IDESST Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center
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Preserving Marin County's Portuguese Heritage

Early Portuguese History



The traditional Holy Ghost Festival was a colorful celebration, ending with the “Chamarrita,” an old Azorean folk dance. As a result, the Sausalito festa became commonly known to the non-Portuguese community as the “Chamarrita festival.”

Portuguese Bay Area


The Medalhão de Camões was presented to the IDESST on June 5, 2010, by the Portuguese Ambassador to the United States in honor of the organization's efforts to preserve and promote Portuguese culture in California.


In this Marin County Fair video, "Karen Taylor talks about her family's heritage of dairy farming in Point Reyes Station and takes us to the annual Portuguese celebration and parade in Sausalito."

  Sausalito Portuguese Heritage Walking Tour - Guidebook
Fernwood Cemetery
First Sausalito Holy Ghost Festa
 IDESST Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center
 Tradition of the Holy Ghost Festa
 First Immigrants from the Azores
 Portuguese Dairy Ranches

Sausalito Portuguese Heritage Walking Tour - Guidebook
The Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center has created a self-guided walking tour through Sausalito and its surroundings (including the Tennessee and Gerbode Valleys in the Marin Headlands) that features structures and locations with a connection with Sausalito’s long Portuguese-American history. A Guidebook for this tour may be downloaded at the link below, or a spiral-bound, two-sided printed copy may be purchased from:

Sausalito Walking TourJoanne’s Print Shop
2000 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 332-1344
(printing cost: color $30/black & white $14)

The Guidebook may be downloaded and used by individuals for the sole purpose of enjoying the tour. Any other use, including any commercial use, requires the written permission of the Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center. There is no charge for downloading and printing or otherwise using the Guidebook for this purpose, although any donations to the Center to further our mission of preserving our Portuguese-American heritage are most welcome. Donations may be made via the link below.

Any questions or suggestions regarding the tour or the Guidebook (including ideas for adding additional stops or supplementing the information in the Guidebook) may be directed to the Hall’s History Committee at We value any feedback!

Download Tour Guidebook:
      Print File (17MB)
or Mobile File (7MB)

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Fernwood Cemetery
One of the most important stops on the Sausalito Portuguese Heritage Walking Tour is Fernwood Cemetery (previously known as “Daphne-Fernwood Cemetery”) at the entrance to Tennessee Valley. The cemetery, which began operatings in 1892, was for many years the preferred burial site for many of Sausalito's Portuguese-American and other families. With the permission of the Marin County Genealogical Society (the “Society”), the Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center is pleased to make available a copy of the listing of Burial Records for the Daphne-Fernwood Cemetery prepared by the Society’s Cemetery Records Project and published in 1983 in the Society’s “Cemetery Records – Marin County, California – Volume One”. These records are an invaluable resource for any who may be taking the walking tour or otherwise exploring the history of Portuguese-Americans who lived in Marin. A copy of the full volume is available at the Anne T. Kent Room of the Marin County Free Library in San Rafael. The book (as well as significant additional genealogical resources) is also available from the Society at

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First Sausalito Holy Ghost Festa
It was a Sunday morning in June,1886, and the village of Sausalito just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate had never seen anything like it. At 11 a.m., little girls wearing white dresses and bedecked in roses and carrying a glistening silver crown were led by Festa Bay Areabearers of Portuguese and American flags. They marched to the Catholic Church, where the crown would be placed on an altar. There a priest celebrated Mass in Portuguese. The girls and the crown they carried represented their beloved Portuguese Queen Isabel and her attendants, and the procession was the first recorded Festa do Espírito Santo (Festival of the Holy Ghost) held in Sausalito. When Mass ended, the congregation returned to António Lourenço’s store on Caledonia Street for a traditional feast of “carne e sopas” (meat and soup) and festivities, bonfires, and fireworks. The festivities continued for a full week.

The Holy Ghost celebration has been a Sausalito tradition ever since. Just two years after the first Festa in Sausalito, the IDESST was established and soon thereafter the original Portuguese Hall had its grand opening on Filbert Street in Sausalito.

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IDESST Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center in Sausalito
Many of the early Portuguese immigrants to Sausalito were from the Azores, a nine-island Atlantic archipelago. Hungry to preserve their traditions in their new homeland, many of the immigrants banded together to form the the "Irmandade do Divino Espírito Santo e Santissima Trindade," or the “Brotherhood of the Holy Ghost and the Blessed Trinity." It is commonly known as the “IDESST” or the Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center

Sausalito Events PlaceThe organization was officially formed on May 13, 1888, and its initial facility was the Portuguese Hall located at 131 Filbert Street in Sausalito. That building remains largely unchanged today and is occupied by the Sausalito Christian Fellowship organization. The Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center moved to a brand new building at its current location on Caledonia Street in 1954.

Since it’s founding the Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center has been a focal point of the region's Portuguese community. The Sausalito Portuguese Cultural Center is dedicated to the continued celebration of the Holy Ghost Festival and to the preservation and promotion of Portuguese history and culture.

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Tradition of the Holy Ghost Festa
Festa Parade Bay AreaBehind the Holy Ghost Festa is a beloved Portuguese legend that still moves people, especially in the Azores where traditions remain the center of community life. The legend dates to two centuries of hunger and poverty beginning in the late 1200s when famine ravaged the Portuguese countryside.

The struggling people gathered in their churches, and prayed to the Divine Holy Spirit. The Mass evolved into the Espírito Santo Festa, an annual celebration of thanksgiving for Queen Isabel’s unselfish gifts of food for the poor (see story of Queen Isabel on our Events Calendar page). Tradition is that young girls are crowned queens.

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First Immigrants from the Azores
Portuguese ImmigrantsThe first Portuguese immigrants arrive in Marin County in the early 1800’s. They were enlisted by Yankee whaling ships that stopped in the Azores for water, food and other supplies. The skilled young Portuguese sailors were brought around the Cape Horn to pursue the whales off the California coast. Sausalito, overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean waters reminded the early sailors of their homeland. They settled quickly, taken by the arid but cool climate. Soon to follow were fishermen, boat builders and finally scores of dairymen from the Azores.

From the Gold Rush era on successive waves of Portuguese immigrants arrived. They carved out new lives but clung to the traditions of their past. As late as the 1940s, there was a saying that a traveler from the Golden Gate to Petaluma would never be out of site of a Portuguese dairy. Sausalito’s Holy Ghost Festa is a reminder of the cultural ties that bind and unites Portuguese immigrants and their descendants.

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Portuguese Dairy Ranches
The earliest Portuguese immigrants settled in southern Marin County beginning in the 1850s, establishing tight-knit communities in Sausalito and other nearby towns. By the turn-of-the-century immigrant dairymen had transformed the local industry. The largest numbers of Portuguese immigrants were from dairy farms in the Azores, already famous for its cows and cheese. The Ilha de São Jorge is the center of the Azores’ dairy industry, and many of West Marin’s families have their roots there. Lush pastures and the temperate climate of West Marin were nearly ideal for dairy herds, just as on São Jorge. For decades Marin County was the leading dairy production county in the state, and its famous butter eagerly sought by urban residents.

Marin’s dairy industry was largely built by the hard labor of these newcomers. They relied on their Azorean heritage to create new lives for their families far from their island homes. Times have changed, and with the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore and the emergence of the Central Valley as a dairy production center, Marin’s dairy industry has become a quieter way of life. Its Portuguese heritage, however, is still celebrated. Descendants of the early immigrants continue to live in Marin, their Azorean names a reminder of their heritage: Afonso, Amador, Avila, Azevedo, Bello, Bettencourt, Boreiros, Brazil, Cunha, DeFraga, Dias, Francisco, Ferreira, Freitas, Lourenço (Lawrence), Machado, Martins, Mattos, Moraes, Paulino, Pedrosa, Lacerda, Ladera, Lopes, Nunes, Quadres, Regallo, Rosa, Sequeira, Silva, Silveira, Soares, Sousa, Teixeira, Terra, and Vieira among others.

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1850’s   First Portuguese whalers arrive from the Azores in Monterey Bay, and later Half Moon Bay.
1860’s - 1880’s   
Portuguese anchovy and sardine fisherman, boat builders, and later dairymen arrive from the Azores to settle in Marin County.

1880   Portuguese account for 23 percent of the total population of Sausalito, one half of which are involved in dairy ranching.
1886   First record of the “Festa do Espírito Santo” being held at António Lourenço’s shop on Caledonia Street, Sausalito.
1888   The original Portuguese Hall is completed on Filbert Street, and the IDESST is officially formed.
1895   The Marin County Dairymen’s Association was formed by Portuguese dairymen and IDESST members to protect their interests. The first president was Manuel Freitas.
1904   The IDESST Hall is formerly incorporated with the California Secretary of State.
1905   Manuel T. Freitas forms the Portuguese-American Bank of San Francisco and serves as its first President.
1957 - 1958   The Capelinhos volcano erupts, and earthquakes continue to rock Pico and São Jorge through 1964. JFK introduces a bill in the Senate to allow refugees from Azores, the “third wave” of Portuguese emigration to the U.S. from the Azores continues through the early 1970’s.
1988   The centennial of the founding of the IDESST is celebrated.

Sausalito News, various articles from June 17, 1886 through June 14, 1919

The Portuguese Shore Whalers of California, 1854—1904, Portuguese Heritage Publications of California (PHP), 2006

The Holy Ghost Festas, Portuguese Chamber of Commerce of California (Now PHP), 2002

The Portuguese Presence in California, Eduardo A. Mayone Dias, Ph.D., PHP, 2009

The Portuguese Californians- Immigrants in Agriculture, Alvin R. Graves, Ph.D., PHP, 2004

Capelinhos: A Volcano of Synergies—Azorean Immigration to America, Tony Goulart (Coordinator), PHP, 2008



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