Coutinho Family Collection [1899-2000]
Francisco Coutinho was a Portuguese immigrant who built a life for his family in the United States. He was born on June 6, 1874 on the island of São Vicente in Cabo Verde. Francisco's parents were João Coutinho and Brigida Coutinho. Although he was born on an island, he lived his later life on the mainland in Lisbon, Portugal. He decided to first visit the United States in June of 1898, when he was twenty-four years old. He arrived in Brooklyn, New York, where he stayed for a few years before moving to Massachusetts in January of 1900. He eventually settled in the North End of Boston, purchased a home and worked as a steamship technician and entrepreneur.
Francisco Coutinho became naturalized in 1908 and was able to make multiple trips back to Portugal to visit his family. It was on one of these excursions that he met his future wife, Emilia. Emilia Nunes Ferrão was born in Portugal on June 27, 1882 to Anselmo da Silva Ferrão and Maria Rita Nunes. She spent most of her early adult life working as a shop attendant at Grandes Armazens do Chiado in Lisbon.
Francisco and Emilia Coutinho married in 1908 and had one son, named Manuel Nunes Coutinho, born on June 6, 1913. The family immigrated to the United States and settled in East Boston at 5 Harve Street where Francisco had resided since 1910. In 1917, Francisco’s younger brother, also named Manuel Coutinho, immigrated to the United States. Manuel, who was born on December 24, 1883, first traveled through Buenos Aires before arriving in Brooklyn, New York. He went to stay with his brother in Boston before finding his own residence at 268 Commercial Street. He declared his intention to become an American citizen in 1919 while he worked as a lodging-house manager and fireman.
In 1924, Francisco fell ill and knew he did not have much time left. He wanted to pass away in his homeland, so he traveled with his wife and son back to Portugal. After he died in Portugal, Emilia and Manuel traveled back to the United States. As per the culture at the time, Francisco’s brother, Manuel, decided to keep caring for his brother’s widow and married Emilia in July of 1925. Although Emilia and Manuel were married until the time of Manuel’s death, they had no children together.
Manuel Nunes Coutinho, the son of Emilia and Francisco, grew up to have a very successful and interesting life. In the 1930's, he performed in a Balanchine production of the Boston Ballet; in 1978, he had a part in "The Brink's Job" movie, filmed in Boston; and at the age of eighty-three, he ran as a torch-bearer in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay for the Atlanta Games.
Multilingual, Manuel was a lifelong learner with interests in government, history and world economics. Manuel was an athlete, a coach and sports enthusiast. He was an active member of Cottage Park Yacht Club and St. John the Evangelist Church.
Manuel married Frances Cancian in 1942 and they had five children: Anne-Marie, Barbara, Cissy, John, and Paul, and later, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. A devoted husband of sixty years, he traveled worldwide with his family.
Over the course of his eighty-nine years, Manuel aided over 3,500 Portuguese speakers gain US citizenship. He began this work while serving in the US Coast Guard in the Pacific during World War II. He continued supporting the community by teaching courses at North Shore Community College, Marion Court College and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS). He collaborated with MAPS to help immigrants across the state, most notably in Cambridge, prepare for their citizenship tests. He was even known to drive his students to these exams. His extraordinary work inspired the MAPS Manuel Nunes Coutinho Outstanding Volunteer Award. He was the first recipient of this award in 1999. This award continues to be presented annually to local volunteers who have followed in his footsteps and dedicated their time to helping the Portuguese speaking community thrive.
Manuel was recognized many times for his commitment and loyalty. Nominated for president George HW Bush's 10,000 Points of Light Award, Manuel also received military honors in World War II and later testified to a Congressional committee on the plight of immigrants in America.
In addition to his devotion to the Portuguese-speaking community, Manuel's legacy is his family, which grew to pursue careers in science, medicine, education, engineering, business and finance.
Manuel Nunes Coutinho dedicated himself to empowering individuals to achieve the American dream--the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Biographical note provided by: Frances Cissy Coutinho and Mia Rose Coutinho