The Day of Portugal and Portuguese Heritage, Social Exclusion, and Imagined Mobilities: Legacies of Racialized Migrant Industrial Labor in Contemporary New England


  • Miguel Moniz


Commemorations and monument dedications have been part of Portuguese-speaking migrant place-making and as responses to social exclusion in New England since these arrivals settled in and built industrial and agricultural worker communities beginning in the late nineteenth century. The racialization of migrant laborer identities imposed by discourse and law and supported by scientific studies relying upon genetic data, assisted politicians and elites during the second Industrial Revolution to limit the civic and labor organization rights of workers. This study examines the complex history of Portuguese worker strategies to confront their civic, social, and racial assimilability through civic associations that organized migrant participation in U.S. national celebrations (Fourth of July, Pilgrim ceremonies, war veterans’ memorials) and migrant community commemorations (including Portuguese heritage days and monument dedications like Dighton Rock). Contemporary Day of Portugal celebrations and other heritage dedications that shape social participation in multi-cultural democracy are examined in light of the legacies of white nationalist strategies advocating for Portuguese social mobility. The study examines how some of the ritual elements of today’s celebrations yet promote discourses of racialized laborer hierarchies.