History of the Portuguese Community in Victoria
1955 was the year the City of Victoria welcomed their first Portuguese immigrants from the mainland Portugal. The first Families to arrive here were, Manuel Potinho, José Cabrita, José de Sousa e Antonio Chorao. The next year a group of men arrived from Açores, most being from the island of São Miguel, specifically from the villages of Achadinha, Ponta Garça, Agua de Pau, Vila da Lagoa and Vila Franca do Campo. These men, Antonio Moniz, João Galvao, Eduardo Oliveira,Carlos Almeida, José de Melo, João Chaves, Manuel Lima, Altino Andrade,Tomaz de Medeiros , José Moniz , Alfredo Curvelo, Eduardo Esaias, Carlos da Silva, José Barbosa, João Martinho, Adriano Pacheco, Domingos Carreiro, Gilberto Ferreira e Isaias Achadinha, they all took a big risk coming to a country without their wives or children in the hopes of creating a life in which they could bring their families to. Out of these men there was only one family that took the leap of faith together and that was Antonio Moniz and his wife Conceiçao whose family is still part of the community today.
These Portuguese immigrants found, out of all of Canada, the West Coast climate to be the most familiar to their place origin and felt comfortable to relocate. However this did not minimize the struggles they encountered communicating with the already established immigrants and local Canadians.
Many of these first settlers had to relocate to find work that the language barrier was not a factor. Most of them found work up island on the railroad and agriculture. Antonio Moniz established himself at the world famous gardens of Victoria, Butchart Gardens. He paved the way for other Portuguese immigrants, friends, to join him later at the gardens. Which to this day has a major influence within the gardens.
After a short time and a comfort in their savings, they felt secure enough to bring their families over. With this new feminine presence, these ladies found themselves wanting to contribute to their family’s future. Finding the same language obstacles, these women found jobs such as chefs, seamstresses, hair dressers, and room attendants. Even though putting in sometimes 12 or more hour days they still came home to take care of their families.
To this day you can point out a Portuguese home, and more specifically their beautiful gardens. When they were finally able to purchase their home most of these families found it important to have large yards. This was significant to them, because they found comfort in cultivating their land as they did back home. You will always recognize these yards by their, fragrant flowers, bountiful fruit trees, and native Portuguese vegetables; most commonly being Kale, fava beans, peas, parsley.
Now established, what these families felt was missing was the social and cultural neighborhood they had when they were in Portugal. To preserve some of their cultural traditions the families would go and visit each other on Sunday, talk about their work and living in this country; as they did in the taverns and café’s back “home”. An important part of Portuguese culture is their culinary creations. Many of the wives would bake their pão de milho (corn bread), Massa sovada (sweet bread), and Malasadas (a style of Portuguese donut); of course the husbands would make their Vinho (Wine), with the grapes grown in California.
In 1967, a group of Portuguese futebol (soccer), enthusiasts formed the first team. The objective of forming this group was the love and passion these men had for the game, as well as a way for them to socialize and have an outlet to keep up their physical fitness. The founders of this team were, José Lima, Walter Craveiro, John Craveiro, Antonio Lima, Albert Lima, Manuel Perreira, Americo de Frias; making Carlos Almeida the manager and Francisco Cabecinha the president of the club. Not only was this a way for the players to socialize but also the community as spectators and fans.
With a growing community and a need to express their culture without religious involvement an association was formed. This group, “Associação cultural e Desportiva”, the Portuguese Culture and Athletic Association was then registered and recognized by the British Colombia Government, in 1978. Like many other sports clubs, this Portuguese soccer club took on many different names in accordance with the sponsors they had financially backing them, such as Mayfair Barber Shop, Coffee House, Suburban Motors, Lusitania, Metro Toyota and Mestons Auto; However their wish was to one day be named “Sagres”. Several years later they were able to aquire the name “Sagres” and to this day our Portuguese soccer club proudly uses this name.
Sagres not only participated in the Vancouver Island Soccer league, but also played in tournaments for the “Taça de Portugal”, the Portugal Cup, in Vancouver, and in the Okanagan Valley. The Portuguese Culture and Athletic Association also put on a popular and successful tournament to celebrate every Portugal day.
In 1987, the Portuguese Association organized a 30th anniversary of the soccer club, which brought many of the original players together and honored the ones that were no longer with us; Americo de Frias, Manuel Abelenda, Francisco Cabecinha, Charlie Sadler, Gordon Reading, Sisco Rossini.
Sra. Maria Simas Pereira with the encouragement of Dr. João Valadas and Sr. Manuel de Frias started the process of forming a Portuguese school. The first attempt was with the Diocese of Victoria, and the catholic schools, not getting a favorable response, an opportunity came up to use part of the Sacred Heart Church. The school started with 8 students, but with the growing enthusiasm and interest to learn the Portuguese language it didn’t take long to grow to 23. At this point the school was offered the opportunity to join The Portuguese Culture and Athletic Association, which in turn allowed them to use the facilities that were at their disposal. This enabled them to welcome more students. With the support of the Portuguese Association, Sra. Maria reached out to other members of the community that were able to assist her in teaching the language. Assisting Sr. Maria were Dora Craveiro, Lourdes Frias, Dina Abelenda, Helena Sousa and Norberta Pereira, which allowed the school to accept further students. In addition to teaching assistance, a few parents formed a Parents association to further support the schools success. With the support of the Parents association and the newly built Church the school was able to have a place to call home. The school put on many cultural events, involving students, parents and the teaching staff. Examples of these were Portugal Day, Christmas Live Nativity, and Epiphany.
In April 2 1979, with the influence of Dr. Valadas, and the Portuguese council in Vancouver the Portuguese school took the name of Escola da Associacao Cultural Portuguesa de Victoria and was officially recognized in the Portuguese government. Because of the schools recognition the students of the school were able to acquire official documentation of grade accomplishments.
In 1978, the Portuguese Cultural Association formed a Folk Dance group with the leadership of Sr. Antonio Carvalho Ferreira. With his knowledge and experience Sr. Carvalho lead the group until his tragic passing in 1987. Sr. Carvalho lead the group in many different festivals within Victoria. Most of their performances were for the Portuguese community festivals; however they also participated regularly at Folk fest, Victoria Day, Music Festival, old age homes, and the University of Victoria. After the passing of Sr. Carvalho, Maria Helena Lima, a member of the group, took the lead of this assembly so as to celebrate and continue all the effort that Sr. Carvalho had done for Portuguese dance in the community.
Wanting to create a connection with Portugal today, Tony Lima with the assistance of Eduarda Matos, started Mosaico Portugues, a Radio program that aired on CKMO 103.1 F.M. once a week. He played past favorites as well as new artists from Portugal. On this one hour show he also aired current news from Portugal and activities within the Victoria Portuguese community.
Religion was a large part of the Portuguese community and not having a Portuguese speaking Catholic Church in Victoria many members of the community felt a loss. With the interest of the Portuguese language Fr. Daniel Johnson of the St. Andrew’s Cathedral learnt the mass in Portuguese and celebrated it once a month for his Portuguese members. In 1969 A group of men from the community joined together with the idea of wanting to organize a celebration of Our Lady of Fatima, which is one of the most revered Saints in Portugal. They had the idea of sending for a Statue of Our Lady of Fatima from the region of Braga. The group of men that initiated this dream was Manuel de Frias, José Moniz, Antonio Moniz, José Ambrosio, Jaime Brigida, Carlos de Silva, and José de Melo with the support of their families and community.
With the blessing of father Daniel Johnson and the permission of the Bishop of the Victoria Diocese, D. Remi De Roo the idea was put in motion .
In May of 1971 with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima borrowed from the Vancouver community, the first feast was celebrated to honor Our Lady of Fatima at Sacred Heart Church .
In October of the same year the feast was celebrated with our own statue, blessed by bishop Remi De Roo, assisted by Father Daniel Johnson and Senhor Altino Andrade .
Since then twice a year in May and October, the feast is celebrated with the same program. It begins with a Mass on Saturday that includes the rosary and a candle light procession, followed by Sunday where a solemn mass is celebrated and the traditional farewell to Our Lady as it is done in Fatima.
After each Mass there was a social celebration complete with traditional foods, such as Bifanas, sardinhas , malassadas and delicious foods, Portuguese folk dancing and a live band dance.
In 1972 the community called their first General meeting to elect their first committee to establish the parish. The members elected were: Father Daniel Johnson as the Head of the Parish, Altino Andrade, Manuel Frias, Jaime de Medeiros, Antonio Moniz, Manuel Craveiro and Vivaldo do Couto.
In 1982 the Parish was registered with the Victoria Diocese as the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish, with the leadership of Father Arduino Antonello who came from Brazil to serve the Portuguese community. Now that the community had a Portuguese speaking priest they were able to demonstrate different feasts and traditions as they did in their home land. In 1983 the community initiated the Feast of the Holy Spirit with all the original customs; the blessing and the distribution of the pensões, which consisted of bread, meat and wine, the procession, and the “soupas” which was a meal made for the members of the community.
With a presence of a Portuguese speaking priest and the community growing rapidly, it was evident that we needed to have our own space since we were borrowing the facilities at Sacred Heart. Now that the Our Lady of Fatima Parish was registered with the Diocese we have to comply with the rules of the Diocese. So the Parish elected their first Parish council. The members of the elected council were; Altino Andrade , Manuel Frias , João Moniz, Joana Moniz, Antonio Ramos , Maria Simas Pereira, Lourdes Frias, Jorge Frias and João Craveiro. The first order of business was to appeal to the Diocese to find a piece of property suitable to build the Portuguese church, the Elk Lake Drive land, which is still were the community resides, was offered and accepted by the community .
In May of 1984 ground was broken, with the generosity of the entire community, by donations of money, labour, materials and much more the Church, which was a multi functional building, was built and inaugurated by October of the same year. This building served as the community Church, community hall and provided space for other activities such as a place for the band, school, and folk dance groups to practice.
Following the inauguration the community began celebrating the Festival of Senhor Bom Jesus da Pedra in 1985, which is celebrated every September according to the tradition of Vila Franca do Campo in São Miguel island; as well as the Festival of São José in 1987. Not only was the religious ceremony worshiped but also a social celebration followed which strengthened the community and exposed the young members to the traditions their parents grew up on.
After many years of service, in 1992 Fr. Antonello asked for his retirement and was succeeded by the community’s first Portuguese priest, Fr. Manuel Cardoso who came to us from Viseu in Beira Alta. Under the stewardship of Fr. Cardoso the community felt strong to take on another challenge. They felt a necessity to have a suitable building to worship. So in 1994 the community came together once again with their humble and generous hearts to build the new church designed by Jorge de Melo.
In 1989 the marching band was formed by Vivaldo do Couto and conducted by Gervasio de Sousa. With the leadership of these two men and later on by João Coreia the band played at all festivals and other social events.
In 1994 another group that was later formed in the community was the 3a idade, the seniors group, and lead by Sra. Maria Adelina Ferreira. Using the community facilities they joined for meetings, dinners, cards and other social occasions which allowed a place to keep their friendships strong.
Another important part of the community is our Choir which is lead by Fr. Cardoso; they brighten the mass and all other religious celebrations.