Portuguese in Two Worlds: A Historical Study of Migration from Algarve to Argentina

Marcelo Borges
History, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - UNITED STATES, 1997
May, 1997
Doctoral thesis


This study applies a transnational approach to the analysis of migration from the Algarve, Portugal's southernmost province, to Argentina.

Two main systems of migration developed in the Algarve from the eighteenth century until the 1950s. The first system included both internal migration to the Portuguese Alentejo and international temporary migration to Gibraltar and Southern Spain. The second one was part of the larger Atlantic migration system that connected Europe and the Americas. Thus emigration overseas was not a break with an immobile past but a redirection of existing movements. Algarvian migrants joined the transatlantic flow with unique features in the context of Portuguese emigration: Argentina became the main destination overseas.

Emigration from the Algarve to Argentina was based on migratory networks of assistance and cooperation among family members, neighbors, and countrymen at both sides of the Atlantic. This study explores the origins, characteristics, composition, and evolution of those networks in the context of the general patterns of emigration from the region. For that purpose, it focuses on the migratory flows between two specific parishes in the Algarve (Boliqueime and Sao Bras de Alportel) and two specific cities in Argentina (Villa Elisa, Province of Buenos Aires) and Comodoro Rivadavia (Province of Chubut). The contrasting characteristics of the two local receiving societies (a semi-rural town characterized by family gardening, and a the center of a petroleum-producing area) allow us to analyze the immigrants' adaptation to two very different socio-economic spaces.

This study emphasizes the centrality of primary social networks in the process of migration and adaptation. It also discusses how migrants' strategies combined with external forces, such as changing migratory policies and different local host societies. The labor markets and the possibilities of the local receiving societies shaped different immigrant experiences. Despite their differences, however, the social networks that formed both immigrant communities were equally influential in the economic and social adaptation of their members.