The United States has long been regarded as a melting pot of cultures.
This is especially true in a state like California that has connections to many nations, but one in particular stands out
Over centuries, waves of Portuguese immigrants have crossed oceans to make California their home, and this impact can still be felt today.
The Portuguese Legacy in California
California today has over 300,000 immigrants and descendants of Portugal, and this largely can be tied back to the influence of early settlers. Drawn by opportunities in fishing and agriculture, they chose California as their new home, while also making sure to bring rich Portuguese traditions with them.
This influence and tradition can be felt today with festivals like Festa do Espirito Santo (The Festival of the Holy Spirit), which is celebrated across many Californian towns. Many traditional Portuguese cuisine and other influences are easily found in many restaurants throughout the state. Both caldo verde (green soup) and pasteis de nata (custard tarts) are among the delicacies you’ll regularly see.
Touring California's Portuguese Communities
For tourists wanting to experience the Portuguese influence of the West Coast, there are some specific communities worth traveling to. The San Francisco Bay Area is a great choice as it hosts regular festivals and events that celebrate this rich heritage, as well as traditional bakeries and restaurants serving Portuguese delicacies.
Marin County and Central Valley are two other regions worth exploring. The former was once home to many Azorean whalers and dairy farmers, while the latter is still dominated today by hardworking dairy farming families with roots reaching back to Portugal.
Make sure to visit San Leandro, too. The Portuguese history here goes back to the 1800s, and at one point, it was known as the Portuguese capital of the West. Although the Portuguese population here is not as large as it was during the peak of the Gold Rush years, they still celebrate the Portuguese Festa each year.
The Trek From Portugal to California
If you're planning a journey from Portugal to California, you’ll be pleased to know that cheap flights from Lisbon to Los Angeles can be found. This is in large part due to this route being well served by United Airlines and Portugal’s flag carrier, TAP Air Portugal. The average flight time is typically about 14 hours, but you also have the choice of stopping for a layover at popular destinations like New York or Philadelphia.
California’s climate is such that any time of year is a good time to visit, but airline rates are typically at their lowest during the off-peak seasons of fall from September to November. That said, springtime is generally when there are the most Portuguese festivals, so you’ll need to balance what’s most important to your trip.
In terms of visas, Portuguese citizens can apply for an ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program, but make sure to get that sorted well ahead of your travel time. Once you’ve landed in California, you’ll have many options to get around.
Tracing the footsteps of your countrymen is a great reason to travel, and California serves as a location for those with Portuguese roots to do just that. The Portuguese-American community is a thriving one, and I’m sure they can’t wait to meet you.