UMass archives historic paper

Portuguese daily available online

By Ray Henry
Associated Press / May 10, 2009
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DARTMOUTH - In 1924, Diario de Noticias, the largest influential Portuguese-language newspaper in the United States, denounced a sociologist who investigated the high infant death rate among Portuguese mill workers in New England, including whether their darker skin was to blame.

By the time the newspaper closed in 1973, those immigrants and their children were moving on from their jobs in the textile mills, had fought for their new country on battlefields around the world, and elected their own candidates to political office.

Now more than 84,000 pages from the only US-based Portuguese-language daily newspaper to publish consistently during the period has been preserved in a searchable, online archive available for free to the public. It's believed to be the largest effort undertaken to preserve an ethnic newspaper, said Frank Sousa, director of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.

"The reason why that newspaper became an obsession for me was that it was the single most important document on Portuguese-American history, particularly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island," Sousa said.

Immigrants from the Portuguese Azore Islands and Cape Verde first arrived in New Bedford on whaling ships when the bustling port city, the setting of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," dispatched crews across the world to hunt whales and bring back their oil.

Guilherme Luiz, a businessman who arrived with a second wave of immigrants in the 1880s who came to work in the region's textile mills, purchased a weekly newspaper in 1919 and turned it into a daily publication printing Monday to Saturday. In 1927, he renamed it "Diario de Noticias," known as the "Portuguese Daily News" among English speakers.

Sousa estimates the newspaper had a circulation of more than 20,000. While it primarily served the Portuguese community concentrated in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island - still the largest in the country - its circulation stretched via mail across the country.

"This newspaper circulates all over the United States, wherever Portuguese reside, specially in New England States and California," its banner read in English.