Dimas Espinola Oral History Interview
Oral History Interview with Dimas Espinola, October 19, 2017
Born on the Azorean island of Terceira, in the village of Biscoitos, in 1950; Dimas Espinola immigrated with his family to the United States in the late 1960s, settling in Lowell’s “Back Central” (predominately Portuguese) neighborhood; his father, formerly a furniture maker in Biscoitos, obtained a job as a loom fixer in the Wannalancit Mills; his mother worked in a shoe factory; Mr. Espinola received his formal education in schools on Terceira and, upon arriving in Lowell, he secured a work permit and, at nearly 17 years of age, he was employed in a manufacturing job in the Paris shoe factory on Bridge Street; at the same time Mr. Dimas, a communicant at St. Anthony’s Church, began working closely with the pastor, Rev. John F. deSilva; among his activities was translating English for Portuguese members of the community, which included various issues affecting the neighborhood, including a state-proposed extension of the Lowell Connector highway that threatened many homes and businesses in the “Back Central” neighborhood; in addition to his community activism and work with the church, Mr. Dimas also became involved with the Portuguese-American Center (and its soccer team), as well as the Holy Ghost Society; he remained in the shoe industry for many years, becoming a foreman and factory manager.
Scope and Contents:
Interview conducted by consulting historian Gray Fitzsimons; a large part of this interview focuses on the organized opposition (and Mr. Espinola’s role in this opposition) to the Lowell Connector highway extension in the early 1970s and the threat of demolition of a large section of the “Back Central” neighborhood; it also contains some information on the family background of Mr. Dimas, the family’s immigrating from the Terceira to the United States, the working lives of the Espinola family in Lowell’s shoe factories in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as observations on the various businesses and cultures that would have been gravely impaired had the highway extension been constructed.