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The Madeiran Connection – part 4


Fri, Mar 16. 2012

The Portuguese Settlement in St Vincent

by Oswald Ferreira

The Madeiran Portuguese settled in tight knit patterns. The largest concentration was in the Belle Vue (Colonarie Bay), Park Hill and Byrea Hill area. There was another concentration in the Marriaqua Valley which was also linked to the estates at Argyle, Peruvian Vale and Yambou.{{more}}

There was also a concentration in the Kingstown area. If they all came as indentured labourers, why were they not scattered all over the island among all the estates? Why is there no large concentration of Madeiran Portuguese descendants on the Leeward coast or north of Georgetown? My guess is that the Madeiran Portuguese who came to St Vincent were probably from a narrow locale in Madeira. I know of cases where families with the same name claim to be related, but the relationships cannot be verified as one traces backward in time. Therefore, my conclusion is that the families were probably acquainted with or even related to each other back in Madeira. They settled in groups where they were familiar with each other and for a while they married among each other within their own locale in St Vincent.

The Portuguese had large families within their marriage. Families of sixteen children were quite common. It is also evident that the Portuguese men in particular were very promiscuous. Right back into the 1800s, there is evidence of children born out of wedlock to the Portuguese men, and mostly with women of African descent. It was quite common for a Portuguese man to have several children out of wedlock, either with a single woman or with several women. Sometimes the children out of wedlock were as many as or more than the children from his marriage. As the generations progressed through time, even the Portuguese women were having children out of wedlock, many with men of African descent.

There are cases where Portuguese women had up to three children, sometimes with different men before they got married. I have no way to verify if this habit of having children out of wedlock even while married existed in Madeira, before the migration to the Caribbean. My hunch is that the Portuguese men had newfound freedom in a new land as opposed to strict Catholicism in Madeira and they just had fun. These statements may offend some folk, but they are factual. I can provide several examples but we need not publish those intimate details. Many people who read this will be able to verify the facts.

These children out of wedlock between the Portuguese and the African population produced the large mulatto population of St. Vincent, and as the mulattoes married back into the African population, we now have many Vincentians who appear to be all African, but who carry the Portuguese DNA. So the Portuguese DNA was spread across Vincentian society. It could not have worked better even if it was planned.