Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Portuguese people

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South Africa  300,000
Brazil  5,000,000 (eligible for Portuguese citizenship) 120,000,000 (Portuguese ancestry)
United States  1,471,549 (Portuguese ancestry)
Venezuela  1,300,000 (Portuguese ancestry)
France  1,243,419 (Portuguese ancestry)
Canada  429,850 (Portuguese ancestry)

Portuguese people (Portuguese: os Portugueses) are an ethnic group indigenous to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian Peninsula in Southwestern Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and their predominant religion is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism.


Due to the large historical extent of the Portuguese Empire and the colonization of territories in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as historical and recent emigration, Portuguese communities can be found in many diverse regions around the globe, and a large Portuguese diaspora exists.

Portuguese people were a key factor to the Age of Exploration, discovering several lands unknown to the Europeans in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania, helping to pave the way for Globalization.

Demographics of Portugal

There are around 10 million native Portuguese in Portugal, out of a total population of 10.34 million (estimate).

Native minority languages in Portugal

A small minority of about 15,000 speak the Mirandese language, (part of the Asturian-Leonese linguistic group which includes the Asturian and Leonese minority languages of Northwestern Spain ) in the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Vimioso and Mogadouro. All of the speakers are bilingual with Portuguese.

An even smaller minority of no more than 2,000 people speak Barranquenho, a dialect of Portuguese heavily influenced by Extremaduran, spoken in the Portuguese town of Barrancos (in the border between Extremadura and Andalusia, in Spain, and Portugal).

Ethnic minorities in Portugal

Some people from the former colonies (namely Brazil, Africa - Afro-Portuguese, and parts of India) have been migrating to Portugal since the 1900s.

More recently, a great number of Slavs, especially Ukrainians (now the third biggest ethnic minority), Moldovans, Romanians and Russians, keep migrating to Portugal. There is also a Chinese minority.

In addition, there is a small minority Gypsies (Ciganos) of about 40,000 people, Muslims about 34,000 people and an even smaller minority of Jews of about 5,000 people (some Ashkenazi, and the majority Sephardi, such as the Belmonte Jews).

Portuguese diaspora

In the whole world there are easily more than one hundred million people with recognizable Portuguese ancestors, due to the colonial expansion and worldwide immigration of Portuguese from the 16th century onwards to India, the Americas, Macau (see Macanese people), East-Timor, Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa. Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost to emigration more than any West European country except Ireland. From the middle of the 19th century to the late 1950s, nearly two million Portuguese left Europe to live mainly in Brazil and with significant numbers to the United States. About 40 million Brazilians have relatively recent Portuguese background, due to massive immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. About 1.2 million Brazilian citizens are native Portuguese. Significant verified Portuguese minorities exist in several countries (see table).

Portuguese Sephardic Jews (mostly descendants) are also in Israel, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Venezuela, Brazil and Turkey. In Brazil many of the colonists were also originally Sephardic Jews, who, converted, were known as New Christians.

In the United States, there are Portuguese communities in New Jersey, the New England states, and California. In the Pacific, Hawaii has a sizable Portuguese element that goes back 150 years (see Portuguese Americans), Australia and New Zealand also have Portuguese communities (see Portuguese Australian, Portuguese New Zealander). Canada, particularly Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, has developed a significant Portuguese community since 1940 (see Portuguese Canadians). Argentina (See Portuguese Argentine and Cape Verdean Argentine) and Uruguay (see Portuguese Uruguayan) had Portuguese immigration in the early 20th century. So has Chile where an estimated 50,000 descendants live, as the country's maritime industries attracted a small number of Portuguese as well. Portuguese fishermen, farmers and laborers dispersed across the Caribbean, especially Bermuda (3.75% to 10% of the population), Guyana (4.3% of the population in 1891), Trinidad, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the island of Barbados where there is high influence from the Portuguese community.

In the early twentieth century the Portuguese government encouraged white emigration to Angola and Mozambique, and by the 1970s, there were up to 1 million Portuguese settlers living in their overseas African provinces. An estimated 800,000 Portuguese returned to Portugal as the country's African possessions gained independence in 1975, after the Carnation Revolution, while others moved to Brazil and South Africa.

As a result, there are Portuguese influenced people with their own culture and Portuguese based dialects in parts of the world other than former Portuguese colonies, most notably in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (see Kristang people), Barbados, Jamaica (see Portuguese Jamaican), Aruba, Curaçao, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana (see Portuguese immigrants in Guyana), Equatorial Guinea and Sri Lanka (see Burgher people and Portuguese Burghers). In 1989 some 4,000,000 Portuguese were living abroad, mainly in France, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Venezuela, and the United States. Portuguese constitute 13% of the population of Luxembourg. In 2006 there were estimates to be over half a million people of Portuguese origin in the United Kingdom (see Portuguese in the United Kingdom)—this is considerably larger than the around 88,000 Portuguese-born people alone residing in the country in 2009 (estimation; however this figure does not include British-born people of Portuguese descent). In areas such as Thetford and the crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey, the Portuguese form the largest ethnic minority groups at 30% of the population, 20% and 3% respectively. The British capital London is home to the largest number of Portuguese people in the UK, with the majority being found in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Westminster. The Portuguese diaspora communities still are very attached to their language, their culture and their national dishes and particularly the bacalhau.

Portuguese ancestry in the Brazilian population

In colonial times, over 700,000 Portuguese settled in Brazil, and most of them went there during the gold rush of the 18th century. Brazil received more European settlers during its colonial era than any other country in the Americas. Between 1500 and 1760, about 700,000 Europeans immigrated to Brazil, compared to 530,000 European immigrants in the United States. They managed to be the only significant European population to populate the country during colonization, even though there were French and Dutch invasions. The Portuguese migration was strongly marked by the predominance of men (colonial reports from the 16th and 17th centuries almost always report the absence or rarity of Portuguese women). This lack of women worried the Jesuits, who asked the Portuguese King to send any kind of Portuguese women to Brazil, even the socially undesirable (e.g. prostitutes or women with mental maladies such as Down Syndrome) if necessary. The Crown responded by sending groups of Iberian orphan maidens to marry both cohorts of marriageable men, the nobles and the peasants. Some of which were even primarily studying to be nuns. The Crown also shipped over many Órfãs d'El-Rei of what was considered "good birth" to colonial Brazil to marry Portuguese settlers of high rank. Órfãs d'El-Rei (modern Portuguese órfãs do rei) literally translates to "Orphans of the King", and they were Portuguese female orphans in nubile age. There were noble and non-noble maidens and they were daughters of military compatriots who died in battle for the king or noblemen who died overseas and whose upbringing was paid by the Crown. Bahia's port in the East received one of the first groups of orphans in 1551. The multiplication of descendants of Portuguese settlers also happened to a large degree through miscegenation with black and amerindian women. In fact, in colonial Brazil the Portuguese men competed for the women, because among the African slaves the female component was also a small minority. This explains why the Portuguese men left more descendants in Brazil than the Amerindian or African men did. The Indian and African women were "dominated" by the Portuguese men, preventing men of color to find partners with whom they could have children. Added to this, White people had a much better quality of life and therefore a lower mortality rate than the black and indigenous population. Then, even though the Portuguese migration during colonial Brazil was smaller (3.2 million Indians estimated at the beginning of colonization and 3.6 million Africans brought since then, compared to the descendants of the over 700,000 Portuguese immigrants) the "white" population (whose ancestry was predominantly Portuguese) was as large as the "non white" population in the early 19th century, just before independence from Portugal. After independence from Portugal in 1822, around 1.7 million Portuguese immigrants settled in Brazil. Portuguese immigration into Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries was marked by its concentration in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The immigrants opted mostly for urban centers. Portuguese women appeared with some regularity among immigrants, with percentage variation in different decades and regions of the country. However, even among the more recent influx of Portuguese immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, there were 319 men to each 100 women among them. The Portuguese were different from other immigrants in Brazil, like the Germans, or Italians who brought many women along with them (even though the proportion of men was higher in any immigrant community). Despite the small female proportion, Portuguese men married mainly Portuguese women. Female immigrants rarely married Brazilian men. In this context, the Portuguese had a rate of endogamy which was higher than any other European immigrant community, and behind only the Japanese among all immigrants.

Even with Portuguese heritage, many Portuguese-Brazilians identify themselves as being simply Brazilians, since Portuguese culture was a dominant cultural influence in the formation of Brazil (like many British Americans in the United States, who will never describe themselves as of British extraction, but only as "Americans").

In 1872, there were 3.7 million Whites in Brazil (the vast majority of them of Portuguese ancestry), 4.1 million mixed-race people (mostly of Portuguese-African-Native American ancestry) and 1.9 million Blacks. These numbers give the percentage of 80% of people with total or partial Portuguese ancestry in Brazil in the 1870s.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new large wave of immigrants from Portugal arrived. From 1881 to 1991, over 1.5 million Portuguese immigrated to Brazil. In 1906, for example, there were 133,393 Portuguese-born people living in Rio de Janeiro, comprising 16% of the city's population. Rio is, still today, considered the largest "Portuguese city" outside of Portugal itself, with 1% Portuguese-born people.

Genetic studies also confirm the strong Portuguese genetic influence in Brazilians. According to a study, at least half of the Brazilian population's Y Chromosome (male inheritance) comes from Portugal. Black Brazilians have an average of 48% non-African genes, most of them may come from Portuguese ancestors. On the other hand, 33% Amerindian and 28% African contribution to the total mtDNA (female inheritance) of white Brazilians was found

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a predominant degree of European ancestry (mostly Portuguese, due to the dominant Portuguese influx among European colonization and immigration to Brazil) combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees. 'Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values from 51% to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population'.

A large community-based multicenter autosomal study from 2015, considering representative samples from three different urban communities located in the Northeast (Salvador, capital of Bahia), Southeast (Bambuí, interior of Minas Gerais) and South Brazilian (Pelotas, interior of Rio Grande do Sul) regions, estimated European ancestry to be 42.4%, 83.8% and 85.3%, respectively. In all three cities, European ancestors were mainly Iberian.

It was estimated that around five million or more Brazilians can acquire Portuguese citizenship, due to the last Portuguese nationality law that grants citizenship to grandchildren of Portuguese nationals.


Portuguese people Wikipedia