Portuguese Heritage in Bermuda

Bermuda Portuguese flag

I just came back from a long weekend in beautiful Bermuda. What I thought might actually be a forced break from blogging, ended up being content for a new post. Unknowingly, I ended up a country which boasts a huge Portuguese community. I thought the ways in which this heritage manifested itself were really interesting.

I was only in Bermuda for 48 hours so my experience was limited. But within an hour of landing, I had my first clue about Portuguese influence in the Bermudian community: I went to an ATM to get cash, and there were only two language options – English (the official language of Bermuda) and Portuguese (hooray!). Throughout the weekend, I saw Portuguese flags on boats and buildings throughout the island. I also saw traces of Portuguese dishes and ingredients (like chouriço) on menus on the island. It’s estimated that at least 10% of the island’s inhabitants can claim to have some Portuguese ancestry.

Portuguese consulate Bermuda

Even though Portuguese heritage is embraced nowadays, this wasn’t always the case. Even as late as the 1970s and 1980s, Portuguese families faced discrimination and sometimes even adopted English names to hide their Portuguese roots. The first Portuguese settlers (58 men, women and children) came to Bermuda from Madeira in 1849 as farm laborers. Later Portuguese arrivals would mostly come from the Azores, also as farm workers. Most of the Portuguese-Bermudians today are Azorean. Because they were considered guest workers, not citizens, they were given second-class status.

Clube Vasco da Gama Bermuda

Portuguese flag cufflinks

Fortunately, things have changed, and many Bermudians today are proud of their Portuguese heritage. Some literally wear their heritage on their sleeve (as shown in the photo above, which I took of a Portuguese-Bermudian – how could I resist?). Associations like Clube Vasco da Gama facilitate cultural interactions and promote culture and language classes. I didn’t get to knock on their door on this occasion, but I plan to next time I’m there. It was lovely seeing all the Portuguese influence on the island – I can’t wait to go back!

Are you a Bermudian of Portuguese ancestry? I’d love to hear your experience!

Bermuda waters

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