FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A resolution is making its way through Congress to celebrate June as Portuguese National Heritage Month.
About 350,000 Portuguese Americans live in California. Most immigrated from the Azores, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.
But a large part of their history, contributions, and culture isn't widely known.
"Here in the Valley, as far as contributions are concerned by Americans of Portuguese background, it has been in agriculture and in the dairy industry," said Diniz Borges, the director of the Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute at Fresno State. At one time we controlled over half of the dairy production throughout the Valley."
He says although agriculture is a big part of Portuguese American history, they've also made their mark in technology, arts, and many other industries.
"Here in the Central Valley, we've been here in large numbers since the 1860s and 1870s."
That's why Congressman Jim Costa and David Valadao want to make June Portuguese National Heritage Month.
"As a Portuguese American, I am incredibly honored to be a member of a community that has contributed so much to the United States," said Congressman Valadao in a press release. "The story of my family's emigration from the Azores Islands of Portugal is truly one of the American Dream, and the over one million Portuguese Americans across the nation share a unique heritage rooted in community, perseverance, and pride. I am pleased to celebrate this heritage alongside my colleagues in the House of Representatives."
"We celebrate that rich diversity and those values of hard work," said Congressman Costa. "Those values of family, Those values of wanting to succeed in America and give back. And that's what the Portuguese American community has done for generations.I think if we understand our stories in terms of how we came here, we understand each other better because what we learn is that we have so much in common. My grandparents were illiterate, non-English speaking, and had little more than the clothes on their back...That holds true for so many other ethnic groups."