By EILEEN MARUM
Jose dos Anjos believes many New Englanders think Cape Verdeans are newcomers to the area, but that is just not so — and he has done the work to prove it.
Cape Verdeans arrived in the region first as crew members aboard whaling vessels, he says, and later as permanent settlers sailing aboard their own packet ships.
"There is a common misconception in this area that Cape Verdeans are recent immigrants to the United States," the 31-year-old dos Anjos said. "Their arrival prior to the Revolutionary War is documented and this immigration fostered ties between the American colonies and the crescent-shaped archipelago of the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast of Senegal."
A determined dos Anjos set out to set the record straight, and for a number of years has collected and compiled obituaries and had them published in two paperback books as part of a global Cape Verdean genealogy project.
The project began in 2002 when he focused primarily on the U.S. military service of Cape Verdean men while working on his master's degree thesis in diplomacy and military studies at Hawaii Pacific University.
"I thought the books 'Cape Verdean-American WWII Veterans of New Bedford,' and 'Cape Verdean-American Korean War Veterans of New Bedford, Massachusetts,' might be a good way to organize my research while continuing work on the master's degree," he said.
Though he never served in the military, dos Anjos has two uncles and several cousins who have.
Besides organizing his research, he said he also wanted to combat negative images of Cape Verdeans that are sometimes portrayed in the media.
"The spotlight is on the few, rather than the larger community," he said. "The positives of the community are rarely highlighted, except in the areas of food and music. ... We have professors, doctors, preachers, soldiers ..."
Cape Verdean men highlighted in his books worked at Revere Cooper and Brass and Briggs Engineering, or owned businesses.
Examples include William J. Lopes Sr., proprietor of W.J. Lopes and Sons Construction. Some Cape Verdeans were aircraft mechanics or worked at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, dos Anjos said.
Joseph M. Gonsalves of New Bedford had a distinguished career as a steward with the Presidential Lines. During World War II he participated in the Normandy invasion and Battle of the Bulge, and received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Service Ribbon with five battle stars, and the German Occupation Medal. He also drove a jeep for Gen. George S. Patton.
Dos Anjos, a 2001 graduate of Bridgewater State College with a bachelor's degree in history, said, "In war, race was an important factor. Some Cape Verdeans were put in all-white units and others in all-black units, which at times resulted in brothers being put in different units based on race."
After World War II, many Cape Verdeans ended up on New Bedford's docks loading and unloading ships, a job that was physically demanding and completely lacking in occupational standards. But Cape Verdeans knew they could make money there and they were ambitious, dos Anjos said.
Cape Verdean men and women also were the majority work force in the rope works. The New Bedford Cordage Co. hired many of the newly arrived immigrants, providing proof of the Cape Verdeans' longevity in the New Bedford area, dos Anjos said.