Portuguese Indentureship

Portuguese in Brazil

By the year 1500, Madeira had become the largest exporter of sugar to the world, supplying most of Europe with sugar, as sugar was in demand by the Europeans. Although Columbus was the first to bring sugarcane to the Americas, the Spaniards moved towards gold and diamond mining and away from sugarcane while the Portuguese, who first crossed the Atlantic arriving in Brazil on April 21, 1500, became successful in exporting sugar. By the year 1600 Brazil became the sole provider of sugar to Europe surpassing Portugal sugar production, which was mainly done in Madeira. Sugar was sweet for the Portuguese of Brazil but was bitter for the Native Indians and the enslaved Africans who were forced to work in the sugar plantations where the Portuguese reaped the benefits.

Portuguese in Trinidad

The first group of Portuguese in the West Indies (Caribbean) came from the Azores to the island of Trinidad around 1630. The Portuguese continued coming to the Americas as the Portuguese city of Madeira, during the early part of the 1800s, was in enormous economic and social problems as industries such as the wine industry, which was one of the main industries on the island of Madeira, started to decline, with high unemployment. There were also religious tension between the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic in Madeira. To escape religious persecution and economic disasters Madeirans came to Trinidad as refugees in 1846. Most of the Portuguese immigrants arriving in Trinidad in the nineteenth century came from the Portuguese Atlantic provinces of Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde Island.

Portuguese in Guyana

Like the East Indians and Chinese, the Portuguese came to Guyana as indentured laborers to work on the sugar plantation. Most of the Portuguese came from Madeira due to the instability and famine of Portugal. The first group of Portuguese arrived in Guyana in the latter part of 1834 from Madeira. On May 3rd, 1835, forty Portuguese peasants from Madeira arrived on the "Louisa Baille," seeking a prosperous future in Guyana, in the land referred to as El Dorado. They continued coming and by the end of 1835, 553 Portuguese indentured laborers came to work on various plantations.Between 1836 and 1838, the planters did not recruit Portuguese laborers and during this time in 1838, East Indian immigration from Northern India began.

The majority of the Portuguese arrived around 1860. Between 1835 and 1880, 32,216 Portuguese indentured immigrants came to Guyana. The Portuguese were not cut out for plantation work and when their contracts were over, many of them did not renew their contracts and moved into retail business. In this New World, the Portuguese were faced with tropical disease which took the lives of many.

Their new success as shopkeepers in Guyana caused resentments and as the Portuguese rose in fortune, even back in 1856, there were the Georgetown riots which resulted in the destruction of Portuguese properties.

Within Guyana, although the Portuguese were of European background, they were not considered to be on the same level as the English.

Portuguese Today

Today in places like Guyana and Trinidad, many Portuguese have intermarriage and their success continues. Like many of the other races in Guyana, many of the Portuguese have also left to work in places like America, Canada, Australia and England to continue on with their success.

East Indians first arrived in the United Stated of America in the 1870's

Although some of these numbers may look small, some of these islands are small. For example the 42,326 East Indians taken to Guadeloupe was about 1/3 of the population of Guadeloupe...

Today the East Indian population of Guyana is 51% (located in South America); 45% in Trinidad (located in the Caribbean); 37% in Dutch Guiana (located in South America)....then there are places like Western Venezuela where many Guyanese of East Indian background have migrated..

By Brian Ally