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South African Settlers - Portuguese

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A project is for Early Portuguese settlers and progenitors in South Africa. It is also a place where you can share links to online resources, tell other users where records etc. can be found and make queries or ask for help through the discussion facility.

To participate in any project

- you do need to first be a collaborator - so join the project. Project Help: How to add Text to a Project - Starter Kit to get you going!

How to Participate

  • Please add the profiles of Progenitors from Portugal - (not their entire families and descendants!) and also those of prominent, famous, influential South Africans from that part of the world. This is easily done from the profile page using the Add to project link.
  • If you have any queries related to these settlers please start a discussion linked to this project. (See the menu top right).
  • Please add related projects to the menu on the right.
  • If you have links to related web pages that would be of interest to others please add them in the relevant section at the bottom of the page. In order to do this use the drop down menu at the top left of the screen and Join the Project. If this option is not available to you then contact a collaborator and ask to be added to the project. As a collaborator you will be able to edit this page.
  • Add any documents of interest using the menu at the top right of the page, and then add a link to the document in the text under the heading below. If you do not know how to do this please contact one of the other collaborators to assist you.

Portuguese South Africans

There were two main Portuguese waves of immigration in South Africa., The first was a constant but small flow of Portuguese from Madeira and Portugal itself, while the second was ethnic Portuguese fleeing from Angola and Mozambique after their respective independences.

The reasons behind the immigration of Madeirans to South Africa was both political and economic. After 1950, Hendrik Verwoerd (the "architect" of Apartheid) encouraged immigration from Protestant Anglo-Saxons to strengthen the white population. When this failed, he turned his attention to Southern Europeans, one of which were Madeirans, who were facing high unemployment rates. Many Madeirans and Portuguese who immigrated were at first isolated from the general white population due to their differences, such as being Catholic and the fact that few could speak English or Afrikaans. Eventually they ended up setting up businesses in Johannesburg or coastal fisheries, and soon intermarriage between whites began.

Portuguese mariners explored the west coast of Africa throughout the latter half of the fifteenth century. Two ships under Bartholomeu Dias eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and traveled more than 600 kilometers along the southwestern coast. In 1497 an expedition under Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape, sailed up the east African coast to the Arab port of Malindi (today Kenya), and then crossed the Indian Ocean to India, opening up a way for Europeans to gain direct access to the spices of the East. The Portuguese dominated this trade route throughout the sixteenth century. They built forts and supply stations along the western and eastern coasts of Africa, but they did not build south of present-day Angola and Mozambique because of the treacherous currents along the southern coast.

Some useful information can be found at the following links -

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