Sailors & Whalers: Forerunners of Portuguese Labor Migration to North America?


  • André Nóvoa


This paper sheds light on the importance of whaling paths and stations in the migration of Portuguese laborers to North America. Even though there are many factors influencing these migratory trails—the attraction that a country like the U.S. had on most prospective migrants in the 1800s, the American economic and political influence which made it a convergence point globally, and its geographical position—this study demonstrates that the Portuguese sailors and whalers, who were active in the Pacific and Atlantic North in the nineteenth century in search of turning a profit and better living conditions, can be seen as pioneers of sorts, having played a role in blazing the paths and trails for the Portuguese who followed. It is not a historical coincidence that the places where the Portuguese established themselves were precisely the places frequented years before by Portuguese whalers and fishing sailors. This line of analysis puts mobility first as an important theoretical and analytical tool to reveal the causes and consequences of migration.