St. Peter’s Teen Center hosts exhibit on Cape Verdean whalers

By 
Dave Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
Jun. 26, 2014

As they stalked the migration paths of the whales they hunted, Azoreans, Cape Verdeans, and Brazilians formed migratory paths of their own, some of which led directly to Dorchester.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum opened its traveling exhibition on Lusophone – that’s Portuguese speaking – people at the Catholic Charities’ Teen Center at St. Peter’s Church at 278 Bowdoin St. in Dorchester on Saturday, June 21. It runs through Thursday.

Christina Connett, chief curator at the Whaling Museum, said much of Dorchester’s vibrant Cape Verdean community likely came through New Bedford and through the profession of whaling. She called New Bedford the “Portuguese Ellis Island.”

“It was quite fitting we were asked by the Teen Center to participate there; it ties the two cities together very nicely,” Connett said.

The exhibition, titled “Yankee Baleeiros!”, consists of more than a dozen eight-foot-by-10-foot fabric panels mounted onto freestanding walls. On each is information about the heritage of Cape Verdean as well as other Portuguese-speaking people who migrated to the United States.

There are about 3 million such people in the country, according to recent census figures, nearly 1 percent of the entire population.

Connett said she was thrilled with the opening Saturday, which featured Pedro de Carvalho and Gunga Tavares of the Cape Verde Consulate in Boston as well as State Rep. Evandro Carvalho, and more than 100 other attendees.

“Lots of kids and a lot of families came in, and there was Cape Verdean food and Cape Verdean music in the background,” Connett said.

Paulo De Barros, director and founder of the Teen Center said the center has been working with the Whaling Museum for a couple of years and is a destination for field trips.

De Barros said he was pleased with the exhibit as well.
“It shows that Cape Verdeans have been involved in contributions to the country for many years,” said De Barros, adding that it was important for young people of Cape Verdean descent to know that.

The exhibit also is inspirational, showing the possibilities of the American Dream, De Barros said.

The Teen Center has worked to send between 25 and 30 children to college each year, and works with students to improve grades and to provide alternatives to teen violence.

Connett said one of the centerpieces of the exhibition is a Benjamin Russell painting from the mid 19th century depicting the results of a four-year whaling voyage.

Within the painting are scenes from the Azores and Cape Verde, Connett said.

Following its debut in Dorchester, the exhibition will travel to New Bedford for the homecoming of the Charles W. Morgan, the last of America’s whaling ships from the 1800s, from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. The Exhibition will then travel to the Attleboro Public Library in July and to the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park from August through the remainder of the year.

For more information on the exhibit, visit whalingmuseum.org. For more information on the Catholic Charities’ Teen Center in Dorchester, visit ccab.org.