Bristol like many other communities in the New England area took its name from a sister city in England. Bristol was part of a much larger portion of land what was called the Bristol County which encompassed parts of Massachusetts. Bristol was chartered in 1680 as a small town in the Mount Hope and Narragansett Bays, surrounded in three sides by water. Because of its accessibility to the bay, Bristol played a major role on the maritime trade, being one of the stops for the Portuguese Navigators.
Bristol was not only a maritime trade center but also an industrial community from shipbuilding – Herreshoff, footwear – Converse, rug manufacturing – Robin Rug/Magic Carpet to many others. The abundance of work called for a great workforce and this provided a great opportunity to many Portuguese who came to Bristol in the early 1800’s through the 1980’s. Portuguese ceased the opportunity to make Bristol their community but so their home. They took pride in their work, their properties and it was evident with the improvements in their neighborhoods.
In the early 1900’s, Portuguese begin settling as a community with the formation of a club – Don Luiz Filipe Association which assisted the residents to assimilate to a new country and culture. Soon after, there was an urge to build a church – Saint Elizabeth/Santa Isabel – 1914 to continue to practice their Roman Catholic religion but more so to carry on the traditions of the Holy Ghost and Santo Cristo.
Bristol has evolved over the years but has not lost its character, its traditions, but more so its history. This year (2016), we will be celebrating the 231st Fourth of July parade, one of the oldest parades in the entire United States of America. I am very proud and honored to be the leader of this beautiful, historic town in the smallest state of the union – Bristol, RI.