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Portuguese Footprints -- The Halls

At one time, there were 99 Portuguese halls.

Years:  1879 — 2010

The most identifiable feature of the Portuguese presence in California is the Portuguese Holy Ghost hall, today found in 78 communities.  At one time, there were halls in 99 communities. These halls span the length of California from Arcata in the north to San Diego, 803 miles to the south.

Nearly all these halls were built by Azoreans to help celebrate their most important community celebration – the annual Holy Ghost “Festa”. The halls were built to accommodate large crowds feasting on “sopas” – bread and meat served in a beef broth.  This free meal celebrates the charity shown by Queen St. Isabel of Portugal, who fed the poor against the will of her husband, King Dinis.

The Holy Ghost halls are also important sources of income for local Portuguese organizations, as their rental fees bring in much-needed funds.  The Portuguese, as an ethnic group, own the most halls in California.  As of 2003, their combined value is estimated to exceed $200 million.  Other Portuguese organizations have also built halls, especially local marching bands.  These halls are part of the emerging Portuguese landscape in California.

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