José Cerqueira Desousa
Desousa1- José Desousa making wine with his mother, Brizida Cerqueira, Tristão and Antonio Desousa
Desousa2- Family Dinner (from left) José Desousa, Nancy & Janette Desousa, David, Alvaro Jeannie &
Rosa Ganhão, Debbie & Margaret Desousa.
Desousa3 – Brothers—Tristão, Delfim & José Desousa.
My husband, Jose Cerqueira Desousa, came to Canada by boat in 1955 after serving his country in the
Portuguese army. He was 25 years old. He left behind all his friends, three sisters, three brothers and his
mother in search of a better life for himself and for all of them—after his father passed away, he had
become the primary bread winner. When José heard the Portuguese and Canadian governments were
working together to bring labourers to Canadian farmers, he applied was was accepted. He borrowed
money from three friends in Portugal to pay his trip and after seven days at sea, the boat arrived in
Montreal where immigration officials picked José up and took him to a farm in Kemptville. He didn’t
know anyone here and could not speak a word of English. It was hard working on a farm in those days.
The days were long and almost everything was done by hand. They gave him his room and board and $50
a month. He was required to stay there for a year. At the end of the year, he had saved up all his money
and bought a ticket for his brother Delfim to come and join him. Delfim was able to get a job on the St.
Lawrence Seaway and Jose quit the farm and got a job washing dishes in a family-owned restaurant in
Prescott. The brothers lived over top of the restaurant. Here José learned more English. A year later José
bought a secondhand car and after hearing about General Motors hiring, they quit their jobs and drove to
They rented a room and got a job pruning Christmas trees near Pontypool until they both got hired by
General Motors. With their new jobs, they were now able to bring another brother. Tristão arrived and got
a job picking mushrooms until he was able to get into General Motors—the brothers were never without a
job. José bought his first home on Olive Avenue in 1960 and rented it out to some of his friends who were
also starting a new life in Canada.
I started to work at the Royal Bank in Oshawa in 1959 on a proof machine in the back sorting and
balancing the teller’s work. On Friday night I had to help the tellers write up passbooks because they were
really busy with the GM fellows so this is where I met José and Delfim. One Friday night when I was
leaving work, José was waiting outside the bank and wanted to give me a ride home—I accepted. We
were married June 29, 1963.
In 1964 the brothers went back to Portugal and brought back the two youngest siblings—Tony and Rosa.
At 17, Tony was still a minor, so their mother came as well.
The Desousa siblings all married and had families, spreading roots across Durham Region [and beyond].
Many of them became members of the Northern Portugal Cultural Centre at it’s inception and the second
and third generation Desousas continue to be involved to this day.