They found jobs and they found boarding houses in Mineola to stay in. In 1924, Paes brought his wife and daughter down to Mineola, where they were the first Portuguese family to permanently settle. Word of mouth brought others here, especially as times got tougher in New Bedford and suburban life boomed on LI.
That's the story told by former professor Neil Miller of Adelphi University, and it's confirmed by members of Mineola's thriving Portuguese community. You can check it out at Candy Maia's venerable Lisbon @ Night, said to be the first Portuguese-owned restaurant in the village.
Seventy-five years after Antonio Paes discovered Mineola, the Portuguese influence in Mineola is strong. Locals estimate that perhaps 5,000 Portuguese and their descendants live in the village, augmented by a second wave of immigration from the mother country in the '70s.
And, like many groups of immigrants, the Portuguese settlers came for a slice of the good life and they got it. Paul Pereira, who was born in Portugal and came over as a child in 1976, now is a social studies teacher at Mineola High School. He knows his roots.
"What you basically have," he says, "is rural immigrants who have a fourth-grade, fifth-grade education. If my parents had been rich, they wouldn't have come here. That's just the nature of immigration." SA