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The Portuguese In Jamaica
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Portuguese In Jamaica | Why and When Did They Arrive?

The Portuguese In Jamaica
by Wellesley Gayle 

The Portuguese, despite in the minority, has, without a doubt, made their mark on Jamaica, a testament to our national motto... 'out of many one people'.


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Today I'll answer three popular questions related to their association, to and in, Jamaica.

7 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About The Portuguese In Jamaica

  1. When did the Portuguese came to Jamaica?

  2. ANSWER:  The Portuguese arrived at different intervals in Jamaica. The first recorded batch of Portuguese in Jamaica was in 1530 during the Spanish Inquisition. That was soon after Columbus (and the Spanish) arrived in Jamaica. They formed the nucleus of a long line of Portuguese settlers. 

    This group settled in Spanish Town, then known as St. Jago de la Vega. It was as the only operating town in Jamaica at the time.


    After emancipation, a few hundred also immigrated to Jamaica as part of a scheme to acquire white labour.

    They were among 4,000 persons (British, Germans and Portuguese) that that arrived in the island, during the first four years after emancipation (1834-1838). 


    However, the scheme failed with high sickness and mortality among them. Better success was obtained with African, Chinese and Indian workers.


  3. How many Portuguese Came to Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  Not a lot is known, but  as indicated above, in addition to the nucleus who came right after the Spanish acquisition of the island,  another few hundred arrived with a batch of British and Germans (4000 in total), right after emancipation. 

  4. Another set also came in 1846.  They were all hired by the large estate owners, mainly in Western Jamaica.


  5. Why did the Portuguese migrate to Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  The first batch of Portuguese arrivals were Portuguese Jews who were avoiding religious persecution.  

    Those that came later were mainly to fill the gap created at or after emancipation in 1834.

    Of course, the set that came in 1846 also came at a time when there was several famine in Madeira Portugal.


  6. Where did the Portuguese arrive from?

    ANSWER:  Not a lot is known of those who came, except thought that most were from the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira and a smaller number from the Azores and the mainland.


  7. What did the Portuguese contribute to Jamaican culture and economy?

    ANSWER:  The Portuguese contributed much to Jamaica but mainly in the area of commerce and industry.


    According to Dr. Rebecco Tortello, most of the Portuguese (Jews) in Jamaica were merchants and money traders, and so they traded heavily with other commercial centers inhabited by Jews, such as the Dutch colonies of Curacao, St. Eustatius and Saba, Amsterdam, the Danish St. Thomas, Genoa, Venice, North America, London, India and Turkey.

    Their ability of  to speak Spanish at that time was also an asset in trade with Spanish America.

    The goods they traded included pepper, vanilla, cocoa, pimento, and sugar.

    By the 19th century, some families moved into shipbuilding and construction. The Portuguese Jews, credited for bringing technology to sugar cultivation in Brazil, were also credited for bring the same technology in Jamaica around 1530.



  8. Who are some of the notable Portuguese Jamaican celebrities?

    ANSWER:  Sean Paul, who is a Jamaican DJ/Musician. His father is Portuguese and Indo-Jamaican descent. 

    Samantha J, model,  and Dr. Caroyn Gomes, human rights activist, are  also said to be of Portuguese descent. 



  9. How Can I Contact The Portuguese Embassy In Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  There is a consulate of Portugal in Kingston, Jamaica.  The address is 6 Seymour Avenue, Kingston 10. 

    Their phone number is (876 978 5050.

See also: The Jews In Jamaica

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References To Portuguese in Jamaica

  • Tortello, Dr. Rebecca, "Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came -The Jews In Jamaica", http://old.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0054.htm, accessed, February 2, 2020

  • Porter, Anthony R.D., 2006, Bricks And Stones from the Past: Jamaica's Geological Heritage, University of the West Indies Press

  • Arbell, Mordechai, The Portuguese Jews of Jamaica, 2000, Canoe Press, https://books.google.com.jm/books?id=-35vXOgop6QC

  • "PORTUGALITY in Jamaica", http://portugality.yolasite.com/jamaica-en.php, Accessed February 3, 2020

  • Senior, Olive, Encyclopedia Of Jamaican Heritage, 2003 

  • "Jamaican people of Portuguese descent", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Jamaican_people_of_Portuguese_descent, Accessed February 3, 2020

Other Pages Related To Portuguese In Jamaica

Return to Jamaican Culture from Portuguese In Jamaica
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About The Author

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A patriotic Jamaican who adore its culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.  

To date, he serves over 9,300 unique readers / viewers per day.

His efforts have earned this site featured positions in local publications, including the Jamaica Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica, Carlong Publishers, as well as recognition from numerous prestigious international agencies and universities. Read more about him here.

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