The site for my cultural encounter is the city of Fall River, Massachusetts. Fall River is an old mill town that is situated on Mount Hope Bay in southeastern Massachusetts. It is a city of around 90,000 mainly working class people. Over the years many immigrants have come to Fall River, drawn to jobs in the fishing industry. Textile factories also provided steady employment for new citizens. Starting in the late 19th century and continuing until today many Portuguese have settled in Fall River. The wave of Portuguese immigration started with people coming from the islands of Portugal (Azores, Madeira) with mainlanders following more recently. This has resulted in almost 50% of current Fall River residents claiming Portuguese ancestry.
Crossing over the Braga Bridge Fall River appears on a large hill sloping towards the water. Boats line the harbor under the bridge hinting of the city’s fishing past. Rising up the hill and away from the water are a mix of huge former factories, tenements and some modern commercial buildings. There is little green space; the buildings are crowded together bordered by concrete and asphalt. Even though some of the stores and houses are brightly colored, the city appears worn, a little past its prime. It is easy to see from the storefronts that many Portuguese live here. The Madeirena Club. Fereira’s Market. Estoril Restaurant. The Espirito Santo Church. It is in this setting that the tens of thousands of Portuguese residents in Fall River work, worship, and enjoy their lives