“Labour, Sugar and Long-distance Migration: Madeirans and Azoreans in Guyana, the Caribbean and Hawai’i”
14-15 November 2019
Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Throughout the 140+ years of Madeiran Portuguese emigration to Trinidad, the Portuguese of Trinidad & Tobago have remained a minority within the wider host society, and a minority group even within the national European-Creole community. In part due to their their full sociolinguistic and cultural adaptation, very little is known of this group's history or cultural heritage, either within the community and country, or in Portugal itself. Unlike other European Creole groups, whose origins and circumstances are very different, the Trinidadian Portuguese community was unable to impose themselves, their language, and their culture on the wider national community. This is partly due to the immigrant and refugee status of Madeirans in Trinidad, mostly in a post-emancipation context, and also due to the size of the community over time. In spite of language and culture preservation efforts on the part of some Madeiran immigrants, many English-speaking Luso-descendants ultimately appeared to abandon practically all of their ancestral culture in favour of their national culture, worked behind the scenes to support the development of Trinidadian literary and art forms, rather than their own ancestral forms. Although their ancestral language and culture have been mostly lost, memories and saudades continue. Madeiran descendants in Trinidad have instead played a variety of roles in varying spheres of national life and culture, including religion, business, politics, cuisine, literature, visual and musical arts. The reasons for selecting specific areas of commerce and cultural are complex, ranging from opportunistic and strategic, but related to expertise and experiences. This paper will trace both the loss of the Portuguese language and Madeiran culture in Trinidad, and the contributions of Trinidadians of Madeira Portuguese origin/descent to Trinidad and Tobago.