Born and raised in Toronto.
The Portuguese community here in the early 90s wasn’t too open about tattoos. But now their kids are getting their mom’s portrait. Their mom’s love it… If you’re a Portuguese kid and you want your parents to love something, get your dad’s favourite soccer team on you. He will think he is the coolest tattoo you could get – James Monteiro.
Far away from rural Serra da Estrela, where his parents left in 1981, James has been tattooing Torontonians of various backgrounds since 2005, including many Portuguese clients. This tattoo artist grew his love of drawing during his many trips to Portugal as a child. He later decided to turn his passion into a career, in part prompted by one teacher’s stereotypical expectations for working class Portuguese-Canadian boys.
James Monteiro was born in Toronto in 1985, four years after his parents immigrated to Canada. James’ parents met in Lisbon in their teenage years. After they got married and had James’ older brother, Mário Monteiro, they decided to move to Aldeias, a small rural town near Gouveia, Serra da Estrela, in central mainland Portugal – where James’ father had been born into a famiy of shepherds; his mother was born in Ribarosa, Trás-os-Montes. In 1981, after the factory where they worked closed, they decided to move to Canada. The young couple initially left Mário behind and settled on Rogers Avenue in Toronto. With the help of a few friends, James’ father found jobs assisting in restaurants and the cleaning industry.
James learned to speak Portuguese at home with his parents and older brother who spoke fluently. His parents took him to Portuguese festivals and other events in the city, during which he proudly wore ethnic symbols. He also visited Portugal frequently with his family. During these trips, James spent much of his time drawing on his sketchbook, inspired by his brother’s Portuguese issues of 1970s Tintin and Spiderman comics. James’ older brother also influenced his career by taking him to art classes every weekend. He was also negatively influenced by a bad teacher who communicated his low expectations for James’ future, based on common discriminatory stereotypes about Portuguese working-class boys. Insulted by the teacher’s “plan” for him, James decided to pursue his love of drawing and start a career as a tattoo artist.
James started tattooing in September 2005, when he was 20. The first tattoo parlour he worked at was located on Bloor Ave. and Bathurst St., from where he moved to Queen St. West in 2013. His classic style is heavily influenced by cartoons like Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, and Tintin. Popular with his Portuguese clientele are favourite soccer team logos, ships, Virgin Marys, Mother’s portraits, hands in prayer, rosaries, and the Portuguese flag.
Hora dos Portugueses