Northern Transvaal Activities

The Portuguese Heritage


In line with the 50th Anniversary of the GSSA the Northern Transvaal Branch resented a presentation on the Portuguese Heritage in South Africa. In spite of the fact that they are still comfortably the third largest "white group" in South Africa (after those of Afrikaner and British ancestry) and that they have left indellible layers on the culture and economy of the country, there is an astonishingly sparse recognition of their existense in South African histiography and social sciences generally.
Members were treated on traditional Portuguese snacks in the foyer to the Art Gallery at the Monument on arrival. Fado and other Portuguese music could be heard in the back. In the gallery itself a slide show on the building of a replica of the ship that Dias used on sailing around the Cape. The building of this ship was sponsored by the Portuguese community is South Africa.
Proceedings started off with folk dancing by GRUPO FOLCLÓRICO TERRAS DO NORTE under the leadership of Wendy Ferreira. All the dance songs performed are from the northern regions of Portugal known as the Minho Region, more specifically Braga and Viana do Castelo. The group is based in Johannesburg and was founded on the 15 February 1985. 
This was followed by a presentation by Gilberto Martins on the experiences and emotions of the immigrants on arrival in South Africa. He described the political situation from the 1930's in Portugal, through the 2nd WW and the emigration form Portugal during 1952. He explained in detail what his father experienced on arrival, the work that he did and how he was adamant that his children get the best education possible.
Mainland Portugal in the 1960s was facing economic depression: Industrial growth was uneven, unemployment was extremely high outside of the bigger towns and cities. The Salazar regime conscripted increasing numbers of young people to fight its colonial wars in Africa. The Salazar Estado Novo, actively encouraged emigration during the 1960s. These mainlander immigrants were relatively skilled and most artisans and skilled workers found work almost immediately on arrival. The third wave of Portuguese came directly from Portugal 1940 –1980, but high impact was in the 1960s and early 1970s. Many Portuguese who immigrated were at first isolated from other white populations due to their differences, such as being Catholic and the fact that few could speak English or Afrikaans. The 1960s immigrants were often actively recruited by the South African government. The simultaneous collapse of the Portuguese colonial regimes in Mozambique and Angola in 1975 triggered the final mass wave of Portuguese migration to South Africa. Whilst most of the colonists, especially from Angola, returned to Portugal, a sizeable proportion sought refuge in South Africa. 
Portuguese immigrants tended to cluster in particular neighborhoods (the majority in the south of Johannesburg) where housing was relatively available. Houses were often shared by extended family and lodging was very common. 
South Africans of Portuguese descent were the third biggest white South African ethnic group (After Afrikaners and English) Portuguese constituted ten to fifteen per cent of the white South African population (Glaser, 2010). Estimates of Portuguese numbers by the 1990s was 500 000. Current estimate is approximately 200 000.
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Saterdag 11 Oktober 

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