Nearly all Californians of Portuguese descent are from the Azores archipelago. Angela Costa, cochair of San Jose's annual Dia de Portugal, calls this an "accident of history." "American whaling ships in search of the sperm whale would go to the Azores," she explains. "There they would complete their crews. These same ships searched for whales in the Pacific. When landing in San Francisco, many crewmen jumped ship, especially during the Gold Rush." Until stricter immigration laws took over in the 1920s, these sailors' friends and families flocked to join them in the Golden State. Immigration picked up again after the 1957 volcanic eruption on the Azorean island of Faial.
This year's festival, happening Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., will pay tribute to the whole of Portugal. Each year, the Portuguese Historical Museum -- located in San Jose History Park, where the festival has been held since 1997 -- adds a special exhibit for the big day. But this year there are two: Macau, Universal Heritage, celebrating the duality of Chinese and Portuguese architecture in the city of Macau, and Portuguese Shore Whalers of California 1854-1904. There will be a book fair, wine tastings, kids' activities, and food, food, food, including filhós (Portuguese doughnuts), arroz doce (sweet rice), tremosos (salted lupe beans), and polvo (octopus).
And there will be people from all over, not just those of Portuguese descent. Though the first Dia de Portugal was held at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel in 1966, it moved all around the greater Bay Area in subsequent decades, so that few outside of the Portuguese community knew where it was being held, if they knew about it at all. The decision was made to stop all that moving around, and the Portuguese Historical Museum was born and, with it, the permanent home of Dia de Portugal.
"We are building an annual tradition that honors the Portuguese contributions to the vitality of California," Costa says. "With its lawns, trees, heritage homes, and buildings, History Park is the perfect 'village setting' for a festival." The event is free ($4 parking fee applies). Info: DiadePortugal.com
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