Occupations and Professions

Opportunities and Vocations Called Immigrants

From mom-and-pop storefronts to businesses with hundreds of employees, Portuguese immigrants realized their American dreams.

Years:  1915 — 1980

There were merchants and others who provided goods and services for their compatriots, mostly doing business using the Portuguese language. Bakeries and meat markets provided traditional foods. Linguiça “factories” were established to provide the traditional Portuguese sausage. Some businessmen entered mainstream activities that served the broader community.

The need for security represented by land ownership led many pioneer Portuguese families to emphasize working on the farm over attendance at school or college, but eventually they turned to education to enhance their positions in the community. Their children attended elementary school, high school, and college and began entering the fields of medicine, law, engineering, education, and other professions. Eventually they achieved positions of leadership in these areas.

Manuel Machado went to work for the Bank of Italy in San José in 1915. He rose to assistant cashier and also served as the official interpreter. George Gomes began his career with Growers Bank in the 1920s as a Portuguese interpreter to attract major farm owners as customers and became Assistant Manager at Anglo Bank. After 25 years, he retired from banking and founded George Gomes Realty.

Prominent attorneys included John Machado, who practiced in San José beginning in the 1930s. He founded the firm of Machado and Machado with his son. The firm continues some 80 years later with his grandson, Kenneth Machado, at the helm. Edward Fellows, another Portuguese attorney, became a judge in the 1940s.

Manuel Adriano da Silva, born on Pico Island in the Azores, learned the machinist’s trade as a teenager in San José, and, at age 25, founded his own manufacturing firm. It specialized in pump and well equipment and owned eleven rigs for drilling and cleaning wells.

As the original immigrant community gave rise to successive generations, American-born Portuguese began to become involved in politics. Some local Portuguese-Americans who have been active at local, state, and federal levels include Rusty Areias, Frank Barcellos, John Dutra, Margie Matthews, Henry Mello, Eddie Souza, and John Vasconcellos.

The immigration wave of 1960-1980 brought thousands of eager workers who found jobs in electronics assembly, building maintenance, and construction. Many men started jobs in drywall, worked very hard, and started their own companies. During California’s building boom of the 20th century, they worked on the Bay Area’s new residential and commercial developments.

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