Born in Braga, Portugal in 1930, Antonio Da Silva, decided to leave his mother, two brothers and his homeland. He hoped to pursue a better life and job opportunity in his trade as an upholsterer. On May 8, 1953, Antonio and his two friends, Manual de Sousa, also an upholsterer and Domingos Vieira, a carpenter, embarked on the Saturnia ship in Lisbon, Portugal. This trip made them among the first 67 “official” Portuguese immigrants to Canada (Photo 1).
Photo 1 – In lower square outline, Antonio Da Silva is sitting above the Saturnia life buoy. In the upper square outline, Manual de Sousa is standing on the left and Domingos Vieira is in the bottom right corner.
They arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 13, 1953. They encountered difficulties not speaking the language of their new country. Antonio was separated from his friends as each one was sent to a different destination for their new job opportunity. Antonio was sent to Toronto, while Manuel de Sousa was sent to Rimouski, Quebec and Domingos Vieira to southern Ontario. After travelling by train for 3 days from Halifax, Antonio arrived in Toronto and was offered a job at a Chinese laundry business which was unacceptable to him. After a few days, the Canadian government, found him a job opportunity in Ottawa to pursue his trade. He and another new immigrant Jose Pereira were sent together to Ottawa, the city where they both settled in and made their future lives. Eventually, Manuel de Sousa and Domingos Vieira moved to Ottawa also where they settled with their wives and raised their families.
They faced the hardships of not speaking the language, earning low wages and adapting to a new culture such as unfamiliar foods and a colder climate (Photo 2). Fortunately, Antonio met his future wife, Delfina, an immigrant from Spain, in English class in November 1953. They married the following year in October (Photo 3).
Eventually, Antonio earned 90 cents per hour practicing in his trade, much more than the 10 cents per hour he earned in Portugal. By working hard, Antonio was able to save and pay off his loans for his travel to Canada and he purchased his first car (Photo 4).
With the little amount that they both earned, Antonio and Delfina managed to save enough to purchase their first house in 1956. The mortgage payments were less than the rent they were paying beforehand. They raised their five children in this home (Photos 5 and 6).
After working for others as an upholsterer, he decided to start his own business “Da Silva Upholstering”. He began in the basement of a house he rented in 1959. As his business grew, he was able to purchase a new retail property in 1963. He was able to hire employees. In 1970, he sold his business to two of his employees who, to this day in 2023, are still the current owners. Antonio stayed with the new owners for 2 years before he went on to work for two other furniture retailers until he retired at the age of 55.
After 68 years of marriage, Antonio and Delfina (Photo 7), are healthy in their 90s and continue to live in their second home in Ottawa. Their children all married and, over the years, the family has grown to 25 members with 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
Over the years, Antonio volunteered in the Ottawa-Hull Portuguese community and was recognized for being one of the Portuguese Pioneers in this city from 1953-1973 (Photo 8) and by the Lusitania-Portuguese Recreation Centre in 1979 for his services to the Cultural Division (Photo 9). Antonio helped in raising funds to purchase a building for the Portuguese community to enable gatherings for celebrations, dances and language lessons for their children.
Antonio was fortunate to attend the celebration of the 25th anniversary Portuguese-Canadians with other fellow Portuguese immigrants (Photo 10) held in Toronto and also the 50th anniversary – Celebrating Portuguese-Canadians event held in Mississauga (Photo 11).
Antonio Da Silva plans to attend the 70 Anos Canada celebration on May 13-14 2023 in Toronto. He will attend with some family members at the “Gallery of Portuguese Pioneers” and the “Mariza” concert on Saturday May 13th and the “Portugal the Festa” at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday May 14th. Come and join him to learn more about his story!