I.D.E.S. Fraternal Benefit Society

A founding tenet was that each member would contribute one dollar to the widow of each deceased member.

Years:  1887 — 2010

The year was 1887 in the small rural community of Mission San José.  A handful of Portuguese immigrants decided to get together on a Sunday at the Old Mission for a picnic to give thanks and praise to the Holy Spirit, as was traditional in their homeland.  The following year, a great number of people joined in, some traveling quite far for the celebration that came to be called the “Festa do Espírito Santo”.

At a meeting on July 7, 1889, a more formal organization called the I.D.E.S. was born.  One proposal adopted that day was that each member would contribute one dollar to the widow of each deceased member.  This became the basis for the family protection programs of the nascent I.D.E.S.

On July 9, 1891, the “Irmandade do Divino Espírito Santo de Mission San José” was incorporated. It was called the “Irmandade da Missão” or simply, the I.D.E.S.

Manuel Silveira Peixoto was born in Castelo Branco, Faial, Azores in 1842.  He immigrated to California and by July 7, 1889, was President of the “Irmandade da Missão” in Mission San José.  He held the position of Supreme President of the I.D.E.S. until 1898.  In the early years, Manuel Peixoto was instrumental in establishing the firm base of the I.D.E.S.  He organized sixteen councils and admitted over 1,000 members during his term.  His accomplishment is especially impressive despite the primitive means of transportation and communication of the time.

The I.D.E.S. reinforced its strong ties with the Azores by dedicating the busts of its founder and co-founder to the Azores.  On June 29, 1996, the bust of Rev Manuel Francisco Fernandes was dedicated in his native village of Santa Cruz das Ribeiras, Pico, Azores.  On July 7, 1996, the bust of founder and first Supreme President Manuel Silveira Peixoto was dedicated in the village of Castelo Branco, Faial.  Plaques honoring other past members of note have been dedicated on the islands of Flores, Terceira, São Jorge, and Pico.

The I.D.E.S. merged with the S.E.S., the U.P.E.C., and the U.P.P.E.C. on January 1, 2010 to create the entity Portuguese Fraternal Society of America (P.F.S.A.).

Festa do Espírito Santo

The “Festa do Espírito Santo” is a Portuguese religious celebration dedicated to the Holy Spirit.  The original concept originated with Queen Isabel to foster among both the nobility and commoners the virtues of humility and charity.  The celebration consisted of the nobility and general populace attending Mass and sharing a communal meal provided by the nobility.  The symbolic gesture of placing the royal crown upon the head of a poor commoner created a sense of equality and brotherly love.

As time passed, societies known as “irmandades” (brotherhoods) were formed to promote the “festas” within their own localities.  The “irmandades” acquired property and built “impérios” (chapels) where food was collected to help feed the poor.

The concept of the “festa” has had the greatest impact on longevity in the Azores, and from there came to California with the immigrants.  In the old tradition, a man was always chosen to be crowned.  In more recent times, a girl or young woman is crowned and serves as the Festa Queen. The first recorded “festa” took place in Sausalito in 1885.  Part of the tradition as it evolved is the serving of “sopas”, consisting of beef and bread in a beef broth. A variation includes cabbage.

The I.D.E.S. contributed to the promotion and spread of this tradition in California.  Today, the “Festa do Espírito Santo” continues to play an important role in the traditions and customs of people of Portuguese descent in California.

Rev. Manuel Francisco Fernandes – “The Good Shepherd”

Manuel Francisco Fernandes was born in Santa Cruz das Ribeiras, Pico, Azores, in 1850.  In 1864, he moved to Brazil, returning to Pico in 1870.  In 1873, at the age of 23, he immigrated to California, working in Siskiyou County as a shepherd and miner.

When Manuel decided to return to the Azores to study for the priesthood, he sold his share in the mine, purchasing land to be donated for the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Hawkinsville.

Not knowing how to read or write, he took elementary courses prior to entering the seminary in Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira.  He proved to be an outstanding student.

Returning to California, Manuel completed his studies for the priesthood in Santa Barbara. After ordination, he was made pastor of Mission San José.  While there, he co-founded a weekly Portuguese language newspaper, “O Amigo dos Católicos”, which later became the “Jornal Português”.  Rev. Fernandes was also involved in the founding of the “Irmandade do Divino Espírito Santo” (I.D.E.S.) in 1889.

In his career, Rev. Fernandes traveled to Hawaii, China, and Macau. On his return to California, he was instrumental in the construction of St. Joseph’s Church in Oakland, one of the early Portuguese churches in California. He died in 1896 at the age of 46.


In 1911, a group of men from Madeira gathered during the holiday season.  Having nostalgic memories of Christmas in their homeland, the group decided to make a “lapinha”, a traditional decorated manger upon which the image of the infant Jesus is placed.  These men displayed their “lapinha” and entertained with their music and songs.  To cover expenses, they set out a gift tray for donations and were surprised to find that they had made a profit.  They repeated the celebration in 1912 and 1913.

After the holiday season in 1913, they met to discuss their growing finances and membership.  They decided that they would use the profits to help members who were ill, those who were in need, and to pay members’ burial expenses.  Thus the Fraternal Society of the “Associação Protectora União Madeirense do Estado da Califórnia” (A.P.U.M.E.C.) was born.

In 1914, subordinate councils were formed in California and the A.P.U.M.E.C. was incorporated.  In 1917, councils were formed in the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Women were admitted in 1930 and children in 1940.

In 1999, the A.P.U.M.E.C. had 35 councils and 1,500 members. It merged with the I.D.E.S. in the summer of 1999.

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