By Zack Downing, Staff Writer
Countless diverse cultures and races have fought among other Americans in the military history of the United States.
One of the less recognized ones are the Cape Verdean-Americans that have made themselves present in the United States military for more than a century.
Photographer Ron Barboza decided that Cape Verdean veterans needed to be recognized, and so more than four decades ago, he began to search for Cape Verdeans who had fought valiantly in wars for America.
He would listen to their stories and take photos of them, documenting their impact on the military.
Many of the veterans he found were located just over in New Bedford, which he calls“Cape Verde’s Ellis Island.”
On April 5, 2017, he brought all that he had gathered together and opened up a gallery in the New Bedford Free Public Library, filled with portraits and stories of the Cape Verdean veterans whose lives had touched him.
“This exhibition is dedicated to every Cape Verdean who has served or is serving in the Armed Forces of the United States,” said Barboza, a Cape Verdean himself.
“This is a story that has been untold throughout American history.”
“We have made a lot of contributions to America and been largely left out of history,” he added. “The cranberry, whaling industries were all built on the backs of the Cape Verdeans. I want people to know about our contributions.”
There are about 80 photos and portraits lining the walls of the 3rd floor of the library, some as modern as the War in Afghanistan.
The portraits feature Cape Verdean-American soldiers in uniform, each one a unique character Barboza met over his years of traveling and documentation.
Many of the portraits are of World War 1 fighters who were photographed long ago; no WWI veterans are still alive today.
However, a 99 year old World War II veteran, Joseph Silva, did attend the opening, to much respect from the visitors.
The exhibit even features the names of some of the Cape Verdean fighters that participated in wars as early as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
“Cape Verdeans were there on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Anzio, the Red Ball Express, North Africa and Italy,” Barboza said.
The message of the gallery is clear: Cape Verdeans have made a significant impact on United States history, and they need to be recognized for their efforts.
Barboza has dedicated his life to documenting the Cape Verdean community through photography, and spreading awareness of their influence and accomplishments. He has taken more than 50,000 photos of Cape Verdean Americans across the country.
For anyone interested in seeing the gallery, it will be on display on the third floor of the New Bedford Free Public Library on 613 Pleasant Street.
The gallery will not be closing until May 24, 2017, as it is an important piece of history honoring Cape Verdean American veterans.