Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Monday, September 1, 2014


We took a little mountain trip to clear my mind and soul and let my memories run free. I am back to work sharing those memories and thoughts.

Good and safe Labor Day to all here in the U.S.A.  This uniquely American holiday is a fitting occasion to write about Portuguese Americans.  Portuguese immigrants were and are a hardy lot.  They settled in to a new country and commenced to make their mark with an incredible work ethic.

They worked hard and they commemorated and passed on their traditions just as hard.  The centerpiece of those traditions was the Festa.  Still going strong, though sometimes different, still hard work. Consider the following quote.

                In an article by Stephen Cabral, Ph.D  for the Madeira Feast Booklet we read:

                        " Madeiran folkloric music provided the beat and inspiration behind
                   the Ramboia a Pe De New Bedford ao (walk from New Bedford to Loreto) 
              Loreto in Norton, MA. Twenty-eight Madeirans undertook the 31 miles pilgrimage 
                   to the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto during the Labor Day weekend of 1948.  
                            This group decided to resurrect an old Madeiran Feast custom. 
                    Extended families and friends often walked and sank along the routes to festas 
                     at neighboring villages on the Island.  Thirty mile hikes along mountain trails 
                          and narrow unpaved roads were not unusual.  Only eight of the original 
                                Madeiran-Americans completed the walk to Loreta."

I grew up on festas and am delighted that they have not only rebounded but that these cultural iconic events have proliferated. Although Portuguese immigrants were/are ethnically and culturally diverse, one shared tradition is the festa- part religious ceremony, part carnival. and all fun.  Festas: a way of passing on traditions from one generation to the next.  Southeastern New England still is a central point for many festas each year.

August of this year is the 100th anniversary of the New Bedford Feast of the Holy Ghost (or Festas das Madeiras), the largest festa in the world!  
Festas were a fact of life for us in the Village. Those days there were many and they were smaller, more intimate. The sound of Portuguese music being played by a band (or a contest of bands), the twinkling strings of lights crisscrossing overhead, the delicious smell of homemade fava beans and sizzling carne  d' espeto ( meat on a stick cooked over a fire of lava rocks). Linguica sandwiches with Portuguese bread soft and fresh. Malasadas , delicious fried bread.   Children running around the legs of adults who were trying to chat and catch up.  Laughter and greetings.  Those were the sounds of the festas when I was growing up. The ones I  knew were (and still are) at St. Anthony's, in E. Taunton, in Norton.  Today there are many more as we will see later in this post with the granddaddy of them all in New Bedford..

There was/is a  Festa at the Ward Five Club on Winter St. at the edge of the Village with  an open air Mass and traditional entertainment and food.  For many years there was another at the P.A.C.C. (The Portuguese American Civic on School Street ) often the site of festas in its heyday from the 20's on into the late 50's until the Village changed, diluted as it were,.  Still my memories churn up the plumes of scented smoke from the Espetatha pits and the sounds of families 
and friends greeting each other.

 The Madeira Festa de Nossa Senhora do Loretto (Feast of Our Lady of Loreto) took place each summer in the woods of Norton.   Groups of Madeirans would gather with their concertinas in corners of the festa and start singing and dancing.  There is now an elementary school where that festival took place for so many years.

Although they were and are a social cultural affair, the root of the festa is religious. There were often processions earlier in the day.  I am not sure if First Communion wrapped around them, but these two photos were too good to pass up, especially for me.  Here at St. Anthony's two angels ( old time processions always had children dressed as angels!), my sister Kathy Souza front right and next to her my cousin Helena Souza .  My brother Frank is the fourth little boy in the communion group behind Helena.  I am sure some of you will recognize others.

 Traditional angels in Madeira

Below  are our angels without their wings having breakfast...Frank on the left in front across from Kathy and Helena in back of Frank.  I am hoping you can name all the adults.


Every Village in Portugual, Madeira and the Azores had their own Festas. The biggest were in honor of the Holy Ghost (Catholics have not heard that term in years) and the Blessed Sacrament.
This religious practice and celebration of the Holy Ghost originated with Queen Saint Isabel, sixth Queen of Portugal and daughter of the King of Aragon, who was married to young monarch, Diniz .  There was once  a terrible famine in the land.  During Mass the Queen begged The Holy Ghost to send food promising to give her crown to the Church. Upon leaving the Church she saw an armada of ships bringing wheat and corn.  For the next 700 years the Portuguese have celebrated The Festa do Espirito Sancto to intercede in times of danger and in
n memory of their Queen's holiness.

Above a Holy Ghost Festa in the Azores in the 1890's.  The 'Emperor' with the crown was called
the Imperiador ,  he oversaw the Festa.  Women hung their best handmade linens from their windows as they watched the procession.

Below a wonderful photo from the 1890's of The Folioes, traditional costumes
on Sao Miquel, the musicians who led the Holy Ghost Festival.

During that above mentioned famine, Queen Isabel sold all she had except the crown that symbolized the monarchy.  Those of us who grew up going to a Portuguese Catholic Church remember the little side altar where the silver crown and sceptre were displayed.  The crown consists of three individual pieces: the scepter is accented by a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, 
the crown itself and the base plate representing the people.

Madeirans had their own Festas.  They have maintained a fervent devotion to the Blessed Sacrment such the 15th Century when the Knights of the Holy Order of Christ established the earliest feasts.
Local parishes throughout Madeira still celebrate the feast on different Sundays 
from Easter through January.

For our ancestors the Festa meant many things.  In the days before media communication and easy transportation it provided a meeting place to reinforce their worship, their beliefs. A place to meet a prospective mate while under proper chaperones.  A place to talk politics. For children it was a place to run around safely while they absorbed their culture.

For immigrants coming to a new country, the Festa was a place to remember home, to keep alive their beliefs through worship, a place to teach the young their traditions, a place to renew their bonds with each other.  And over the  centuries as new immigrants came here, 
these traditions kept going and growing.

The facades of buildings in the USA "villages" were decorated as in the Old Country for Festa.  Statues of saints were adorned with garlands and jewelry.  Streets were lined with banners, twinkling colored lights were laced overhead.  Bayberry arches lined neighborhood streets.  I remember our priest holding the Ciborium containing the Host in his caped hands as he processed beneath a canopy held by four men who were honored with their responsibility.

What a great photo below taken in 1889 at Monte Pio Hall on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford.  President McKinley granted the Society's request for permission to fly the Portuguese flag without accompaniment by the American flag.

The Blessed Sacrament was displayed on the Altar for adoration and fervent 
volunteers kept constant attendance.

                                    Who does not remember their Avo ( grandmother ) keeping watch in the Church, her head modestly covered with a kerchief.  The Avos I remember were all in black, 
a constant reminder of their widowhood. Taken at Mt. Carmel Church , New Bedford,1979.

New England was not the only place in the U.S. where Portuguese
immigrants settled and Festa became a center point.
Below children form a procession for a Holy Ghost Festa in 1914
in Riverside California.

In recent history: a very large Festa takes place in the Sacramento/Oakland area in California.
You can see the women who have been chosen to portray Queen Isobel, and her court.
This is a long procession and many Churches take part, each one with their band, their participants and their Queen.  My sister Kathy and her late husband Leo, attended this in 2007
and captured these photos.

Festa, always at heart a family and neighborhood feast.

Below, a photo taken in the 1920's of a Festa procession
originating at St. John the Baptist Church on County St. in New Bedford,
 heading south on Bonny St.

At  Santo Christo Church on Columbia St., Fall River, a processon in 1992

The Festa began with a novena and evening recital of the Rosary. It opened with Vespers on Friday, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and on Sunday a High Mass and procession.  Waves of incense wafted over all, and the odor of it still lingers in my memory.  Often the priest would disappear in its clouds, especially if there was an over enthusiastic altar boy.

The two oldest Festas in the United States are : The Festa Do Divino Espirito Santo in San Diego. It is the oldest ethnic feast in the U.S. having started in 1884 by the first Portuguese settlers there.  It was formally organized in 1910.

 Secondly, the Festa of the Blessed Sacrament in New Beford, MA is the next  oldest Festa started in 1914 by a group of four Madeira immigrants in thanksgiving for a safe voyage to America.  It is now the largest in the WORLD and it is they who have just celebrated their 100th anniversary.  This is a video of last year's festa.   The Festa attracts over 100,000 people each year over 
 its four days from the U.S., Canada and Portugal.  It is quite an event 
and far from the lovely little ones I remember as a child.

 Another hallmark of festas is that somewhere within it there is free food, a symbol of the generosity of Queen Saint Isobel.  Usually that food is sopas a kind of soup made with beef and milk. Depending on the origin of the Festa ( which Island, etc.) sometimes
linguica or pork might be added.

There are Festas throughout the world, even in Quebec and Montreal, Canada. There is a Boston Portuguese Festival probably qualifying as a Festa and a 
significant one in Woburn, MA.  All summer they are laced throughout the calendar.

Wherever Portuguese immigrants settled in the U.S. especially on both coasts and Hawai, there is Festa.  The late Senator Daniel Inouye and others wrote about the fact tha timmigrant Portuguese came to work the sugar cane fields there from the 1880's establishing their 
settlements and bringing  their traditions.

Portuguese dancers performing the bailinho, the national song 
and dance of Madeira, during a parade on Madeira Avenue 
in New Bedford in 1980.

Photo below: Groupo Folclorico do Santissimo Sancramento, (also pictured above)
The Madeiran Folkloric dancers, 1995
                                                               New Bedford, Festa

The New Bedford Festa is the only place in the world permitted to get Madeiran wine by the cask. It requires approval by the Madeira government.  A favorite spot at that Festa, says Carolyn, is the Madeiran Museum Cafe a block from the festival grounds where there is Fado singing and folkloric dancing.  If you have not experienced an authentic Fado performance, you are in for a treat,  Fado is a type of singing in a category all its own, full of nostalgia and beauty.  You can sip Madeira port as you enjoy the performances.

A historic note: If you have never tasted Madeiran Port, do not wait.  Join those in history who were very fond of it:  George Washington ( a shipment to him from Madeira in 1789 was the first recorded shipment of Madeira to America), Benjamin Franklin ( he made a point of always having it with him), John Adams  (once said, ' a few glasses of Madeira makes everyone feel they can be president), Thomas Jefferson 's favorite was Malmsley which was stocked in pride of place in his wine cellar at Monticello ) and most likely a favorite of Winston Churchill who spend much time in Madeira, a favorite resting place for him.

Another large Massachusetts Festa takes place in Fall River's Kennedy Park at the end of August.
This is the Festa of Espirito Santo,  also known as the Azorean Feast.  Any one living in South Eastern New England knows there is a large Portuguese population in that city now.  This Festa once attracted busloads of Portuguese-Canadians, folks flying in from Bermuda, Idaho, the Azores and California.
Among them were folkloric dancers and traditional musicians. Thousands would attend. There are not so many now, all of the Festas bemoan needing volunteers to keep them going. There is still a procession from and back to  St. Anne's Church and lasting 2-3 hours.  A hallmark of the Kennedy Park Festa is a giant crown over 8 feet high making its statement in the northern section of Kennedy Park. Not far from the Park is the Columbia St. section or cultural district boasting of several excellent Portuguese ethnic restaurants.

Columbia Street runs a quarter of a mile up and down a hill.  It is alive with people and cars.  The centerpiece of what is called the Cultural District is the majestic Santo Christo Catholic Church built in 1925, the first Portuguese Church in Fall River.

In Fairhaven, MA there is the Feast of our Lady of Angels occurring Labor Day weekend (if you are nearby you can catch this one...).

There are Festas everywhere that there are Portuguese populations.
 They are laced throughout the summer calendar.

The music, the food, it will all awaken the memories of a Portuguese American who grew up with this summertime tradition.  It surely did mine. I am far from New England where there
are no Festas .


Thanks to Kathleen Campanirio and Carolyn de Sousa for
filling out memories with their photographs and  printed materials
This article would not have been written without them.

Portuguese Spinner: An American Story, ed. McCabe and Thomas. If you are interested in the Portuguese history in Madeira and the Azores with the experience of Portuguese-Americans this is the book for you.  Many of the photographs in this article are from the Spinner Collection.
I found mybook at Partners store in Westport, MA. years ago.  Article regarding Festa in 1914 in Riverside, California.


  1. I remember the symbol of the Holy Ghost staying in our home on School street. My Nana was so proud to be able to host her friends and neighbors as they came and showed respect and love to the Holy Ghost. As teens were often went to the Norton Festa and our local ones. To be a member of the Maderia Club in new Bedford you at one time had to be at least 75% maderance. My siblings and I are 75% Maderance. I am proud this is my heritage and I appreciate the groups that cherish and maintain our traditions. Viva Madera!
    My husband and I journeyed to visit his cousins in 2007 and participated in their Festa. We served Sopas for hours as people lined up to enjoy the good food

  2. Had forgotten all about that...then the memory woke up!