Museum of Migration and Communities

By Land

Journey to Europe (1960-1975)



The 84 Portuguese thought they would find paradise in France: convicted of illegal entry – a fine of 100 francs.


“ Seven nights of walking… it was necessary to continue with the men, otherwise they would abandon us… no woman would accept the journey if she knew… it was necessary to overcome mountains, rivers… we all fell into a ravine, I don’t even know how do we not die”.

“ We went from prison to prison, handcuffed, as if we were criminals or savages…”

“The snow wouldn’t let us go… it took us a month to arrive. I don’t know how I didn’t die.”

“ I would rather starve to death in Portugal than come as I came. If I started again I would die… when I had already crossed the Spanish border, I was capable of turning back if I knew the way; even if I lost the money for the trip…I will never allow a son of mine to come this way”.

“ They wanted to abandon us in the middle of the snow. They could kill us. We were lost, we didn’t save anything. We found a Portuguese who was sick, after 3 days on the mountain he couldn’t swallow anything because of the fever he had”.

“The smuggler had promised that we wouldn’t walk anymore and we walked all the time, 82 hours on foot… I was so tired. He brought a shirt and a nightgown. I left everything…I was so sleepy that I abandoned everything…I crossed three rivers…I had to get into the water…”

“The live animals in a closed wagon were Portuguese clandestines”

France Soir newspaper, 9 February 1964

“Traveling by truck is worse than walking on foot…everything is closed, unable to breathe, I felt so bad that I even wanted to be arrested to return to Portugal”.

To reach France, 21 Portuguese (including 5 women, a 5-year-old child and 2 babies) walked for 27 days.

EXHIBITION – The Portuguese dream – Portuguese Emigration in France – Panel 3



1603: To stop human hemorrhage following discoveries, a law in the Ordinances of Philip I prohibits emigration. In

1709 and 1711, two Decrees were adopted expressing the same concern.

1720: A law that only allowed citizens invested with functions to go to Brazil, and this “to prevent the numerous people who flee each year from this Kingdom from leaving for the captaincies of Brazil, especially from the province of Minho, which, being the most populated, it is today in such a state that there are no longer people to work the lands, nor to provide services to the populations.

1947: Decree-law nº 36199 which suspends emigration. “Considering the need to regulate Portuguese emigration, taking into account the protection due to emigrants, the country’s economic interests and the valorization of overseas territories by the increase of the white population”

1954: Decree-Law No. 39749, which classifies clandestine emigration as a crime, establishing criminal sanctions and assigning powers to the PIDE to repress it .

EXHIBITION – The Portuguese dream – Portuguese Emigration in France – panel 13


( top left)

The Jump, a film made in 1967, by Christian de Challonges.

Main interpreters: Marco Pico, Antonio Passalia and Ludmilla Michaël, with the collaboration, in all other roles, of Portuguese emigrants, non-professional actors. “This film is proof of a scandalous situation: the immigration of Portuguese workers.”

( C;)

( top right)

The jump is a film about the surprised, amusing, sometimes superficially uneasy look that António has of Paris. To look where the tiredness and disappointment of waiting, of rude refusals, of failures appear. A gaze that does not judge us and that, for that very reason, becomes even more accusing.

Jean-Luc Pouillade, “Témoignage Chrétien” 4 January 1968.

EXHIBITION – The Portuguese dream – Portuguese Emigration in France – panel 12


“The jump”. They transpose “the big step”. During the last six months, every day, there were about three hundred who came to join the (Portuguese) colony in France, which now has more than five hundred thousand people, and which has increased tenfold in ten years, among which 95% are “ clandestine”.

“ Almost every night, in groups of twenty or thirty, they crossed the Bidassoa River on foot, upstream of Biriatou.” Says an inhabitant of the region: these nocturnal expeditions were fraught with many dangers. At the hospital in Bayonne, Portuguese victims of falls or the cold of the mountain were often treated. Some died during the trip. Some “smugglers” took advantage of the situation to plunder and loot customers. This was the case of three Portuguese, found strangled and another whipped to death. Some anonymous graves in cemeteries in the Spanish Basque Country testify to these atrocities: “deceased in fraud”…and at a high price. In fact, five years ago, a “ticket” cost an average of 2000 Francs. Several years of savings.

Francis CORNU

Le Monde, 2 / 9 / 1970

EXHIBITION – The Portuguese dream – Portuguese Emigration in France – panel 24




135,000 Portuguese enter France.

110,000 are undocumented.

47,000 are women and children.

“Foreign emigration reaches a new record in 1970: 2 emigrants out of 5 are Portuguese”.