By 1870, Mr. Santos indicates there are around 400 Portuguese living in Hawaii. They were primarily members of the crew aboard whaling ships who jumped ship when the ship was in port for supplies. Then in 1877, Hawaii faced a labor shortage in the sugar cane industry. The Hawaiian government offered to pay transportation costs for Azoreans who to immigrate to Hawaii with the provision that the immigrant work in the cane fields for 3 years.

The immigrant was offered monthly pay, food, lodging and medical care. Men represented the majority of the immigrants (42%), but entire families seized the opportunity. Women accounted for 19% of the immigrants and children, 35.6%. However, by 1890 the Hawaiian Portuguese began migrating to the Bay Area.

The Hawaiians viewed the Portuguese laborers as of a lower class. The hardworking Azoreans were offended. Some moved to the mainland while others took steps to asimilate into the Hawaiian population. They changed names, moved out of field jobs and intermarried.

The Hawaiian transplants also settled in San Leandro. Many settled along or near Kanaka Lane (Row or Road). The street was later renamed Orchard Street because of the number of fruit orchards planted by the Azoreans living there. I was curious to see what Orchard (now Avenue) looked like in 2012. If it were a street being laid today, Orchard is not likely a name that would fit.

The Portuguese in San Leandro by Meg Rogers. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing Company, 2008.

San Leandro by Cynthia Vrilakas Simons. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing Company, 2008.

American Experience Whaling Ports of the 1850s.

Azoreans to California: A History of Migration and Settlement by Robert L. Santos. Denair, CA: Alley-Cass Publications, 1995.

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