Since the 1960s, scarlet-coloured houses and front yard shrines to Our Lady of Fatima have decorated the Kensington Market area—a neigh-bourhood and commercial district for the city’s 170,000-member Portuguese-speaking community. On the first Saturday closest to the 10th of June, a two-hour-long parade featuring floats, bands, and cultural exhibits marks the Week of Portugal. Festivities and concerts organized by Toronto’s largest cultural community are later held at either Ontario Place or at Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Among the first Europeans to sight Canada were 15th-century Portuguese explorers. Early sailors fished for cod on the Grand Banks and there were Portuguese families among the settlers in New France. In 1705, Pedro Silva, the first letter carrier, delivered letters from Montreal to Quebec City.
There was little immigration to Canada until 1953, when 85 Portuguese men arrived in Halifax aboard the Saturnia. They were recruited to work as farm labourers, but gradually moved into cities where they found jobs in construction or in factories. The first Portuguese welcome house in Toronto was a restaurant and inn on Nassau Street owned by Antonio Sousa. Sousa arrived aboard the Saturnia and began work as a dishwasher before earning his fortune with investment properties and in the food importing business. In the 1960s, Alexandra Park and the Kensington Market area became the nucleus of settlement when Portuguese-speaking people began arriving from the Azores Islands, Madeira, the former Portuguese territory of Goa in India, Macao, and from the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast.
The First Portuguese Canadian Club was incorporated in 1956 and began organizing early festivals and soccer teams. Portuguese-language services were first held at St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1955, while a group from the island of Madeira frequented St. Elizabeth’s Church at Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West. The first Portuguese parish was formed in the 1960s at St. Mary’s Church, followed by Saint Agnes (1970), Santa Cruz (1974), and others.
The neighbourhood has pushed westward as the Portuguese opened stores, restaurants, importing companies, and auto repair shops along Dundas Street, Ossington Avenue, and College Street. Today, street signs in the area read “Portugal Village,” and two telephone directories list numerous Portuguese businesses in the city. Newcomers include skilled technicians and business people, and among second-generation Portuguese Canadians there are many professionals.
More than 70 percent of Portuguese Torontonians are from the Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands 300 miles southwest of mainland Portugal. The Azoreans held their first religious festival at the CNE grounds in 1966. Every year, the procession of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Christ of the Miracles) draws thousands of people from across North America as the statue of Santo Cristo is led through downtown streets by men wearing opas (red capes) and children dressed up as biblical figures.
Many of the city’s Portuguese hold dual citizenship and are allowed to vote in Portugal’s elections, which has prompted politicians to come abroad and court votes. A visit by the Mayor of Lisbon on April 8, 1987, resulted in a friendship agreement between the two cities and the inspiration to plan projects that would reflect the contribution of the Portuguese people to Canada.
For the 1988 Olympics, the community, with the help of the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre, supported their former homeland by sending a Portuguese bobsled team to the Calgary winter games and by providing the Portuguese Olympic sailing team with the Comtor, a sailboat named in honour of the Portuguese community of Toronto.
BANCO ESPIRITO SANTO, (Tel. 416-530-1700, 860C College St).
BCA—BANCO COMERCIAL DOS ACORES, (Tel. 416-603-0802, 836 Dundas St. W).
BANCO TOTTA ACORES, (Tel. 416-538-7111, 1110 Dundas St. W).
PORTUGUESE CANADIAN (TORONTO) CREDIT UNION, (Tel. 416-533-2578, 722 College St).
SANTO CRISTO, celebrated on the fifth Sunday after Easter, is highlighted by the festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Christ of Miracles). The outside of St. Mary’s Church is decorated with flowers, and during a ceremony, worshippers crawl on their knees around the church courtyard. A statue of Christ is carried in a procession along Adelaide Avenue to Portugal Square. The clergy, marching bands, and the faithful carry large candles as they follow the statue to a park for an outdoor mass. After mass, a festival takes place with games and food. A musical tradition from the Azores Islands is Cantigas ao desafio, where two musicians skillfully debate an issue by singing impromptu replies.
THE FESTIVAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is held in spring, commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit. Festivals are held at Portuguese Catholic churches.
THE DAY OF PORTUGAL, June 10, has been expanded to the Week of Portugal, which celebrates Portuguese communities around the world. The event also commemorates the death of national poet Luis de Camões. In tribute, flowers are placed at the Portuguese monument in High Park, and the Portuguese flag is raised at Toronto’s City Hall.
NOSSA SENHORA DO MONTE (OUR LADY OF THE MOUNTAIN), is celebrated every summer by Toronto’s Portuguese from Madeira Island. The festival is held in Madeira Park, near Sutton, Ontario, in honour of the spiritual protectress of the island. A shrine on the site is decorated with lights and flowers, and an outdoor mass is held.
SENHOR DA PEDRA. On the first Sunday in August, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church holds Senhor Da Pedra, a religious festival that includes a procession from the church to a nearby park for a mass. The procession is led by marchers carrying a statue of Christ sitting on a rock, which is returned to the church after mass. Portuguese come from across Canada and the U.S. to attend the festival, which also includes picnics, games, and folk dancing.
The author joining the largest Portuguese community parade in North America. It takes place every first week in June.
AMALIA RODRIGUES DAY. In 1985, October 5 was declared Amalia Rodrigues Day by the City of Toronto on behalf of the most popular Portuguese fado and folk singer of the 20th century. Rodrigues has appeared at Roy Thomson Hall, and her farewell performance was held in Toronto in 1989. Amalia has since passed away on October 6, 1999 (aged 79).
Folklore group “Rancho Folklorico” of the Portuguese community at city hall.
ASAS DO ATLANTICO, CPWA 90.5 FM, (Tel. 416-596-1566, 62 Nassau St). Provides 24 hours of Portuguese radio. Owner: Frank Nunes.
FESTIVAL PORTUGUES, FPTV, (Tel. 416-537-1088, 1087 Dundas St. W).
BLUE PAGES PORTUGUESE DIRECTORY, (Tel. 416-531-1000, 1079 College St). Editor: Jorge Ribeiro.
CORREIO PORTUGUES (PORTUGUESE MAIL), (Tel. 416-532-9894, 793 Ossington Ave). Established in 1963; the oldest Portuguese newspaper in the city. Editor: Maria Alice Ribeiro.
GUIA COMERCIAL PORTUGUES (PORTUGUESE TELEPHONE DIRECTORY), (Tel. 416-532-3167, 1278 Dundas St. W).
JOURNAL “POSTMILÉNIO,” (Tel. 905-822-8111), a weekly Portuguese newspaper. Editor. Alexandre Franco.
The Banda do Senhor Santo Christo at Santa Maria Catholic Church.
PORTUGUESE SUN, (Tel. 416-538-1788, 977 College St). Published by Sol Portuguese Publishing Inc. Editor: Alice Perinu.
VOICE-LUSO CANADIAN NEWSPAPER LTD., (Tel. 416-534-3177, 428 Ossington Ave). Director: Joaquim R. Batista.
CIRV, 88.9 FM, (Tel. 416-537-1088, 1087 Dundas St. W), a multicultural radio station serving 12 ethnic groups. President: Frank Alvarez.
OMNI-TV, (Tel. 416-260-0047, 545 Lakeshore Blvd. W). Programs include:
CANADA CONTACTO. Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
PORTUGUESE NOVELLA. Monday to Friday, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
OMNI NEWS PORTUGUESE EDITION. Monday to Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
QUINAS MAGASINE. (Tel. 416-533-1375, Fax 416-533-8658). Editor: Teresa Botelho.
CHIN 100.7 FM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St). Portuguese programs are aired Monday to Friday, 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and Saturday 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
GENTE DA NOSSA. City TV, (Tel. 416-516-9225, 1284A Dundas St. W.,). Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Host: Christine Costa.
THE FIRST PORTUGUESE CANADIAN CULTURAL CENTRE, (722 College St). Incorporated in 1956 and originally located in Kensington Market on Nassau Street. Organizes cultural, educational, and sports programs, including folk dancing. The club’s soccer and cycling teams have won many trophies, including National Soccer League titles and the Grand Road Race in Montreal. President: Valter Lopes.
ALLIANCE OF PORTUGUESE CLUBS AND ASSOCIATIONS OF ONTARIO, (Tel. 416-536-5961, 722 College St., Suite 306). The members of this cultural umbrella organization are sports, regional, and cultural clubs. The alliance organizes the festivities and events for the Week of Portugal.
CASA DO ALENTEJO, (Tel. 416-537-7766, 1130 Dupont St). Represents a region in Portugal and sponsors a week-long festival, usually held in February, that features Portuguese food, fado, and folklore, as well as art exhibits, films, and speakers.
FEDERATION OF PORTUGUESE-CANADIAN BUSINESS & PROFESSIONALS OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-537-8874, www.fpcbp.com, 722 College St., Suite 301). A non-profit organization set-up to help business and professional persons, merchants, and manufacturers of Portuguese origin and descent to develop professional, commercial, and cultural ties within the Portuguese communities of Ontario. President: Paul Silva.
PENICHE COMMUNITY CLUB OF TORONTO INC., (Tel. 416-536-7063, Fax 416-536-4347, 1264 College St). President: Luis Filipe.
There are many Portuguese social clubs, which hold dances and picnics throughout the year, as well as sports clubs. They include:
ARSENAL DO MINHO-S.C. BRAGA OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-532-2328, 1166 Dundas St. W). Winners of the 1988 Ontario Soccer Cup.
ASSOCIACAO CULTURAL DO MINHO, (Tel. 416-781-9290, 165 Dynevor Rd).
CANADIAN MADEIRA CLUB, (Tel. 416-533-2401, 1621 Dupont St). Home to the Rancho Folklorico Madeirense and a soccer team.
SPORT CLUB ANGRENSE, (Tel. 416-537-1555, 1195 Bloor St. W).
SPORT CLUB OF LUSITANIA, (Tel. 416-532-3501, 103 Ossington Ave).
SPORTING CLUB PORTUGUES DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-763-1707, 1650 Dupont St).
AMOR DA PATRIA, (Tel. 416-535-2696, 865 College St).
VASCO DA GAMA COMMUNITY CENTRE OF BRAMPTON, (Tel. 905-840-6061, 20 Fisherman Dr. Unit 20, Brampton).