U.P.P.E.C. Fraternal Benefit Society

A society devoted to social and charitable works.

Years:  1901 — 2010

On February 4, 1901, a group of women, under the leadership of Mrs. Maria C. Leal Soares Fenn, came together to organize the “União Portuguesa Protectora do Estado da Califórnia”, the U.P.P.E.C.  The purpose for organizing the society was to provide mutual protection, develop and enjoy sociability, practice charity, and to receive personal benefits whether in sickness or in health.

The original constitution of the U.P.P.E.C. expressed these aims when it declared that the U.P.P.E.C. was founded to: “practice charity; extend protection; cooperate with other organizations or individuals in order to promote and advance the material, social, and moral welfare of its members; and upon the death of the members, to pay their respective beneficiaries the death benefits legally forthcoming.”

Within six months of the founding, these dedicated pioneers had established some fifteen other councils.  These councils were: Oakland, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, Merced, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Sausalito, Pinole, San Luis Obispo, West Oakland, and Hayward.  The wide distribution of these councils illustrates the early enthusiasm and evident need of such an organization.  By August 12, 1901, the delegates came together to institute the U.P.P.E.C. Supreme Council, electing the founder, Maria C. Leal Soares Fenn, the first Supreme President.

On January 25, 1902, the U.P.P.E.C. was formally incorporated according to the laws of the State of California.  At its First Annual Convention, the U.P.P.E.C. unanimously voted to invite the Queen of Portugal to become Honorary Supreme President.  The U.P.P.E.C. was both delighted and proud when Queen Dona Maria Amelia accepted the office.

Throughout the years, the U.P.P.E.C. generously participated in charitable campaigns and in the life of the Portuguese community in California. They were very active in both the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and the 1939 World’s Fair held on Treasure Island in San Francisco.  During World War II, the U.P.P.E.C. joined with other societies to contribute to the war effort.  The society also helped many needy families in the Azores and in the U.S.

The society expanded by admitting men.  On September 8, 1950, a juvenile class of members was established.  This action was meant to foster and encourage the interest of the younger generation to carry on the ideals and traditions of the society.  Upon attaining the age of sixteen, they became eligible to join the class of adults.  At the 1963 annual convention, the society established a scholarship fund to assist graduates in furthering their education.

Originally, the logo of the U.P.P.E.C. showed the “Escudo” of Portugal flanked by the flags of the United States and the Kingdom of Portugal.  In 1911, the escudo was replaced by a depiction of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the U.P.P.E.C. and both the U.S. and Portugal.

A second logo was created by Dr. J.B. de Faria of Oakland in 1921.  The bundle of twigs tied by two cords signifies “in union there is strength”.  The star symbolizes the protection the society offers with the help of its patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  The five points signify the Five Wounds of Christ.  The seven castles represent the seven principal cities of Portugal.  The armillary circle represents the world explored by Prince Henry the Navigator.  The clover, a simple creation of Almighty God, has been considered a barometer of fortunes.  It is the plant that uniquely symbolizes faith and hope – the symbol of the U.P.P.E.C.

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

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