Portuguese people

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Portuguese people
Total population
c. 42 million[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 Portugal 11,000,000 (2011)[3]
 Brazil 5,000,000 (eligible for Portuguese citizenship)[4]
 United States 1,471,549 (Portuguese ancestry)
 Venezuela 1,300,000 (Portuguese ancestry) [5]
 France 1,243,419 (Portuguese ancestry) [6]
 Canada 429,850 (Portuguese ancestry) [7]
 South Africa 300,000
 Angola 200,000[8]
  Switzerland 193,299[9][10]
 Germany 170,000
 Spain 126,651
 United Kingdom 90,134 [6]
 Luxembourg 82,363
 Guyana 50,000 (Portuguese ancestry)
 Australia 46,519 [11]
 Mozambique 40,413[12]
 Argentina 40,100[13]
 Belgium 38,000
 Cape Verde(Portuguese ancestry) 22,318[12]
Rest of Europe 30,822
Asia 30,000
Rest of the Americas 24,776
Rest of Africa 8,965
Portuguese, Mirandese, Galician
Predominantly Christian-Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups

Portuguese people (Portuguese: os portugueses) are an ethnic group indigenous to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian Peninsula of Southwestern Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and their predominant religion is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism.

Historically, indigenous Portuguese descend from the pre-Celtic, proto-Celtic and Celtic peoples who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula such as the Celtici, Lusitanians (proto-Celtic / para-Celtic) and the Gallaeci (Celtic) forming the core identity of the country, followed by the Italics, the Romans. Other major segments include the Suebi, the Buri and the Visigoths.[15]

Due to the large historical extent of the Portuguese Empire and the colonization of territories in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as historical and recent emigration, Portuguese communities can be found in many diverse regions around the globe, and a large Portuguese diaspora exists.

Portuguese people were a key factor to the Age of Exploration, discovering several unknown lands to the Europeans in Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.


Historical origins

The Portuguese are a Southwestern European population, with origins predominantly from Southern and Western Europe.

The earliest modern humans inhabiting Portugal are believed to have been Paleolithic peoples that may have arrived in the Iberian Peninsula as early as 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. Current interpretation of Y-chromosome and mtDNA data suggests that modern-day Portuguese trace a significant amount of these lineages to the paleolithic peoples who began settling the European continent between the end of the last glaciation around 45,000 years ago.

Distribution of R1a (purple) and R1b (red). See also this map for distribution in Europe.

Northern Iberia is believed to have been a major Ice-age refuge from which Paleolithic humans later colonized Europe. Migrations from what is now Northern Iberia during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, links modern Iberians to the populations of much of Western Europe and particularly the British Isles and Atlantic Europe. Recent books published by geneticists Bryan Sykes, Stephen Oppenheimer and Spencer Wells have argued the large Paleolithic and Mesolithic Iberian influence in the modern day Irish, Welsh and Scottish gene-pool as well as parts of the English. Indeed, Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b (of Paleolithic origin) is the most common haplogroup in practically all of the Iberian peninsula and western Europe.[16] Within the R1b haplogroup there are modal haplotypes. One of the best-characterized of these haplotypes is the Atlantic Modal Haplotype (AMH). This haplotype reaches the highest frequencies in the Iberian Peninsula and in the British Isles. In Portugal it reckons generally 65% in the South summing 87% northwards, and in some regions 96%.[17]

The Neolithic colonization of Europe from Western Asia and the Middle East beginning around 10,000 years ago reached Iberia, as most of the rest of the continent although, according to the demic diffusion model, its impact was most in the southern and eastern regions of the European continent.[18]

Starting in the 3rd millennium BC as well as in the Bronze Age, the first wave of migrations into Iberia of speakers of Indo-European languages occurred. These were later (7th and 5th Centuries BC) followed by others that can be identified as Celts.

Urban cultures eventually developed in south-eastern Iberia, such as Tartessos, influenced by the Phoenician colonization of coastal Mediterranean Iberia, which later shifted to Greek colonization. To note that there is very little or no evidence of settlements in Portugal by either Greeks or Phoenicians unlike it is sometimes stated.

Ethnographic and Linguistic Map of the Iberian Peninsula at about 200 BC.[19]

These two processes defined Iberia's, and Portugal's, cultural landscape - Continental in the northwest and Mediterranean towards the southeast, as historian José Mattoso describes it.[20] Given the origins from Paleolithic and Neolithic settlers as well as Indo-European migrations, one can say that the Portuguese ethnic origin is mainly a mixture of pre-Roman, pre-Indo-Europeans (such as, in other parts of Iberia, the Iberians, Aquitanians), and pre-Celtics or para-Celts such as the Lusitanians of Lusitania, and Celtic peoples such as Calaicians or Gallaeci of Gallaecia, the Celtici and the Cynetes of the Alentejo and the Algarve.

The Romans were also an important influence on Portuguese culture; the Portuguese language derives from Latin.

Other minor influences included the Phoenicians/Carthaginians (small semi-permanent commercial coastal establishments in the south before 200 BC), the Vandals (Silingi and Hasdingi) and the Sarmatian Alans (both migrated to North Africa, while some were partially integrated by the Visigoths and Suebi), and the Visigoths and Suebi (including the Buri, permanently established in the early 5th century), Saqaliba (people of Slavic origin), who also settled in what is today Portuguese territory.

The ancestry of modern Portuguese has been influenced by the many people which have passed on its territory throughout history. Overall, these people include the Pre-Roman People of the Iberian Peninsula (such as the Lusitanians, Calaicians, Celtici, Cynetes and other minor local tribes as the Bracari, Coelerni, Equaesi, Grovii, Interamici, Leuni, Luanqui, Limici, Narbasi, Nemetati, Paesuri, Quaquerni, Seurbi, Tamagani, Tapoli, Turduli, Turduli Veteres, Turdulorum Oppida, Turodi and Zoelae), and in some cases Romans, Vandals, Suebi and Buri, Visigoths, Vikings, Alans and Saqaliba.

Settlers also came from Burgundy and Flanders, settling in mainland Portugal and later in the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira (Descobrimentos).

For the Y-chromosome and MtDNA lineages of the Portuguese and other peoples see this map and this one.

Portuguese have also maintained a certain degree of ethnic and cultural specific characteristics-ratio with the Basques, since ancient times. The results of the present HLA study in Portuguese populations show that they have features in common with Basques and some Spaniards from Madrid: a high frequency of the HLA-haplotypes A29-B44-DR7 (ancient western Europeans) and A1-B8-DR3 are found as common characteristics. Portuguese and Basques do not show the Mediterranean A33-B14-DR1 haplotype, confirming a lower admixture with Mediterraneans. The Portuguese have a characteristic unique among world populations: a high frequency of HLA-A25-B18-DR15 and A26-B38-DR13, which may reflect a still detectable founder effect coming from ancient Portuguese, i.e., Oestriminis and Cynetes.[21]


The Lusitanians (or Lusitānus/Lusitani in Latin) were an Indo-European speaking people (likely Celtic) living in the Western Iberian Peninsula long before it became the Roman province of Lusitania (modern Portugal, Extremadura and a small part of Salamanca). They spoke the Lusitanian language, of which only a few short written fragments survive. Most Portuguese consider the Lusitanians as their ancestors. Although the northern regions (Minho, Douro, Tras-os-Montes) identify more with the Gallaecians.

It has been hypothesized that the Lusitanians may have originated in the Alps and settled in the region in the 6th century BC. Some modern scholars consider them to be indigenous and initially dominated by the Celts, before gaining full independence from them. The archaeologist Scarlat Lambrino proposed that they were originally a tribal Celtic group, related to the Lusones.

The first area settled by the Lusitanians was probably the Douro valley and the region of Beira Alta; then they moved south, and expanded on both sides of the Tagus river, before being conquered by the Romans.

The original Roman province of Lusitania was extended north of the areas occupied by the Lusitanians to include the territories of Asturias and Gallaecia but these were soon ceded to the jurisdiction of the Provincia Tarraconensis in the north, while the south remained the Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. After this, Lusitania's northern border was along the Douro river, while its eastern border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.

Pre-Roman groups

Map showing the main pre-Roman tribes in Portugal and their main migrations. Turduli movement in red, Celtici in brown and Lusitanian in a blue colour. Most tribes neighbouring the Lusitanians were dependent on them. Names are in Latin.

The Lusitanians were a single large tribe that lived between the rivers Douro and Tagus. As the Lusitanians fought fiercely against the Romans for independence, the name Lusitania was adopted by the Gallaeci, tribes living north of the Douro, and other closely surrounding tribes, eventually spreading as a label to all the nearby peoples fighting Roman rule in the west of Iberia. It was for this reason that the Romans came to name their original province in the area, that initially covered the entire western side of the Iberian peninsula, Lusitania.

Tribes, often known by their Latin names, living in the area of modern Portugal, prior to Roman rule:


Since 193 BC, the Lusitanians had been fighting the Romans. They defended themselves bravely for years, causing the Roman invaders serious defeats. In 150 BC, they were defeated by Praetor Servius Galba: springing a clever trap, he killed 9,000 Lusitanians and later sold 20,000 more as slaves in Gaul (modern France). Three years later (147 BC), Viriathus became the leader of the Lusitanians and severely damaged the Roman rule in Lusitania and beyond. In 139 BC Viriathus was betrayed and killed in his sleep by his companions (who had been sent as emissaries to the Romans), Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus, bribed by Marcus Popillius Laenas. However, when Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus returned to receive their reward by the Romans, the Consul Servilius Caepio ordered their execution, declaring, "Rome does not pay traitors".

After Viriathus' rule, the Lusitanians became largely romanized, adopting Roman Culture and Language. The Lusitanian cities, in a manner similar to those of the rest of the Roman-Iberian peninsula, eventually gained the status of "Citizens of Rome". The Portuguese language itself is a local evolution of the Roman language, Latin.

General traits

Modern Portuguese are an Iberian ethnic group and their ancestry is very similar to other Atlantic, Western and Southern European peoples, particularly Spain and to a lesser degree France and certain regions of Italy, with whom they share ancestry and have cultural proximities to. It is largely consistent with the geographical position of the western part of the Iberian peninsula, located on the extreme southwest of continental Europe, as there are clear connections with Southern, Western and North-western Europe, as well as parts of the Western Mediterranean. Dark to medium brown hair and brown and hazel eyes predominate in a majority of Portuguese people. However, light brown and blond hair and blue and green eyes are also found frequently. Chestnut and auburn-colored hair types occur generally. Legitimate black hair - non espresso brown - can be found, but it is not very common. Light, true red hair (meaning red shades that are non-auburn) is seen on occasion.

Well designed pigmentation field studies by Tamagnini (1916, 1936), Correa (1919) and others recorded national average fair hair ("blondism") frequencies of between 15 and 21%.[22] True red hair (ginger) amounts to approximately 3%. However, there are higher percentages of individuals with auburn and dark red-brown shades. Light eyes run between 19% and 30% [23] according to recently published pigmentation maps of Europe (see P. Frost, 2006). A recent study by Candille et al. (2012) comparing pigmentation levels between the Portuguese and three other ethnically indigenous European national groups — the Irish, the Polish and the Italians — concluded that, in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, the Irish were in the lightest end of the spectrum, followed by the Portuguese, Poles and Italians, with the latter being darkest. In terms of hair color, the Portuguese averaged lighter hair than Italians and darker than Irish and Poles. The Portuguese exhibited significantly lower frequencies in lighter eye shades in comparison to the Irish and Polish, and marginally less, compared to Italians.[24]


Demographics of Portugal

Portuguese men playing Fado

There are around 10 million native Portuguese in Portugal, out of a total population of 10.75 million (estimate).

Native minority languages in Portugal

A small minority of about 15,000 speak the Mirandese language, close to Leonese[citation needed] in the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Vimioso and Mogadouro. All of the speakers are bilingual with Portuguese.

An even smaller minority of no more than 2,000 people speak Barranquenho, a dialect of Portuguese heavily influenced by Extremaduran, spoken in the Portuguese town of Barrancos (in the border between Extremadura and Andalusia, in Spain, and Portugal).

Ethnic minorities in Portugal

People from the former colonies (namely Brazil, Africa - Afro-Portuguese, and parts of India) have been migrating to Portugal for centuries.[26] Africans slaves were so numerous in Portugal that by 1505 10% of Lisbon was made up of sub-Saharan Africans and 15% of the labor force in rural areas was African.[27] It has been estimated that between 1400 and 1640, about 350 to 400,000 black African slaves were introduced in Portugal and Spain and assimilated in the local genepool.[28] More recently, a great number of Slavs, especially Ukrainians (now the third biggest ethnic minority[29]), Moldovans, Romanians and Russians, keep migrating to Portugal. There is also a Chinese minority.

In addition, there is a small minority Gypsies (Ciganos) of about 40,000 people,[30] Muslims about 34,000 people[31] and an even smaller minority of Jews of about 5,000 people (some Ashkenazi, and the majority Sephardi, such as the Belmonte Jews).

Portuguese diaspora

Portuguese Nationals abroad (2010)[12]
Country Population
 France 644,206
 Brazil 329,000
  Switzerland 172,933
 United States 166,199
 Spain 146,035
 Canada 130,607
 China (incl. Macau) 129,735
 Luxembourg 88,200
 Angola 94,767
 Germany 92,472
 United Kingdom 90,000
 South Africa 80,476
 Venezuela 74,067
 Australia 50,157
 Belgium 43,509
 Mozambique 20,413

In the whole world there are easily more than one hundred million people with recognizable Portuguese ancestors, due to the colonial expansion and worldwide immigration of Portuguese from the 16th century onwards to India, the Americas, Macau (see Macanese people), East-Timor, Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa. Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost to emigration more than any West European country except Ireland.[32] From the middle of the 19th century to the late 1950s, nearly two million Portuguese left Europe to live mainly in Brazil and with significant numbers to the United States.[33] About 40 million Brazilians have relatively recent Portuguese background, due to massive immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[citation needed] About 1.2 million Brazilian citizens are native Portuguese.[34] Significant verified Portuguese minorities exist in:[35] (see table)

Portuguese Sephardic Jews (mostly descendants) are also in Israel, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Venezuela, Brazil[36] and Turkey. In Brazil many of the colonists were also originally Sephardic Jews, who, converted, were known as New Christians.

Sign and frame about Portuguese immigration inside one subway station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In the United States, there are Portuguese communities in New Jersey, the New England states, and California. In the Pacific, Hawaii has a sizable Portuguese element that goes back 150 years (see Portuguese Americans and Luso Americans), Australia and New Zealand also have Portuguese communities (see Portuguese Australian, Portuguese New Zealander). Canada, particularly Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, has developed a significant Portuguese community since 1940 (see Portuguese Canadians). Argentina (See Portuguese Argentine and Cape Verdean Argentine) and Uruguay (see Portuguese Uruguayan) had Portuguese immigration in the early 20th century. So has Chile where an estimated 50,000 descendants live, as the country's maritime industries attracted a small number of Portuguese as well. .[citation needed] Portuguese fishermen, farmers and laborers dispersed across the Caribbean, especially Bermuda (3.75%[37] to 10%[38] of the population), Guyana (4.3% of the population in 1891),[39] Trinidad,[40] St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the island of Barbados where there is high influence from the Portuguese community.[41]

In the early twentieth century the Portuguese government encouraged white emigration to Angola and Mozambique, and by the 1970s, there were up to 1 million Portuguese settlers living in their overseas African provinces.[42] An estimated 800,000 Portuguese returned to Portugal as the country's African possessions gained independence in 1975, after the Carnation Revolution, while others moved to Brazil and south to South Africa.[43]

As a result, there are Portuguese influenced people with their own culture and Portuguese based dialects in parts of the world other than former Portuguese colonies, most notably in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (see Kristang people), Barbados, Jamaica (see Portuguese Jamaican), Aruba, Curaçao, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana (see Portuguese immigrants in Guyana), Equatorial Guinea and Sri Lanka (see Burgher people and Portuguese Burghers). In 1989 some 4,000,000 Portuguese were living abroad, mainly in France, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Venezuela, and the United States.[44]

Portuguese constitute 13% of the population of Luxembourg. In 2006 there were estimates to be over half a million people of Portuguese origin in the United Kingdom (see Portuguese in the United Kingdom), this is considerably larger than the around 88,000 Portuguese born people alone residing in the country in 2009 (estimation) (however this figure doesn't include British born people of Portuguese descent). In areas such as Thetford and the crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey, the Portuguese form the largest ethnic minority groups at 30% of the population, 20% and 3% respectively. The British capital London is home to the largest number of Portuguese people in the UK, with the majority being found in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Westminster.[45] The Portuguese diaspora communities still are very attached to their language, their culture and their national dishes and particularly the bacalhau.[46]

List of countries by population of Portuguese heritage

Country Population  % of country Criterion
Portuguese in North America
United States Portuguese American 1,477,335 0.5%


Canada Portuguese Canadian 429,850 1.3% Canada 2011 Census[48]
Portuguese in South America
Argentina Portuguese Argentine 40,100 0,9% [49]
Brazil Portuguese Brazilian 5 million (eligible for Portuguese citizenship) -


Venezuela Portuguese Venezuelan 1,400,000 5% [citation needed]
Portuguese in Europe
France Portuguese French 1,161,900 1.5%


United Kingdom Portuguese British 88,161 0.8%


Netherlands Portuguese in the Netherlands 20,981 0.11%


Luxembourg Portuguese Luxembourger 82,300 16.1%

They constitute 16.1% of the population of Luxembourg, which makes them
one of the largest ethnic groups as a proportion of the total national population. [53]

Portuguese in Asia
Macau Macanese people 25,000 - 46,000 2%


Sri Lanka Portuguese Burghers 5,000 0.02%


Portuguese in Oceania
Australia Portuguese Australian 56,000 0.4%


New Zealand Portuguese New Zealander 650 0.02%


Portuguese in Africa
Angola Portuguese Angolan 200,000 1%


Mozambique Portuguese Mozambicans 82,593 0.36%


South Africa Portuguese South African 80,476 0.15%


Total in Diaspora ~105,000,000
Portugal Portuguese people 11,000,000


Total Worldwide unknown

Portuguese ancestry in the Brazilian population

Portuguese emigration to Brazil from the beginning of colonization, in 1500 to Present
Source: Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE)
Nationality 1500-1700 1701-1760 1808-1817 1827-1829 1837-1841 1856-1857 1881-1900 1901-1930 1931-1950 1951-1960 1961-1967 1981-1991 1991–present
Portuguese 100,000 600,000 24,000 2,004 629 16,108 316,204 754,147 148,699 235,635 54,767 4,605 400,000
Passport of an immigrant from the Braga District to Brazil

In colonial times, over 700,000 Portuguese settled in Brazil, and most of them went there during the gold rush of the 18th century.[58] They managed to be the only significant European population to populate the country during colonization. The Portuguese migration was strongly marked by the predominance of men (colonial reports from the 16th and 17th centuries almost always report the absence or rarity of Portuguese women). The multiplication of descendants of Portuguese settlers happened to a large degree through miscegenation with black and amerindian women. In fact, in colonial Brazil the Portuguese men competed for the women, because among the African slaves the female component was also a small minority.[59] This explains why the Portuguese men left more descendants in Brazil than the Amerindian or African men did. The Indian and African women were "dominated" by the Portuguese men, preventing men of color to find partners with whom they could have children. Added to this, White people had a much better quality of life and therefore a lower mortality rate than the black and indigenous population. Then, even though the Portuguese migration during colonial Brazil was smaller (5 million Indians estimated at the beginning of colonization and 3 to 4 million Africans brought since then, compared to the descendants of the over 700,000 Portuguese immigrants) the "white" population (whose ancestry was predominantly Portuguese) was as large as the "non white" population in the early 19th century, just before independence from Portugal.[59] After independence from Portugal in 1822, around 1.7 million Portuguese immigrants settled in Brazil.[59] Portuguese immigration into Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries was marked by its concentration in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The immigrants opted mostly for urban centers. Portuguese women appeared with some regularity among immigrants, with percentage variation in different decades and regions of the country. However, even among the more recent influx of Portuguese immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, there were 319 men to each 100 women among them.[60] The Portuguese were different from other immigrants in Brazil, like the Germans,[61] or Italians[62] who brought many women along with them (even though the proportion of men was higher in any immigrant community). Despite the small female proportion, Portuguese men married mainly Portuguese women. Female immigrants rarely married Brazilian men. In this context, the Portuguese had a rate of endogamy which was higher than any other European immigrant community, and behind only the Japanese among all immigrants.[63]

Even with Portuguese heritage, many Portuguese-Brazilians identify themselves as being simply Brazilians, since Portuguese culture was a dominant cultural influence in the formation of Brazil (like many British Americans in the United States, who will never describe themselves as of British extraction, but only as "Americans").

In 1872, there were 3.7 million Whites in Brazil (the vast majority of them of Portuguese ancestry), 4.1 million mixed-race people (mostly of Portuguese-African-Native American ancestry) and 1.9 million Blacks. These numbers give the percentage of 80% of people with total or partial Portuguese ancestry in Brazil in the 1870s.[64]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new large wave of immigrants from Portugal arrived. From 1881 to 1991, over 1.5 million Portuguese immigrated to Brazil. In 1906, for example, there were 133,393 Portuguese-born people living in Rio de Janeiro, comprising 16% of the city's population. Rio is, still today, considered the largest "Portuguese city" outside of Portugal itself, with 1% Portuguese-born people.[65][66]

Genetic studies also confirm the strong Portuguese genetic influence in Brazilians. According to a study, at least half of the Brazilian population's Y Chromosome (male inheritance) comes from Portugal. Black Brazilians have an average of 48% non-African genes, most of them may come from Portuguese ancestors. On the other hand, 33% Amerindian and 28% African contribution to the total mtDNA (female inheritance) of white Brazilians was found[67][68]

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a predominant degree of European ancestry (mostly Portuguese, due to the dominant Portuguese influx among European colonization and immigration to Brazil) combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees. 'Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values from 51% to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population'.[69]

A large community-based multicenter autosomal study from 2015, considering representative samples from three different urban communities located in the Northeast, Southeast and South Brazilian regions, estimated European ancestry to be 42.4%, 83.8% and 85.3%, respectively.[70] In all three cities, European ancestors were mainly Iberian.

It was estimated that around five million or more Brazilians can acquire Portuguese citizenship, due to the last Portuguese nationality law that grants citizenship to grandchildren of Portuguese nationals.[4]

See also


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