Portuguese on the California Channel Islands

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Portuguese in California at first were explorers who sailed for the King of Spain, including Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (1542) and Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño (1595) both of whom visited the California Channel Islands.

Extensive Portuguese settlement began during the gold rush when they came to California during the Mexican and American eras, not for gold, but for whaling and commercial fishing. As the entered the lobster (crawfish) industry around the Channel Islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, severe discrimination and fishing wars developed. Parties from both sides reported allegations of lobster traps being pulled, emptied and destroyed. Island based fishermen were determined to run the Portuguese out of “their” territory. [Eaton 1980: 151-153,163].



In the News~

March 31, 1874 [SBDP]: “Considerable anxiety has been felt about a fishing party consisting of Mr. S. P. Stow, Mr. Frank Young, Mr. Fletcher, and another gentleman whose name we did not learn, which left here last Saturday morning. We are pleased to be able to state on the information of N. A. Covarrubias that the party was seen at Santa Cruz Island at 3 P.M. on Sunday by some Portuguese fishermen, and that all of the party were well and still on the island at 6 A.M. yesterday when the fishermen left.”