“The Portuguese Population in the United States” by Frederic L. Hoffman
|June 6, 2011||Posted by Luis Gonçalves under 1899, Article, Frederic L. Hoffman, Most recent, Portuguese-Americans, Publications of the American Statistical Association|
Anthropological narratives of the nineteen century are not easy to read. The deeply prejudicial discourse, strongly rooted on scientific racism, that characterized anthropological research, is genuinely disturbing to the present day reader. The article The Portuguese Population in the United States by Frederic L. Hoffman, published in 1899 by the Publications of the American Statistical Association is one of such articles.
The census of 1890 and 1895 identified the Portuguese community in the United States concentrated in two major areas: Massachusetts and California. Also according to the census, three cities in Massachusetts, Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton, accounted for the most of the community. In spite of this concentration in cities, most of the Portuguese worked in farms in the rural areas. In Massachusetts at the time, the Portuguese population was mostly from the Azores and Madeira. According to Hoffman, the over population of the islands led to high levels of immigration to Hawaii, Brazil, British Guiana and the United States.
Hoffman speculates about the racial types of Azoreans, focusing on questions of race origin and mixture. The author cites the work of ElisÃ©e RÃ©clus that determined that Azoreans were for the most of Portuguese descent, with Moor and a little black mixture, to which RÃ©clus attributes the inferior physical characteristics of the Azorean population. The same was true to the people of Madeira, alongside darker skin.
Hoffman than enlists the work of William Z. Ripley, who wrote in The Races of Europe: A Sociological Study that â€œBeyond the Pyrenees begins Africa,â€ to show that the situation was not very different in Portugal itself, whose population, Ripley points out, had inter-mixed with Saracens and Moors. Following the racial misconceptions of the times, Hoffman discusses the â€œdetrimentalâ€ effect of the racial mixture with blacks to the Portuguese and islanders populations. He concludes that, either it was not significant enough to have adverse effects, or the first racial mixture with the Moors made the population more resistant to the negative effects or the later black mixture.
The author goes about proving this by making statistic comparisons of longevity, diseases, death rates and child death rates between the Azores, Madeira, Portugal and the United States, in particular to other immigrant communities and racial populations in the United States. Hoffman shows that the percentages between the islands and Portugal were identical and far better than the percentages of the several immigrant and racial populations in the United Sates.
The author continues by showing documented examples of the perceptions of the Portuguese held by their host communities as being hard-working, patiently toiling, uncomplaining, and law-abiding class of people, also industrious and thrift. Through statistical data, Hoffman concludes by linking this moral behavior of the Portuguese populations to their longevity and low affliction rate of diseases.