Portuguese National Library
The book "The Forgotten Portuguese" is now available at the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal.


This Portuguese language newspaper published in Newark, NJ has recently received a letter from one of its readers, John Crisostomo where it mentions the following: The reading of the book "The Forgotten Portuese" whose publication is welcomed thus strengthening the important participation  of the Portuguese in the American society.


Franklin, North Carolina, Franklin Press, December 5, 1997 How did Melungeons get here?  By Barbara McRae

I've always found a good mystery irresistible. Perhaps that is why I love history it is filled with complex, real-life mysteries. The Melungeons present one of the most fascinating of these. For many years a people known as the Melungeons have lived in parts of the Southeast including the Appalachians. They often found themselves in a difficult position because of their Mediterranean appearance. In the segregated South having darker skin than your neighbors was not a comfortable thing. These people thought of themselves as Portuguese but, how did they get to the mountains? Articles and books about the Melungeons began appearing a century ago, but the authors lacked one important qualification. None were familiar with Portuguese culture or history. A few years ago I mentioned the Melungeons to Manuel Mira, who was look for material on our region for the Luso-Americano, a Portuguese-American newspaper. That brief comment was a spark that started an incredible explosion of investigative scholarship on Mira's part. The result is a 384-page, hard cover book, "The Forgotten Portuguese," which I have had the chance to study this week. The biggest mystery about the Melungeons is When did they get here, and how? Mira presents many possibilities. The Portuguese were frequent visitors to the New World. They early developed navigational skills that made them masters of the seas. Concerned with secrecy, they kept their discoveries to themselves. Other nationalities, including the English, often hired Portuguese navigators for their own expeditions. The Spaniards brought many Portuguese to the New World they traveled with de Soto and may have been left to guard the forts. Pardo built in the interior (one of which may have been located near Morganton). In 1566, the Spanish began colonizing Parris Island, on the South Carolina coast. Within three years, 327 settlers Spanish and Portuguese lived at the site, which called Santa Elena. The settlement ended in 1587, but not all the settlers returned home.

What happened to the stragglers? Did they retreat to the interior, join soldiers from the abandoned Spanish forts, and become the nucleus of the people later known as Melungeons? Santa Elena may be the most intriguing possibility, but it is only part of the story. Many other expeditions and colonization attempts occurred during the 16th century and before. Reading Mira's accounts of these is an eye-opener. I conclude that we have never given sufficient credit to the skills, enterprise and world-knowledge that sea-going had acquired at that early date. In his introduction, Mira notes that he is uniquely positioned to research this subject, bringing a perspective "as a Portuguese and as an American, plus a good share of Appalachian Mountain feeling." Local people will be particularly interested in Mira's treatment of names and folkways. The unusual given name "Canara," for example, appears here in the 19th century e Mira points out that at least 20 Portuguese villages bear variations of this name. He also notes the similarity of some favorite Southeastern and Portuguese delicacies, including country ham, collards,turnip greens, black-eyed peas and sarsaparilla. And, our square dance, with instructions given by a caller, is similar to a folk dance found in the south of Portugal. Mira has produced a remarkable book. Besides the readable and interesting text, it includes many photographs and useful appendixes. It may not be the last work on the subject, but it provides many new avenues for exploration and will certainly stimulate new scholarship on one of our greatest mysteries. Whether you have Melungeon ancestry yourself, or are just intrigued by a good puzzle, you will find "The Forgotten Portuguese" fascinating. The book is available locally at Books Unlimited and the Macon County Historical Museum. It sells for $29.95, and all proceeds will go to the Portuguese-American Historical Research Foundation, a North Carolina nonprofit organization. Mira established the foundation to fund further research into America's early history and the role played by Portuguese people.


New Book "The Forgotten Portuguese" On the Melungeons and Other Groups in the Portuguese Making of America

The new book "The Forgotten Portuguese", written by Manuel Mira is an interesting book on the Melungeons and other Portuguese groups who settled in America as early as the 15th and 16th centuries. The most prominent of these groups are the Melungeons, a mysterious people who have claimed Portugues ancestry but who were discriminated against by the other white settlers. The author, Manuel Mira, himself a Portuguese-American, now resides in North Carolina, and became fascinated by these so-called "Melungeons" whom he discovered through several years of investigation and research. They were people, some dark-skinned, who lived in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The English colonists started calling them "Melungeons" which meant "melunge" or mixture of color and race. The authors curiosity and fascination with these people led him to a continued research which took him to local Southern Libraries, the Library of Congress and then to national archives in Lisbon and Seville where he embarked on a journey to discover the influence of early Portuguese in the making of America. The Book has just been published by the Portuguese American Research Foundation headquartered in Franklin, North Carolina and is available for purchase at $29.95 through the Foundation or the Luso-Americano newspaper. This is an important book and a must for all Portuguese-American scholars, teachers, libraries and historians in general.







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  • Updated:
    November 18, 2011