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Caldo Verde Is Not Stone Soup

Persons, Names, Words, and Proverbs in Portuguese America


George Monteiro

Caldo Verde Is Not Stone Soup identifies elements of an emerging Portuguese American culture in the United States. The book discusses subjects and themes that reflect the richness and diversity of this culture. Included are analyses of the Portuguese fondness for nicknames over surnames, pejorative terms ("portugee," "Gee"), beau ideal heroes (John Philip Sousa, John Dos Passos, and Peter Francisco), now forgotten early emigrants, foreign visitors to the Azores (Samuel Longfellow and Thomas Wentworth Higginson), proverbs from the oral and literary traditions, the Portuguese sailor on American ships, and the saga of English As She Is Spoke, a serious-minded textbook that became a comic phenomenon.

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Chapter 19: Henry R. Lang on the Portuguese in New Bedford


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Addressing the American Folklore Society in 1960, the outgoing editor of the Journal of American Folklore, Richard M. Dorson, offered both his successor and the Society’s membership at large several suggestions as to which areas of American folklore showed then the greatest need of immediate attention and long-term development.1 An area which took precedence, as he viewed the situation, was that of transplanted emigrant folklore. Wanting to call attention to what he thought could be accomplished in that particular area, he singled out for praise an early treatment of such a body of emigrant folklore: Henry R. Lang’s “The Portuguese Element in New England,” published in the Journal of American Folklore (1892), 5: 9–18. Published toward the end of the nineteenth century, this engaging piece remains remarkably fresh, conveying economically and graphically and without distortion, a sense of the folk-life and culture it represents and discusses.

By “Portuguese” Henry Lang meant, he made clear, the Azoreans, and by “New England” he meant primarily New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1890, the Azoreans constituted a healthy majority of the total population of over 20,000 Portuguese (Lang’s figure) in the several Luso-American communities in New England. In fact, the Massachusetts State Census of 1895 reported 13,298 Portuguese, 7263 of whom lived in Bristol County, which contains the ← 233 | 234 → three important cities of Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford.2 It indicated, moreover,...

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