Dr. Manuel Luciano da Silva passes
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Portugal)
Bristol — Manuel L. da Silva, a well-known physician, historian, author and activist in the Portuguese-American community, died early Sunday morning, Oct. 21, at R. I. Hospital following an illness of a few days. He was 86.
His death came as a shock to his many friends and acquaintances. One of his closest friends, Frederico Pacheco, of Bristol, describes him as “an extraordinary doctor, many times practicing medicine without charging a cent.”
“He was a doctor, ‘a village doctor’ and every time his patients sought his services he would explain things to them in detail and in simple terms,” said Pacheco. “Always with the intention of doing good, he initiated, a few months ago, a program through Skype, where he could help people from his village that didn’t have access to doctors. He was a unique person.”
Born in the village of Cavião, near Vale de Cambra, Portugal, on Sept. 5, 1926, his last medical program via “Skype” with people from his hometown was on Columbus Day, Oct. 8.
Dr. da Silva was associated with the Bristol County Medical Center for over 35 years, beginning in 1963. Prior to that he practiced for three years at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, and a year at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. He also served as medical director at the R. I. Veterans Home for 21 years. He retired in 1998.
Dr. da Silva, not only, spent much of his life in pursuit of the truth in medicine, he also sought the truth in history.
The doctor was known around the world for his study of the inscriptions on Dighton Rock in Berkley, Mass., where a vessel commanded by Miguel Corte Real is believed to have landed in 1511.
His last appearance at “The Rock” was on his 86th birthday in September.
“His great love was the Dighton Rock,” stated Pacheco. “Among many other initiatives, he got the State of Massachusetts to finance the construction of the Dighton Rock Museum.”
He and his wife Silvia Tavares Jorge were deeply involved in the process of preserving the historic marker on the banks of the Taunton River, and the museum in which it is now located.
In 1971 he authored the book “Portuguese Pilgrims and Dighton Rock,” and subsequently presented more than 400 lectures in universities and to cultural groups on the subject.
“He was the most brilliant emigrant I have ever known,” stated Pacheco. “He was completely crazy for everything Portuguese. Through the various programs he created on the radio and television, the books he published and all his lectures, he disseminated our history, the Portuguese discoveries, culture and traditions that he so enthusiastically spoke of.”
A highlight of his historical explorations came when the doctor and his wife visited the Vatican Library in Rome and found evidence that Christopher Columbus was of Portuguese origin.
In 1989, he published in English and Portuguese his controversial conclusion that “Columbus Was 100% Portuguese,” among many other publications and articles.
While in Portugal in 2006 he and his wife published the book “Christopher Columbus was Portuguese.” This became an immediate best seller and attracted well-known Portuguese film director, Manuel Oliveira, who adapted the book into a movie titled “Christopher Columbus, the Enigma.” The film won a gold medal at the Venice Film Festival in Italy, and in 2008 had a successful tour in the United States.
“He was a man that spent his life doing good and helping others,” stated Vice- Consul of Portugal in Providence, Leonel Teixeira, who added that he had a lot of love and was a defender of all things Portuguese. “It is difficult to accept the loss of this great Portuguese.”
According to the Associação Dr. Manuel Luciano da Silva, in Cavião, Portugal, Dr. Da Silva was the only Portuguese emigrant, in life, to have a museum built in his name and a cultural association with public utility status in national territory.
A museum was organized and inaugurated in his honor by his admirers, in his hometown, in 2001. His personal papers and memorabilia are preserved in a newly built museum building, which adjoins the family homestead.
He also founded several civic and cultural organizations, including the Knights of Corte Real, the Portuguese-American Federation, the Academy of Codfish of New England, the Bristol Fourth of July Chief Marshal’s Association and several T.V. programs devoted to medicine and Portuguese immigrant life.
Among his many honors, he was a recipient of the prestigious Portuguese Order of Prince Henry the Navigator in 1968 and Commander to the Order of Merit in 2011. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2010 and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities at Rhode Island College in 1972.
He was the son of Capt. Manuel Martins da Silva and Luciana Soares da Pina da Silva. In addition to his wife Silvia Tavares Jorge, he is survived by two sons, Manuel and his wife Kelly (Ahearn), and their daughters Victoria and Alexandra; and Jose and his wife Christine (Tracy) and their children, James and Katelyn.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 25 at St. Elizabeth Church, in Bristol and today a Mass is taking place at the Igreja de S. Pedro de Castelões, Vale de Cambra, Portugal. His burial was private.