The Portuguese presence at the Canadian Immigration Museum

The Portuguese presence at the Canadian Immigration Museum
The Portuguese presence at the Canadian Immigration Museum

Daniel Bastos, Historian and Writer. Photo: DR

O Canada, a nation that covers much of North America and extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, is home to one of the most dynamic Portuguese communities that stands out today for its perfect integration, undeniable entrepreneurship and relevance economic and socio-political role.

Although the regular presence of Portuguese in the territory dates back to the beginning of the century. XVI, the Portuguese emigration to Canada it began to have an expression from 1953. The year in which, under a Portuguese-Canadian agreement, which aimed to supply the need for workers for the agricultural sector and for the construction of railways, they disembarked on 13 May in Halifax, Province of Nova Scotia, a pioneer group of eighty-five Portuguese immigrants.

If, between 1953 and 1973, over 90,000 Portuguese, most of whom came from the Azores, entered Canada, it is estimated that they currently live in the second largest country in the world in terms of territory, more than half a million Portuguese-Canadians. Mostly concentrated in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, representing about 2% of the total Canadian population that is an anthem to multiculturalism.

The dynamism of the Portuguese presence in Canadian territory has deserved special attention from the Portuguese community, as revealed by the foundation at the beginning of the 19th century. XXI of the Gallery of Portuguese Pioneers. A museological space in Toronto, currently driven by Commander Manuel da Costa, who is dedicated to the perpetuation of the memory and stories of the pioneers of Portuguese emigration to Canada.

The relevance of the Portuguese presence in this North American territory is also evident in one of the most important national museums in Canada, especially the National Museum of Canadian Immigration on Pier 21.

Located in Halifax, in the province of Nova Scotia, in western Canada, the facilities of the Canadian Immigration Museum occupy Pier 21, an old port with a transatlantic ship terminal, which operated between 1928 and 1971, and which during that period received over a million immigrants. In 1999, the old port gave way to the Immigration Museum, and in 2011 it officially became the National Museum of Canadian Immigration.

As a unique museum space that pays homage to the structural contribution of immigration to Canada’s progress and that catapults it to one of the most developed countries in the world, the Canadian National Immigration Museum preserves in its varied collections numerous testimonies of the Portuguese presence in the country. Namely old belongings of Portuguese emigrants who arrived in Canada between 1953 and 1954, such as passports, family photos, a guitar and clothes, which were partly donated by Casa da Madeira Community Centre.

In the collection of the Immigration Museum of Canada, a wooden sculpture stands out at the entrance of the museological nucleus, a work of art that portrays the 500 years of the Portuguese presence in the territory, and which was donated in 2003 by the Portuguese emigrant Maurício Almeida. As well as, a bottle with wine from open wood, which arrived in Canada with the Portuguese emigrant Augusto da Silva in 1953, and is identified as “What would you bring? Who and what would you leave behind? ”.

More than a museum space where objects about the migratory phenomenon are preserved and exposed, the Immigration Museum of Canada recognizes and values ​​in the pursuit of its mission the importance of immigrants, as is the case of the Portuguese, in the construction of the remarkable cultural mosaic of the Canadian nation.

Author: Daniel Bastos, Historian and Writer

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