Signs, Symbols and Stones: The Portuguese American Urban Ethnic Landscape #8

Jim Fonseca
5 min readJul 1, 2021
I-195: The Portuguese American Interstate Highway. Map from Rand McNally Road Atlas, 2018.

As we continue our expedition it’s time to show a map of the area we have been looking at (above) in these posts.

The main region of Portuguese American settlement in New England is in the three cities of Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts and East Providence in Rhode Island. The cities are closely connected because Fall River, in the center, is only 15 miles from the other two cities. I’ve called Interstate 195 that runs through these three cities ‘The Portuguese American Interstate Highway.’

Spirit of the Immigrant in South Dartmouth MA. Photo by the author.

In this post we will do a visual tour of the way that Portuguese Americans use signs in the landscape to remind them of their ancestral home. Signage is one of the most obvious ways that a different culture presents itself in the American landscape. I’ve been taking pictures of these signs for many years, so not all are still present in the landscape.

The Portuguese have a particular term for this longing or nostalgia for their homeland — saudade. That word is featured on a sculpture (above), ‘The Spirit of the Immigrant,’ that was unveiled in 1997 in Dartmouth, just outside of New Bedford.

Another use of the term ‘saudade.’ Photo by the author.

The term saudade is also used on the name of this library and Immigrants’ Assistance Center in the South End of New Bedford.

An Azorean social club. Photo by the author.

Most Portuguese Americans in the area, especially those in Fall River, are from or descended from immigrants from the Azores Islands. The adjective used, Açoreana, is equivalent to Azorean.

An Azorean market in Fall River. Photo by the author.
Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.