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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Chronology of the History of the Portuguese in San Diego

When I was asked by Mizé Ferreira, incoming president of the Luso American Fraternal Society, to be the keynote speaker at its convention in San Diego , I decided that a presentation on the chronology of the history of the Portuguese in San Diego would be a given, since this community has a certain mysticism among communities in California. 
The presentation was made on August 7, 2011.

In 1973 I vacationed in San Diego, and after a few days here, I decided that if I were to ever leave San Jose, the choice would be San Diego. 
Little did I know that just a year later, I would be moving to San Diego to pursue a business opportunity.
Shortly thereafter, I began my involvement in the Portuguese Community and learning about its history.
My first involvement was in the Cabrillo Civic Club #16. 
This gives me a perfect “door opener” as it relates the chronological history of the Portuguese in San Diego.
It was almost 469 years, to today, that the first Portuguese set foot on what is now San Diego and the West Coast of the United States. I am of course speaking of João Rodrigues,  Cabrillo, the name that was given him by the Spanish, whom he was in service of. And why the name Cabrillo?  
Most likely, because he was born in Cabril in Northern Portugal. Interesting enough, if one looks at a phone book in Portugal, one is hard pressed to find the name Cabrillo or Cabrilho.
After his death on San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara Channel, it was around 300 years, before a récord could be found, of a Portuguese setting foot in San Diego.
We are now in 1852, when a captain José Machado, known as Joseph Clark, became one of the most famous whaling captains of his time, when he established the Monterey Whaling Company.
History tells us that Joseph Clark was asked to come to San Diego, around 1858 [1]by a Captain Packard, to help with the establishment of a whaling station at Ballast Point, Point Loma, just across from where Cabrillo is  believed to have landed.
Meanwhile, immigrants from the Azores had come to try their luck during the gold rush of 1849 in California. Many of these men were from the island of Pico and once they had tried their luck at gold mining, decided to look for other opportunities, like farming, dairying and fishing.
One man of these men was Manuel Francisco Madruga, who had been farming in Northern California.   After hearing stories about fishing in San Diego,  he decided to move his family to the La Playa area of Point Loma at about 1885, and try his luck at fishing[2], eventually becoming a successful fish broker.
As word spread of the good fishing in San Diego, other immigrants from the Azores and later from Madeira, found their way to Point Loma. The first marriage performed between two Portuguese in San Diego, was that of José Leal Monteiro and Maria Mitchell, (Machado), held in 1889.
From its inception, the economic base of the Portuguese community was fishing.  These pioneers engaged in,  salt fishing.
From 1885 to 1913 when the first cannery opened to can exclusively tuna, the Portuguese dominated this fishery.
As the members of the community became more prosperous, they used their profits to invest in land, and businesses related to fishing and boatbuilding.
They built small homes, with a community developing in La Playa first, and subsequently in Roseville. This was a lot different from the early comers, who had settle on La Playa and lived in wooden shacks with blue doors.
As the community grew, the influx of immigrants, now accounted for more people not only from the Azores and Madeira, also but from the “Continente”. They came from the east coast, mostly from Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they had been fishing. This last group settled mostly in the area known as “downtown” in San Diego.
These immigrant families, brought with them, the customs and traditions from their areas, and made these part of their daily lives, including the Festa Do Espírito Santo, that had begun to be celebrated at people’s homes in an unorganized manner.
From 1910 to 1913, a home belonging to Manuel Cabral, was used as a community hall for the celebration of the “Festa”.
Members of the community would bring the traditional food of the Holy Spirit Feast (Sopas) from their homes and share in the celebration. There was much merryment, and the celebration went on well into the night. There would be a small parade to St. Agnes Chapel, a mass and crowning. For this early celebration, a crown was made by the tinsmith Joe (José) Azevedo who had immigrated from Terceira.
Mr. Azevedo was also the first Portuguese to own a fish canery in San Diego, where he canned sardines. It was located in his backyard, across from the present St. Agnes Church.
As many of the Portuguese immigrants in those days were living in the downtow area of San Diego, the commute to Point Loma to attend s Festa, was done done by ferry. This posed a problem for those who lived downtown, for the celebration would many times last past the last ferry. This meant either staying at friends homes in La Playa, relying on one of the fishermen to return them by small boat or more likely, waiting on the beach for the first morning ferry. “Many times we walked up the boardwalk on Broadway (downtown San Diego) late at night with our shoes in our hands, for we were tired from walking and dancing”, wrote Lawrence Oliver in his autobiography, “Never Backward”, published in 1972.
For those who were Point Loma residents, either from La Playa or Roseville, it also meant a night of great enjoyment, for the celebration would mean listening to the music of Frank Goularte and his viola, as well as the dancing of the  Chamarrita.
In 1913, a crisis in the family of Manuel Cabral made it impossible to continue using the home as a community hall.
A group from the downtown Portuguese community, who at that time were enjoying a more prosperous financial situation, spearheaded a move to build a community hall in the Roseville area of Point Loma.
The building was named the Cabrillo Pavillion, and was used as a community hall from 1914 to 1921.
Although used for community events, even the Festa organizers had to pay for the use of the Cabrillo Pavillion. Miss Aurora Mitchell (Machado) was the first Festa Queen in this hall.
In 1920, Frank Silva, an immigrant from the Cape Verde Islands, coordinated a drive to buy a crown so that the Portuguese Community could in an organized manner, celebrate the Festa do Espírito Santo. This crown is still used today at the annual Festa.
In 1921, a group of immigrants from the La Playa community decided that an Irmandade should be formed and that property be purchased in its name to build a community hall.
There was a break between the two factions, from Downtown and La Playa.
The old group moved the Festa to Downtown. The Cabrillo Pavillion was then turned into apartments which became the home for many Portuguese for the next 40 years.Until 1963[3], San Diego had two Festas. The Downtown Festa and the Point Loma Festa.

As a gesture of perpetuity of the Downtown Festa, the gold crown that the Olivers had acquired in Portugal for this celebration[4] was placed in a chapel consigned by Lawrence Oliver at the Imaculata at the University of San Diego,[5] where it remains.
The Festa da Trindade as it was known, was celebrated on Trinity Sunday.
The move to organize an Irmandade, and a new hall was led by M.O. Medina and the Medina Family. Lore has it that M.O. Medina’s father made the statement, refering to the Cabrillo Pavillion, “O Senhor Espírito Santo não paga renda a ninguém”-   the Holy Spirit pays rent to no one.[6]
The first major goal was to purchase the property for the community hall and chapel.
Donations were solicited from the Portuguese community in San Diego, as well as from other Portuguese Communities dispersed throughout California.
Two men stepped forward, Manuel Correia from Madeira and Joe Rodgers (José Rodrigues) from Pico and offered to lend $500.00 each to buy the property, with the stipulation that they would be rehimbursed by the Irmandade.
In order to clear the debt, tuna fishermen pledged one day’s catch in the summer of 1921.
 As construction on the new hall began, each boat also pledged the labor of one fisherman for the duration of the construction, making sure that  the fisherman fully shared on that trip’s catch.
Of special interest is the Chapel located adjacent to the hall. The design draws on the architecture of the Impérios of the island of Terceira in the Azores.[7]
Thus was created, in 1922, the United Portuguese Sociedade do Espírito Santo (U.P.S.E.S, Inc.), Point Loma, San Diego.
As tradition dictated, each year a president (Mordomo) was picked and the feast was celebrated on Pentecost Sunday.
He or she was chosen by a committee from the U.P.S.E.S. with preference given to those who had made a Promessa (a promise) of thanks for a Divine intervention.
In 1929, a new way to choose a feast president was agreed upon.
Instead of individuals, tuna boat owners and the crews became responsible for celebrating the Festa by donating 50 cents per ton of tuna caught to offset the expenses.
As chance would have it, M.O. Medina, the man credited with starting the commercial tuna industry in the United States and his tuna boat, “Atlantic”, was chosen as the first president under the new system.
From 1929 to 1948, the Festa evolved from the very traditional style as was celebrated in the Azores, more specificly in the island of Pico, to the rather elaborate affairs of today.
Before 1948, the Festa was celebrated with daily activities beginning the Thursday prior to Pentecost Sunday, and continuing until the Monday after Festa Day.
From early on, the Portuguese fraternal organizations played an important role, always participating in the parade.
The competitive spirit of the community was evident from the begining of the celebration of the Festa. Every year, there were changes made either to the parade and or the manner in which the participants were dressed.
In 1921 a drill team was organized by the U. P. P. E. C. and became a part of the parade.
This was followed in 1937, by the introduction in the parade of the first King.
The king and aids walked inside the Varas, along with the queen and side maids. The reason was that - “the boys could not walk straight by themselves”.[8]
The introduction of statues of saints, marching bands and of alegoric floats became commonplace.
As an added bit of flair, since the hall was so close to San Diego Bay, the host tuna boat would be decorated with lights, flaggs and garlands. On Saturday evening, fireworks were set off from aboard.
Today, the parades have become trully coreographed events, with many children dressed in the representative costumes of many religious and historical personages related to catholicism and Portuguese history.
In many instances, more than 1000 children participate in the parade. Floats and children dressed as tuna fishermen pay special homage to the tuna fishermen that have been the heart of this community.
The high mass and the crowning of the Festa Queen, family and friends, is done in a most solemn maner, many times with a Bishop or priests, who are especially invited from Portugal, officiating. Accompanying, is always the Portuguese Choir of St. Agnes Church.[9]
As early as 1932, the community recognized the need for a larger, more modern hall, even though additions had been made to the original hall.
Again, a novel way was used to raise funds for the new hall.
Each tuna boat would contribute 25 cents from every ton of tuna caught toward the construction. This fund raising went on until 1948 when the new hall was completed.
For the dedication of the new hall, the community went to great lenghts, inviting dignitaries from near and far, from governmental officals to embassadors and consuls.
An elaborate ceremony with the Hollywood star, Harold Peary, of Portuguese descent, as master of ceremonies, officially opened the new hall.[10]
In the week prior to the Festa, the finishing touches are put on the event. All the work that had begun one year earlier is now coming to fruition. The hall has been spruced up, the kitchen is ready, the decorations are up.
 It is also during this last week, that the rosary is prayed before the Corôa, food is served to those in attedance, all followed by the dancing of the Chamarrita.
On Saturday night, an evening parade departs from the hall to St. Agnes Church for the handing over of the crown from the previous year’s Queen to the present Queen to be.
The annual Festa’s traditional “Fish Fry” has also greatly abled the Hall to stay a viable and strong part of the community and unique to San Diego.
On the Friday before the celebration, the Irmandade invites tuna boat captains, canery representatives, members of the business community and selected members of the public, who are delighted with a fried fish meal of exquisite proportions and drinks.
They are asked to bid on the most varied items, from gift baskets to chain, and from sweet bread loaves to outboard motors.
There is an aspect of the Festa do Espírito Santo which has not changed since it’s inception in San Diego, the Sopas do Espírito Santo, the traditional stewed meat (carne de môlho) flavored with spices, and linguiça, served with boiled potatos, and “sopas”, Bread, fresh mint, cabbage and kale.  To top off the meal, Sweet Bread (Pão Dôce or Massa Sovada) is served for dessert.
Annually, the San Diego Festa do Espírito Santo serves between 3,500 and 5,000 attendees. 
A main seating takes place when the parade returns from the church and the crowned Queen is presented to the public.
At this main seating, attendees are the Queen and her entourage, the Festa President, family members, dignitaries, members of the Board of the U.P.S.E.S., Inc., and invited guests.
As part of the tradition of the Festa, the kitchen keeps a list of members in the community, who have contributed to the Festa in a special way and cannot attend, the sick, families who have lost a family member since the last festa and special requests.
On Sunday, Festa Day, volunteers deliver to 100 plus  homes, pans of Sopas, as an offering from the Festa do Espírito Santo.
The bazaar or (arraial) has also been a prominent part of the Festa. Started in 1955, during the Festa of Edward and Deutilde Varley,[11]  traditionally this is the place one meets old friends, enjoys the music of brass bands, eats the food of the motherland, including linguiça, barbequed sardines, bacalhau, takes chances on the many games that help support the Festa and enjoys the entertainment of the folkcloric group, Portuguese American Dancers, founded in 1955 by Mary Moniz.
Greatly missed is, the Point Loma Strings (António Garcia da Rosa, Lionel Garcia da Rosa, Manuel (Frizado) Silva, Manuel Labricha and later José Correia), who were an important part of the entertainment  and dancing during the Festa.
In the evening, in the hall, there is a Grand March and dance which includes everything from the top 40, swing, line dancing, rock n roll and the “Chamarrita”.
In the middle 60’s, the old method of choosing the Festa president was revived. Names of those interested in making the Festa are put into a hat and a name pulled at 10 P.M.
The Festa das Contas is held on second Sunday in January.
In the 1980’s, once again, the community saw a need to modernize the hall. In 1989, a total renovation of the hall was completed in stages under the direction of Basílio Freitas.
Today, the U.P.S.E.S. Hall in San Diego is one of the best equiped and most confortable halls, of the many Portuguese Halls in California.
From its onset, San Diego’s Festa queen capes have been recognized for their beauty, intriquesy of the embroidery, and design.
They were trully different from other Festa capes in California, indeed anywhere. Expense was not spared to make the cape a true work of art.
Originaly they were bought “up north in Artesia”.[12]  In later years, many have been the community seamstresses who have worked in these works of art.
One other event that takes place in San Diego is the “Weekly Crownings. Due to the overwhelming popularity of families wanting to host the Festa do Espírito Santo, and since there were not enough years to accommodate everyone, it was decided by the U.P.S.E.S. Board, that on the weeks following Easter leading to Pentecost Sunday, a family could in fact have a mini Festa and crowning and prepare a meal for family members and friends.
In the week preceding the crowning the family and invited friends pray the rosary in their homes every night, before the crown.
This has proven so popular and so many families have signed the “Weekly Crowning Book” that at present, it extends to the year 2078.  In many instances,  names are placed in the book prior to, or at the birth of a child.
In 2010, with Evelyn daRosa Feliciano as President, the U.P.S.E.S. Festa celebrated its 100th anniversary with much pomp and circumstance.
Of note is the fact that San Diego’s Festa do Espírito Santo is the oldest religious festival in San Diego.
In 1993, a group of community members who had been privatly celebrating the Festa da Trindade, or old Downtown Festa, asked the U.P.S.E.S. to sanction their Festa. It was agreed.
San Diego, once again, has two Festas, one on Pentecost Sunday and the other the following week, on Trinity Sunday.
But, lets return to the 1892 and the first commemoration of the arrival of Cabrillo 350 years hence, as Manuel Cabral, played the personage of Cabrillo at a citywide commemoration sponsored by the city fathers.
This commeration was not to be repeated until the arrival of the Cabrillo statue, that now sits atop Point Loma at the Cabrillo National Monument.
By 1893, there are reports of the fishing for “bonito” by the Portuguese[13]. The La Playa community continued to grow and so did the fishing, mostly coastal, for bonito and albacore.
The Portuguese immigrants had been observing how the Japanese and Italians were fishing,  going out in the morning and returning in the evening with their catches.
Among these men, was Manuel Oliveira Medina, who had come from the Azores to farm, and later wound up in San Diego to fish.
Astute and observant, in 1919, M.O.Medina, built his first tuna boat, Oceana. It was constructed by Manuel Madruga Jr. in his backyard in the old town area, not far from here. Medina paid for the boat within a short time, always with his sights set on larger boats.
As fishing became more productive, and the fishermen got better at using the barbless hook devised by the Japanese, there was a need to go further out and search for the schools of tuna.
This required larger and better equipped boats that could spend time at sea and only return when full. Therefore, in 1926, M.O Medina, consigned the building of the Atlantic, a boat equipped with ice chambers that could go out for longer periods of time, yet maintaining the fish fresh for unloading upon its return to the cannery in San Diego.
This was closely followed by the building of the Lusitania, owned by Manuel Garcia da Rosa and bother’s António and Lionel.
By 1929, M.O. and his boat the Atlantic, were fishing for the first time below the Equator, and thus an industry was on its way to making San Diego the Tuna Fishing Capital of the World.
A most important contribution to tuna fishing was the finding of banks in the Pacific Ocean, many of them discovered by the Portuguese tuna fishermen and have names like: Picaroto Bank, Rosa Bank and Lucky Strike.
With the growth of the community in La Playa and Roseville, there was a need to establish a church in the area. In 1908, under the direction of Father Mesny, a church was built. It “was a small, wooden structure built by the men of the parish, with a square steeple topped by a cross. The interior was wood with a central altar over which was a statue of St. Agnes.
The new church became the hub for community activities. The Festa do Espírito Santo was now celebrated at the new church, with the social activities taking place at the Cabrillo Pavilion. 
As an established tuna fishing industry prospered, so did the number of Portuguese families become larger.  This caused a need for a larger church.
“Several fishing boats started saving money to build the new church.
About fifteen boats gave 25 cents per ton of fish.
There were also requests for a Portuguese speaking priest.
Finally, in January of 1933, Father Rose, on loan from the Diocese of San Francisco, arrived to build a church and preach in Portuguese as well as in English.
Plans had already been drawn by Father Roure, pastor of Sacred Heart, and $3,000 to $5,000 had already been collected by the fishing boats.
With his admonition to do no work for which money was not on hand, the bishop granted permission to proceed with the lowest bid of $6,898 plus $100 for metal lath, and the project started.
The country was still in the height of the Depression. Often boats could not sell their catches, or catches were falsely condemned by canneries unable to buy.
Boats lay idle and so, some of the men came to help at the construction site.
While the church was being constructed, Mass was said at the Portuguese Hall.
The new St. Agnes church was dedicated by bishop Cantwell of Los Angeles-San Diego on May 4, 1934 and a solemn mass followed.
Father Rose continued at St. Agnes until 1936, when he returned to the Diocese in San Francisco.
An affable person, he was well liked in the community and prior to his leaving had been able to save enough money to build a rectory.
He was replaced by Father Forrestal, who was born in Ireland.
Father Forrestal did not speak Portuguese, however, “he learned Portuguese on his own by listening to records and with the help of friends.” His first Sunday, he preached in English. By the second Sunday, he preached at one mass in Portuguese.”[14]
“By 1946, a new St. Agnes School opened was dedicated by Bishop Buddy on September 15. It was administered by sisters of St. Joseph of Orange until its closing in 1970”[15]
In 1947, Father Edward Creighton arrived. Under his direction, the church was widened in 1950, and stained glass windows, imported from Ireland were added.
Soon after, the property across the street from the church became available and “and parishioners insisted that Monsignor Forestall buy it.”[16] The church hall was built in 1957.
After Monsignor Forrestal departure there were several care take priests, among them Father Lawrence Avila who became an assistant to Father McDonald being followed by another Portuguese speaking priest, father José Lopes from Portugal.
Today St. Agnes  is a modern church, with a renovated school, now called the Parish Center.
Over time, many members of the community have contributed to church activities. Among the participants in church events have been the Portuguese choirs that have embellished church events from the Sunday Mass, to weddings, the Romarias, the “coronation masses, special church events and even funerals.
St. Agnes to this day continues to be the religious center of the Portuguese Community in San Diego.
Today, the Portuguese community has become dispersed, and can be found in many parts of San Diego County, away from Point Loma.
Even with less and less Portuguese speakers in the community,  the importance of St. Agnes Church has not diminished, for where ever members of the community live, Point Loma continues to be where their roots are, and St. Agnes is the their church of choice for weddings, baptisms, first communions and funerals.
Returning to the mainstay of the community, more and more boats were built, many of them the design of Manuel Madruga Jr. at the now defunct Campbel Industries, where many of the men in the community were also employed in shipbuilding.
As the community grew in importance, it was decided that an organization should be formed by all of the local fraternal, civic and social organizations. This was to receive visiting entities from Portugal. Thus the Portuguese American League was formed in 1936.
As with other communities, San Diego was not immune to differences. As a result, the Portuguese American Social and Civic Club was founded in 1940.
Just as in other cities and towns in California, Portuguese fraternal organizations, flourished with the opening of local councils. Among them was of course the Luso, which became one of the more active local councils, especially after the founding of the Festa do Bom Jesus Milagroso, spearheaded by José Tavares.
In 1940, the Cabrillo National Monument was dedicated in Point Loma.
After a turbulent trip through New York, where the Cabrillo statue, a gift from the Portuguese Government, was to be exhibited at the New York Exposition of 1939, it was sent to the San Francisco Bay area, where it was to be part of the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1940.
As it turned out, it was not exhibited at either location and went into storage, at a private home in Oakland, until Lawrence Oliver found out.
I should mention that Lawrence Oliver was to the San Diego, what Donald Trump is to New York.
As a young man who came from Pico, without education, he became one of the premier entrepreneurs in San Diego, having interests in the tuna industry, processing, real estate, cattle raising and banking. He served in many boards, including that of San Diego Gas and Electric.
Returning to the Cabrillo Statue that was sculpted by Alvaro de Bré, it was in essence stolen from the Oakland garage where it had been stored, and brought to San Diego with the help of Colonel Fletcher a state senator, who was a friend of Lawrence Oliver’s.
It sat in storage until 1949, when it was initially place near the light house on Point Loma, and later moved to its present location.
Sacramento, Fresno and Oakland wanted it, but with a bit of ingenuity and lying, San Diego got it!
By 1964, a local committee was established to form the Cabrillo Festival Inc., Organized by the Point Loma Junior Chamber of Commerce, it has, from its beginning, had the invaluable support of the Portuguese Community.
Special credit must to be given to Mary Rosa Giglitto, recently passed, under whose direction and efforts, the Festival grew to become the premier international festival in the United States, involving  four nations, the United States, Portugal, Mexico, Spain and Native American Groups.
By 1940, as the tuna industry and its technology continued to develop, new techniques were found and so this same year, the tuna boat Endeavor, owned by Victor Goulart was built, the first boat to have a freeze-drying system to conserve the tuna.
With the beginning of WWII and specifically with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy mobilized  all tuna boats.
Some 600 fishermen, mostly Portuguese, enlisted in the Naval Reserve.
Shortly after being painted navy grey, and armed with bow cannons, the tuna fishing boats were sent out to sea. They were given the designation of YP’s (Yard Patrol).
Among these boats, there were several boats that were sunk, including:

The YP277 (Triunfo)
The YP284 (Endeavor)
Other boats included, the Navigator and the Yankee.

The YP346 (Prospect) commanded by Joaquim Theodore was damaged.
It is important to note that Jack, as he was known, and some of the other boats, were the reason that many service men and women had turkey to eat at Thanksgiving, for due to the cold capacity of the boats, they were able to transport frozen turkeys to the various combat zones.
Most important is the fact that Jack’s boat shuttled marines behind enemy lines during the Campaign in the Solomon. His achievements are included in the book, Guadalcanal Diaries.
For his bravery and wounds,   Jack Theodore was awarded a Purple Heart.
With the end of WWII, the men returned and built new boats.
By 1949 tuna fishing was evolving again. The Espírito Santo was the first boat to be equipped with a helicopter for spotting schools of tuna.
In the mid 1950’s a new way of fishing was introduced in San Diego. Originally used by the Slavs in San Pedro, purse seining became the norm.
Purse seining is a method, whereby a tuna boat carries a large net that is released from the stern of the boat and is pulled by a skiff, a small boat, until it encircles the school of tuna.
Men in speedboats then round up the tuna, much as cowboys round up cattle, forcing the fish to stay in the net.
Slowly the net is pulled until it has the form of a purse and the tuna cannot escape. The tuna boat then does, what is known as a back down procedure, where any dolphins that are in the net are allowed to escape, many times with the men swimming in shark infested waters to save the dolphin. The net is then pulled tight and the bringing of the fish into the boat’s holds begins.
It sounds simple, but it is a most complex procedure, with much danger to the men.
The first Portuguese fisherman to convert his bait boat to purse seining, was Lou Brito. Brito was also to create one of the largest commercial tuna fishing consortium.
As the purse seining became common place, the need for larger boats adapted  to the new technology were built.
By 1955, Manuel Madruga, Jr. retired from Campbel Industries.
In 1956, a boat builder from Pico, became the principal designer at Campbell Industries. It was time for José Vitorino Silva to have his hand at designing the award winning tuna boats that we all have become familiar with.  The slick lines of the modern tuna boat came from the pencil of Joe V. as he is known. They represent some of the most beautiful lines ever drawn, smooth as an ocean wave.
By 1965, the fleet had completely changed their technology to purse seining and it was on its way to becoming the tuna industry, without parallel.
New vessels with larger capacity and longer range were designed, new navigation equipment introduced, fishing techniques were improved and new ones found.
All of these factors led the San Diego tuna industry to become the best, most productive, efficient tuna industry in the world and its fishermen, to become the best rewarded.
One last evolution in the fishing of tuna was the Medina Panel.
Designed by Harold Medina in the 1970’s, it seemed to be an answer to fishing for Dolphin Safe Tuna. The Medina Panel is  a fine mesh net that is attached to the upper part of the net to facilitate the exit of dolphin from the net during the back down procedure.
Continued government regulations, made it impossible to sustain tuna fishing as it had been done before, and so its decline in San Diego began in the late 1970’s.
The development of the tuna industry accompanied the growth of San Diego. Those days are no more. The industry’s one hundred and fifty plus boats are gone. San Diego’s loss, the loss to United States fisheries, is now growth for others. Socio-economic winds and political expediency, made an industry fade into the history books. But as time moves on, and memory of what once was the mightiest tuna industry in the world becomes dimmer, names such as Medina, Correia, Rosa, Brito, Madruga, Silva and many more, will never be forgotten.

There are couple of other dates that I feel are important to note. In 1975, The Azorean Alliance was founded. It was an attempt to bring together the Portuguese Communities in California, at a time shortly after the 1974 revolution in Portugal, when it was felt that Portugal would go communist. It was a way of alerting the Portuguese in California of the importance of becoming politically involved in their communities and defending Azorean interests.
This concept was not to be, but the Azorean Alliance has become one of the most Portuguese organizations in San Diego, with its premise now being that of a social club.

In 1977, after a number of books were given to the Portuguese Community in San Diego, and no one wanted to received them, for they feared that their content was left wing inspired, they became the foundation for the founding of the Portuguese Historical Center. By the way, the books were about Portuguese literature and history.
The PHC, over the years has evidenced itself as the repository for the history of the Portuguese Community in San Diego, and well worth a visit.

From the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s San Diego also had a Portuguese radio program under the direction of Paulo and Angela Goulart by the name of Hora Portuguesa.

In 1986, on Shelter Island, the Tunaman’s Memorial was dedicated,  Honoring those that built an industry and remembering those that departed this Harbor in the Sun and did not return.”  
The concept and design was coordinated by Captain Anthony Mascarenhas, under the auspices of the Portuguese Historical Center and depicts three tuna fishermen pulling in a giant tuna in the old style of pole fishing.

In 1992, the city council passed for the street name that connects the Portuguese Hall to Saint Agnes church, to be changed to “ Avenida de Portugal”
In 1999, a marching band was formed. The Filarmónica União Portuguesa de San Diego, now delights the community at Festa time and at many other events.

Originally a community of fishermen, San Diego’s Portuguese Community is now made up of the most diverse professions. From attorneys to dentistis, from teachers to construction workers to entrepreneurs.
An amalgam of immigrants and their descents from the Azores, Madeira and the “Continente”, even with all their regional differences, has melded into a very distinctive community, for it has drawn from all of the traditions and customs of the various origins, and formed  a vibrant community, where the young are interested more than ever, in their past.

My presence in San Diego as I told you dates to 1974, when, as I believe it occurs in many of your home towns, the older members of the community questioned, whether the community would withstand the change of time.
I can tell you, that San Diego is alive and well, and that it will continue to thrive. It will become different from what we experience now, but just as it evolved from its simple beginnings, so it will continue to do so, for being Portuguese is not being stale, but an ever changing process that we all have experienced.
©José M. L. Alves 2011 

[1] Portuguese Shore Whalers of California: 1854-1904

[2] The Holy Ghost Festas A Historic Prespective of the Portuguese in California 2002
[3] Oliver, Lawrence,  Never Backward, 1972
[4] Lauriano, Gertrude  Conversation with José M. L. Alves P.H.C. 2001
[5] Oliver
[6] Medina, M.O. PHC Conversation with Claire Alves, 1981
[7] Medina, M.O. PHC Conversation with Claire Alves, 1981
[8] Labruzzi, 2001
[9] Rose, Phyllis – Conversation with José M. L. Alves 2001
[10] Commemorative Program 1948
[11] Varley, Deutilde - Conversation with  – José M. L. Alves P.H.C. 2001
[12] Varley
[13] A Chronology of the Portuguese Presence in California – 2011 PHPC
[14]            St. Agnes Church Golden Jubilee,1983
[15]            St. Agnes Church Golden Jubilee,1983
[16]            St. Agnes Church Golden Jubilee,1983

Monday, August 15, 2011


Yesterday, August Felando and Harold Medina made a presentation of their book, THE TUNA / PORPOISE CONTROVERSY – How Tuna Fishermen Were Caught in the Government’s Net and Fought to Survive, at the Portuguese Historical Center in San Diego. Self published by the two authors, it was a truly memorable afternoon.
Their expertise is well exemplified by the synopsis they presented. Harold’s and Augie’s experiences are unique to the two men, yet representative of an industry that renovated itself to survive, with innovations that were based on experience.
Harold Medina’s description of his lifelong passion, tuna fishing, began at age eight. His stories are captivating exemplifying the progression of a pre-teen young man to one of the most respected tuna captain / owner in the fleet, culminating with the invention of the Medina Panel to help porpoise survive when caught in the tuna fishermen’s net.
August Felando’s experiences are just as rich, showing his early days as a fisherman to his progression to a maritime attorney and defender of all rights of the tuna industry.
His accounting of the details of an industry trying to be understood by a government influenced by the political expediencies of the day, are detailed and forthcoming in making the layman understand the steps that were taken, the defenses made and the reasons for the demised of an industry whose methods were misunderstood by many.
It is recommended reading for those who want to be informed. It sheds truth and understanding on the many lies that were perpetrated, and makes one understand that the tuna fishermen were the first to support sustained fishing, for it was their livelihood!
I could have spent hours listening to both men. Even though I never fished, I have great affection for these men, their courage, tenacity, vision and resolve.

It was gratifying to see the number of retired tuna captains and family members attended the event.
As an ex-tuna captain and owner who attended the book presentation said after listening to the presenters and their accounts, “I too, finally gave in, because the industry turned to bureaucrats to run it, when we, who knew what we were doing were the scientists”.
Congratulation to Augie Felando and Harold Medina for a job well done!
Congratulations to the Portuguese Historical Center for promoting the afternoon and returning to its roots!
Cultural events if presented well are always supported!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WE ARE NOT IN THE MOODY'S - powered by Portugal

Book Signing and Open House with August Felando and Harold Medina

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the demise of the tuna industry in San Diego, from men who were directly connected with the attempt to keep alive an industry that had no parallel.

California American Portuguese Veterans’ War Memorial

Calling all Portuguese American  Veterans and Interested Individuals and Organizations.

Established in 1933 by local Portuguese American community leaders, the American Portuguese Club Inc. (APC) is a non-profit, community service organization. As a community organization, APC is dedicated to supporting the Portuguese American history. We are promoting a state resolution for the construction of the California American Portuguese Veterans’ War Memorial.  When the Memorial is dedicated, it will emerge as a significant and visible commemoration to all California American Portuguese, men and woman who honorably sacrificed their lives for our country. This monument would officially recognize our veterans and educate visitors, of the military contributions made by thousands of American Portuguese of California. The dedication ceremony is tentatively scheduled to be celebrated, at California’s State Capitol Park – Veterans’ Memorial Grove, in June 2012 to coincide with California legislation SCR79 “California Portuguese Heritage Month”.  We are asking leading California Portuguese organizations for support in this epic undertaking.
In hopes to bring us all together, there will be an open forum on Saturday, August 27, 2011 starting at 2:00 p.m. at the Cabrillo Civic Club located at 4605 Karbet Way in Sacramento.
Please RSVP
Al Balshor at 2661 Riverside Bl. Sacramento, CA 95818, or Loretta Kanelos at (916) 684-7041 or no later than August 22nd. Light refreshments will be served.  If you have any questions, please contact us; we are excited to share our information with you. We look forward to your supportive response of this historic undertaking.


The California American Portuguese Veterans’ War Memorial Committee, American Portuguese Club Inc.
Gus Kanelos, Albert Balshor, Eddie Maria, Manuel Perry, Rod Rosa, Wesley Silva, and Monica Souza

Subcommittee Correspondence: 2661 Riverside Blvd. Sacramento, CA 95818 ~ (916) 684-7041