The Portuguese-American Rancho; Laços que Unem

A passing down of tradition through generations through Portuguese Folklore Groups.

Entre estas duas metades, aprendi a ser inteira, a espera da identidade fiz de xaile uma bandeira.”


The modern day Portuguese-American experience, for many, is inextricably linked to Portuguese folklore groups. These Ranchos Folcloricos are an important memory to many of us. Those of us who grew up in the Portuguese community, can always remember the swirling of those intricate skirts, the clacking of the castanholas, and stomping of feet to the fast-paced, animated music.

You can trace Portuguese immigration to the United States back to the 1500’s on the west coast. Larger numbers began to arrive around 1870. In the late 1960’s, with a relaxation of quotas in immigration laws, there was a new, significant wave of Portuguese immigrants coming into the United States. With them came their musical traditions. Within their communities, they created social clubs, which were often regionally specific. The folklore groups within would reflect the same.

The most common Portuguese folklore groups we see today, are those from the northern Minho region of Portugal. We can also find groups representative of the regions of Alentejo, Ribatejo, and the islands of Madeira and Acores. The typical dress, or traje are also regionally different, in a rainbow of colors.

These social clubs served as a gathering point for Portuguese immigrants that lived here. They were also a place where traditions were kept alive through celebrations and festas. They were places where one could feel like they were “home”, and find camaraderie in the shared immigrant experience. Through these clubs and ranchos, many people met their spouses and created families of their own. Subsequently this became an important way of passing on these traditions to their children and grandchildren. For some families, even a rite of passage, to have their children dance in the ranchos.

Even if you weren’t in one personally, you likely have a family member, or friend who was. Maybe you just enjoyed the twirling, stomping, and clacking of the castanholas, at any of the many festas you attended. The clubs, and ranchos themselves, are quite possibly the strongest link we have as Portuguese-Americans, to our culture and Portugal. They are certainly our most visual representation.

Além das aptidões e das qualidades herdadas, é a tradição que faz de nós aquilo que somos.

– Albert Einstein

“it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are.”

– Albert Einstein

Generational Folklore Project Details

With this project, I want to highlight the passing of this tradition through generations of families. I am looking for families with a multi-generational link; grandparents, grandchildren, parents, etc, that are part of these ranchos folcloricos. I am also looking for a variety of traje styles to show regional variety. If you have heirloom instruments, lenços, cestos, jewelry, or other accessories relevant to this project, I want to see those too! Together we will create an heirloom portrait to honor this tradition and our histories.

The end goal of this project is to eventually create a gallery exhibition and possibly publication in a book or magazine format. In return for your participation, there will be no session fee and you are guaranteed to receive one digital portrait of my choosing. If I choose to use more than one image from your gallery, you will receive those as well. You must be ok with the use of your portraits online, in various media, and publications. You will also be asked to sign a portrait agreement and model release.

If you are interested in participating, please use the below link to contact me so we can discuss further. I am looking for subjects with an actual history in the rancho groups, whether it be past or present. You must have your own trajes or access to one accurate for the rancho you were in, for involved family members.

As this is a heritage project that shows how rancho serves as a line to our Portuguese culture and history, you will be asked to answer a series of questions that will help me tell your own personal story. Please be as detailed as possible. This is your family’s story to tell. These details will help me create special, unique images for you and this project.

If you live out of state, you must be willing to travel to New Jersey for your portrait session.

** Please note that as this is a passion project and artistic endeavor, if you submit an application and are selected to participate, you will be contacted as availability permits by the photographer. Submitting an application does not guarantee participation.**

Please note you can also book a regular Cultural Portrait session for you and your family and benefit from a full session, collection of images, and of course, beautiful printed artwork.

Portuguese Folklore Groups - Generational Project, Ranchos Fólcloricos Portugueses - Projecto Generacional

Interested in Participating?

Please submit your application below! I look forward to hearing from you. Please note that due to the nature of this project, not everyone may be selected to participate.

See some videoclips from the project below! Don’t forget to follow on Instagram for more stories!

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If this project doesn’t apply to you, but you are looking for a regular portrait session, you can inquire for availability here:

Sofia Ribeiro Photography is a New Jersey Maternity PhotographerNew Jersey Newborn PhotographerNew Jersey Baby & Child Photographer, and New Jersey Family Photographer based in Northern New Jersey, serving North and Central NJ, including but not limited to Bergen County, Essex County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Morris County, Monmouth County, Hunterdon County, Middlesex County, and Warren County. We also serve New York City and Staten Island.

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