A local author has put together a book of vintage photographs chronicling Portuguese culture in San Leandro, and when it is published next month, it, will become the next installment of Arcadia Publishing's popular Images of America series.
The book, which will be available for sale July 7, offers a rare glimpse of the city's past, from when Portuguese immigrants first put down roots here to how the city became home to a wide range of colorful characters who were instrumental in the Portuguese diaspora.
Author Meg Rogers, who is a volunteer with the Milpitas Historical Society, said she stumbled upon records chronicling the Portuguese influence on the city after doing research at the J.A. Freitas Library in San Leandro for a book she wrote about San Jose's Portuguese heritage.
With more than 200 vintage images of spittoons, saloons and frontier stores, Rogers said she hopes the book will make the history of the Portuguese in San Leandro come alive again.
"I envisioned the book as a walk through old-town San Leandro," Rogers said in a news release. "In that light I included scenes from the daily lives of Portuguese immigrants in the 1890s and early 1900s, including (people) hand-spearing whales, delivering groceries by horse-drawn wagon and hanging meat out in the open air to dry."
The influences of Portuguese culture are evident throughout much of the city today. Some of the more notable examples can be found in structures such as the Monument to the Portuguese Immigrant in Root Park, which was a gift to the city from the Portuguese Union of the State of California, itself a living monument in the city, as the organization was founded in San Leandro in 1880.
But many of the other influences have been tucked away in the past, Rogers writes, and are illuminated through the portraits she discovered in her research and has included in the book.
For example, several vintage photos show that Orchard Avenue, from Davis Street to Williams Street, was once known as Kanaka Row, a block of tiny row houses inhabited by Portuguese immigrants just arrived from Hawaii. Established Portuguese residents referred to these immigrants as kanakas.The book also has rare photos of important Portuguese figures in San Leandro, including Helen Lawrence, the city's first woman mayor and the country's first Portuguese mayor; the popular radio and television personality Hal Peary, better known as "the Great Gildersleeve"; and Mario B. Camara, who was instrumental in the coup of the Portuguese monarchy in 1889.
Rogers said she hoped all of these images will inspire others to reflect on the many Portuguese contributions to society and how San Leandro became a key homefront in Portuguese culture's effort to flourish throughout the rest of the nation.