Portuguese Populations in the United States

See where Portuguese populations congregate in the US using a heat map.

When you're looking for quick facts about the Portuguese populations in America, here's the essential info you need:

  • Total Population: As of 2019, there are 1,371,153 people of Portuguese ancestry in the U.S., which makes up 0.42% of the entire population.
  • Main States: The largest communities can be found in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Florida.
  • Cultural Influence: Their impact is seen in cuisines, festivals, and even in the music scene, with the ukulele being a notable contribution.
  • Economic Contributions: They're involved in various sectors including construction, professional services, and higher education.

Detailed infographic displaying key statistics and cultural impacts of Portuguese populations in America, including a map highlighting California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Florida as states with significant populations; notable contributions such as the ukulele to American music; and sectors with significant Portuguese-American contributions like construction and professional services. - portuguese populations america infographic pillar-4-steps

The Portuguese Americans have a deep and diverse heritage that stretches back centuries, shaping both their communities and the broader American society in unique ways. From the earliest Portuguese immigrants arriving via whaling ships to the substantial communities found today across the nation, their journey tells a story of resilience, cultural fusion, and significant contribution to the American fabric. Whether it's through introducing new cuisines or enriching the cultural festivals calendar, Portuguese Americans continue to add vibrant colors to the American mosaic. This introduction serves as the window into Portuguese populations in America, focusing on their history, cultural impact, and the indelible mark they leave on the society and economy of the United States.

The Historical Journey of Portuguese Immigrants to America

The story of Portuguese populations in America is a tale of adventure, survival, and the pursuit of a better life. It's a narrative that stretches back to the earliest days of American history, involving daring sea voyages and the promise of new beginnings. Let's dive into the key chapters of this fascinating journey.

Whaling Ships and the Azores Connection

In the 19th century, the whaling industry was a major economic force in the United States, particularly in Massachusetts. Whaling ships were the vehicles of opportunity for many Azoreans, providing them a passage to America. These voyages were not short trips; they could last from two to three years, venturing into the deep Atlantic and even beyond.

The Azores, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, were strategically located for these whaling ships to stop and recruit crew members. The allure of a new life in America was strong, and many Azoreans seized the opportunity to join these expeditions. At the journey's end, these ships would dock in New England, and it was here that many crew members chose to stay, laying down roots and forming the early Portuguese communities in America.

The Capelinhos Volcano and Faial Island

A pivotal moment in the history of Portuguese immigration to America came in 1957-58 with the eruption of the Capelinhos Volcano on Faial Island in the Azores. The eruption caused significant destruction and forced many residents to leave their homes in search of safety and stability.

In response to this disaster, the U.S. government enacted the Azorean Refugee Act of 1958, sponsored by then Senators John F. Kennedy and John Pastore. This legislation provided 1,500 visas for victims of the eruption, offering a new start in America. An extension of this act in 1962 allowed even more immigrants to enter the U.S., marking a significant wave of Portuguese immigration.

The Impact of These Journeys

The historical journey of Portuguese immigrants to America through whaling ships and the aftermath of the Capelinhos Volcano has left a lasting impact. These immigrants brought with them their culture, language, and traditions, enriching the American mosaic. Communities formed in New England and beyond, with many Portuguese Americans finding success in various fields.

The story of Portuguese immigration to America is a testament to the enduring spirit of hope and the search for a better life. It's a narrative that continues to evolve, with the Portuguese-American community playing a vibrant role in the cultural and economic fabric of the United States.

The legacy of these early immigrants and their contributions to American society remain a significant part of the story of Portuguese populations in America.

What’s next? Let's explore the states with the largest Portuguese populations and delve into the profound influence of Portuguese culture in American society.

States with the Largest Portuguese Populations

When we talk about Portuguese populations in America, certain states clearly stand out due to their significant Portuguese-American communities. These states have become cultural hubs, preserving and celebrating Portuguese heritage in various forms. Here's a closer look at each:


  • Population: Over 350,000 Portuguese Americans
  • Key Communities: San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and areas in the Central Valley
  • Notable Fact: California is the state with the largest Portuguese population in the U.S. Many Portuguese immigrants were drawn to California for farming opportunities and the fishing industry.


  • Population: Approximately 270,000 Portuguese Americans
  • Key Communities: Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Dartmouth, Somerville
  • Notable Fact: Massachusetts has a rich history of Portuguese immigration, particularly in its coastal cities, due to the availability of textile and fishing jobs.

Rhode Island

  • Population: Over 83,000 Portuguese Americans
  • Percentage: 7.56% of the state's population
  • Key Communities: East Providence, Pawtucket, Tiverton
  • Notable Fact: Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Portuguese residents per state, making it a vibrant center of Portuguese-American culture.

New Jersey

  • Population: Close to 80,000 Portuguese Americans
  • Key Communities: Newark, Elizabeth, Kearny
  • Notable Fact: New Jersey's Ironbound District in Newark is famous for its Portuguese restaurants, shops, and festivals, serving as a cultural gathering spot for the community.


  • Population: Around 90,000 Portuguese Americans
  • Key Communities: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port St. Lucie
  • Notable Fact: The Portuguese population in Florida has been growing, with many drawn to the state for its climate and economic opportunities.

Why These States?

The common thread among these states is the presence of industries and opportunities that initially attracted Portuguese immigrants, such as fishing, farming, and textiles. Over time, these communities have grown and evolved, contributing significantly to the states’ cultural diversity and economic strength.

Portuguese festivals, cuisine, and language schools are prevalent in these areas, continuing to foster a strong sense of community and heritage. This enduring legacy is a testament to the resilience and contributions of Portuguese Americans to the fabric of American society.

As we delve deeper into the influence of Portuguese culture in American society, it's clear that these communities play a pivotal role not only in preserving their heritage but also in enriching the multicultural tapestry of the United States.

What’s next? Let's explore how Portuguese culture has woven itself into the broader American society, from cuisine and festivals to language and beyond.

The Influence of Portuguese Culture in American Society

Portuguese culture has made vibrant contributions to the American way of life, touching upon various aspects such as cuisine, festivals, and language. These elements showcase the rich cultural heritage of Portuguese populations in America and their ongoing impact on the diverse cultural landscape of the country.

Cuisine: A Taste of Portugal in America

Portuguese cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors, with an emphasis on seafood, meats, and spices. This culinary tradition has found a new home in America, especially in states with large Portuguese populations. For instance, the Portuguese dish bacalhau à brás (shredded cod with onions, eggs, and potatoes) and the sweet, creamy pastéis de nata (custard tarts) are now favorites in many American cities. Restaurants and bakeries serving authentic Portuguese food have become community hubs, fostering a deeper appreciation for Portugal's gastronomic delights.

Festivals: Celebrating Portuguese Heritage

Portuguese festivals and religious feasts are significant cultural events that bring together communities across America. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, held annually in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is the largest Portuguese festival in the world outside Portugal. These festivals are not just celebrations of faith and heritage; they're vibrant showcases of Portuguese music, dance, and, of course, food. They offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Portuguese traditions and are a powerful expression of cultural pride and unity.

Language: Preserving Linguistic Heritage

The Portuguese language is a vital aspect of cultural identity for many Portuguese Americans. Efforts to preserve and promote the language are evident in communities across the United States. Schools and cultural organizations offer Portuguese language classes, ensuring that the language thrives among both first-generation immigrants and their descendants. This linguistic heritage is a bridge to Portugal, fostering connections with the ancestral homeland and strengthening cultural bonds.

What’s next? The influence of Portuguese culture in American society is a testament to the enduring spirit of the Portuguese people. Their contributions continue to enrich the American cultural landscape, from the flavors of their cuisine to the joyous celebrations of their festivals and the beauty of their language. It's clear that the legacy of Portuguese Americans will remain an integral part of America's multicultural identity.

Portuguese Contributions to American Economy and Society

The impact of Portuguese populations in America extends far beyond cultural festivals and cuisine. Their contributions to the American economy and society are significant, particularly in construction, professional services, and higher education. Let's dive into how Portuguese Americans have shaped and enriched these sectors.


A Foundation Built on Hard Work: The construction industry in the United States has seen substantial contributions from the Portuguese community. One in five Portuguese immigrants works in construction, showcasing their dedication and skill in this field. This statistic not only highlights their work ethic but also their role in building America's infrastructure, from homes and schools to roads and bridges.

Professional Services

Excellence in Expertise: When it comes to professional, scientific, and technical services, Portuguese descendants, especially those who speak Portuguese, stand out. They are more likely to work in these sectors compared to other U.S. residents. This indicates a high level of education and specialization, contributing to industries that drive innovation and economic growth. Their expertise in these fields not only benefits the economy but also sets a benchmark for professional achievement.

Higher Education

A Commitment to Learning and Growth: Education is another area where Portuguese Americans shine. Four out of 10 Portuguese descendants who speak Portuguese have a higher education degree. This is almost 10% more than other U.S. residents, showcasing a strong commitment to education and personal development. The growth in tertiary education among Portuguese-speaking Portuguese-Americans throughout the 2006-2020 period is a testament to their dedication to higher learning. This emphasis on education not only benefits individuals and their families but also contributes to a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

The Economic Impact: It's worth noting that Portuguese descendants who speak Portuguese receive wages or salaries that are more than 20% higher than that of other U.S. residents. This not only underscores the economic contribution of the Portuguese community but also their ability to achieve higher income levels through hard work and education.

Conclusion: The contributions of Portuguese populations in America to the economy and society are profound and multifaceted. From laying the physical foundations of the country's infrastructure to excelling in professional services and valuing higher education, Portuguese Americans have played a vital role in shaping the American landscape. Their achievements in these areas highlight the importance of hard work, education, and professional excellence. As we look to the future, the contributions of Portuguese Americans will undoubtedly continue to be a significant part of America's economic and social fabric.

What’s next? Frequently Asked Questions about Portuguese Populations in America

Frequently Asked Questions about Portuguese Populations in America

What US state has the largest Portuguese population?

California takes the lead with the largest Portuguese population in America. With 327,558 residents of Portuguese descent, it's a hub for Portuguese-American culture and community. This large number is partly due to the state's history of maritime connections and immigration patterns that favored the West Coast.

How many Portuguese are in the US?

As of the latest data, there are 1,371,153 people in the United States with Portuguese ancestry. This represents about 0.42% of the total US population. It's a significant community that has been growing steadily over the years, contributing to the diverse tapestry of American society.

Why are there so many Portuguese people in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is home to a vibrant Portuguese-American community, particularly due to historical immigration patterns. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Portuguese, especially from the Azores and Madeira, arrived in New England to work in the booming whaling industry and later in textile mills. Cities like Fall River and New Bedford became centers of Portuguese life, culture, and community. Today, Massachusetts has the second-largest Portuguese population in the US, with 270,183 residents of Portuguese descent.

What’s next? As we've explored the frequently asked questions about Portuguese populations in America, it's clear that this community has a rich history and a strong presence across the United States. From California's sunny coasts to Massachusetts' historic towns, Portuguese Americans continue to enrich American culture and society with their traditions, cuisine, and contributions to various sectors of the economy. Let's dive deeper into how this influence manifests in everyday American life in the next section.

Russell Rosario | CPA, CFO, Financial Strategist & AI Software Engineer

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Russell Rosario | CPA, CFO, Financial Strategist & AI Software Engineer

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