António Sousa’s Cameras

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António Sousa’s Cameras

Cameras from the “pioneer” immigrant António Sousa (Charles Sousa’s father), later donated to the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers.

Audio caption

Gilberto Fernandes
Click for Charles Sousa’s page

Creator: Kodak

Origin: Canada?

These cameras belonged to António Sousa (the father of Charles Sousa), an immigrant from the fishing town of Nazaré, in centra mainland Portugal, who landed at Pier 21 in Halifax aboard the steamship Saturnia on May 13, 1953. He was part of the first group of workers who arrived under a “bulk order” labour migration agreement between the governments of Canada and Portugal. António would become one of the most prominent Portuguese immigrants in Canada, as a successful businessman and community organizer in Toronto.

Like António, many of the early Portuguese migrants who arrived in the 1950s (the “pioneers”) took photos of the places they worked and lived in, and the people they met along the way, so they could send them to their loved ones in Portugal. In their letters home, some migrants left out their difficult situations and harsh realities encountered in Canada so not to upset their families or tarnish their masculinity as resilient “breadwinners.” These photos and letters home helped construct the myth of emigrant fortune that prevailed in Portugal since the 19th century, which in turn prompted many to try their luck abroad.

Some of the “pioneers” photos were published in the first books written about the history of Portuguese immigrants in Canada, including David Higgs and Grace Anderson, A Future to Inherit: The Portuguese Communities of Canada (1976) and Domingos Marques and João Medeiros, Portuguese Immigrants: 25 Years in Canada (1978). But it was the book by Domingos Marques and Manuela Marujo, With Hardened Hands: A Pictorial History of Portuguese Immigration to Canada in the 1950s (1993) that most contributed to introducing and popularizing the “pioneers'” photos and stories.

In these publications, the “pioneers” testimonials tended to focus on their hard work, initial struggles, isolation, and sacrifices, but also the camaraderie and mutual help between them. Their photos, in turn, showed them smiling, playing musical instruments, socializing, and having fun. Many of Sousa’s and other photos from the immigrants who arrived in the 1950s were donated to the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers.

António Sousa interviewed by Carol Coffey, c.2004. English and Portuguese. This is a clip from the raw footage of the documentary Strong Hearts, Steady Hands (2004) produced by Felipe Gomes and directed by Carol Coffey. The footage was donated by Gomes to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections (CTASC), York University Libraries, through the Portuguese Canadian History Project, in 2013. The finding aid to Felipe Gomes fonds at the CTASC can be found here.