Cape Cod Town Honors Portuguese Heritage Through Larger-Than-Life Portraits

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Refurbished Portraits of Portuguese Matriarchs Watch Over Provincetown Harbor

Refurbished Portraits of Portuguese Matriarchs Watch Over Provincetown Harbor

PROVINCETOWN – Cape Cod’s outermost town is well-known as a world-class artist colony and a beacon of tolerance and diversity.

Since the mid-1800s, the Portuguese community has been a steady anchor in Provincetown, grounding a constantly evolving population.

And while their numbers have declined over the decades, the Portuguese influence remains vivid in a town that was once one of the most lucrative fishing ports in the nation, and now recognized as a premier tourist destination.

Five large-scale photographs of Provincetown’s Portuguese matriarchs that have watched over the harbor for more than a decade were reprinted and reinstalled this week at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The display, “They Also Faced The Sea,” was originally printed in 2003 to honor Provincetown’s fishing and Portuguese heritage.

Family members of those five larger-than-life women gathered on a hot and humid afternoon Wednesday to remember their mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, great-great-great grandmothers and aunts.

The photographs of Bea Cabral, Mary Jason, Frances Raymond, Almeda Segura, and Eva Silva had became faded over the years, but the legacy they had all left in Provincetown was as bright as ever.

“She was always smiling, everyone was ‘darling,’ all her life,” said Ron Cabral, one of Bea Cabral’s sons.



“It’s amazing how many people look at those pictures. I know every time I go in and out with the boat, I look over there to make sure they’re okay,” he said.

Cabral traces his family’s history in Provincetown back to his grandfather, who was a local fisherman.

The project was spearheaded by resident Jennifer Cabral and the community group Provincetown 365, which is working to promote a year-round community in town. Cabral and project organizers started a GoFundMe page, raising over $12,000 dollars for the re-installation, exceeding the $10,000 fundraising goal.

“I was watching them year after year get lighter and lighter and fade away and realizing they were becoming a symbol of a community that was fading from Provincetown, and they were supposed to be a symbol of the strength of the community,” said Cabral.

Cabral told a crowd of more than 100 at the re-dedication ceremony on MacMillan Pier, across the harbor from the display, that the portraits represent a “continuity and stability” for Provincetown.

“Provincetown’s Portuguese are the backbone of our modern sense of community and we are in their debt,” she said.

Cabral said Provincetown has always been a community in transition.

“We’ve had an influx of artists, we’ve had an influx of Portuguese. We’ve had an influx of the gay community. We seem to always be at a crossroads where there are different communities coming together,” said Cabral.

Richard Segura, Almeda Segura’s oldest grandson, said the portraits are important to him and the community.

“I love the paintings, they’re very, very meaningful to me,” he said.

Segura said his grandmother was a hard-working woman who had to raise her family alone after her husband died in 1949.

“She worked very hard, had a rooming house and all the children had to live in the cellar. She rented rooms for $2 a week and she did your laundry for you,” said Segura.

Debbie Beloza, great-niece of Frances Raymond, said it was emotional to see the refurbished portraits.

“We shared a lot of good memories with her, stories of her past of being a head telephone operator. She was just so loving. She accepted anyone in her house; black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor,” said Beloza.

“We miss her dearly and she’s with us today,” Beloza said.

The negatives of the original photographs, taken by photographer Norma Holt, were held by the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. The negatives were transferred to a digital format, before being enlarged for the re-installation.

“These are iconic images of Provincetown and are beloved by the community and the hundreds of thousands of visitors we see every year,” said museum executive director John McDonagh.

“The whaling, fishing, Portuguese, all of that heritage is something we hold dear at the museum and I know the community holds it dear. Our job really is to preserve it,” he said.

‘They Also Faced The Sea’ Refreshed in Provincetown

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