Food and Portuguese identity

Exploring the links between food, culture, and identity

Gloria de Sa, Portugalia Market, Fall River
Gloria de Sa at Portugalia Market in Fall River.

Gloria de Sá, associate professor of sociology, uses the food traditions of the Portuguese-American communities of New Bedford and Fall River to explore the mobility of culture and the construction of Portuguese identity.

Her project, titled Pão e Vinho Sobre a Mesa: Portuguese Food Cultures, Migration and Mobility, received a $15,000 grant from Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. De Sá, who is faculty director of the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives, used the funds to collect oral histories and record food practices. She also organized a conference, “Food Cultures, Migration and Mobility,” held at the Star Store in September.

Pão e Vinho Sobre a Mesa was done in collaboration with Dr. Rhian Atkin, of Cardiff University, and Sonia Pacheco, archivist of the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives, where the work of transcribing and archiving the interviews is ongoing.

De Sá also is developing a course syllabus on the conference’s theme and organized a guided tour for the UMassD students and faculty to explore the Portuguese food, history, and culture of New Bedford. The tour was sponsored by a Provost’s Seminar Series grant awarded to the Urban Studies Program, as well as by the Arnold Dubin Labor Education Center and the Portuguese-American Archives.

Promoting inclusion and understanding

“Since the Portuguese are the largest ethnic group in our local area and thousands of members of the UMass Dartmouth community share this ancestry, the project also served as a means of recording and valorizing their history and culture, and promoting values of inclusion and mutual understanding,” de Sá said.

“The project also engaged several UMassD students in paid research and provided members of our community the opportunity to engage in pertinent discussions regarding the relationships between food (including food security), migration, and culture.”

De Sá’s research interests intersect the fields of immigration, race, and ethnicity as they relate to Portuguese-speaking groups in the U.S., with a particular focus on the integration of Portuguese-Americans into American society.

More information: Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese American Archives


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