Nantucket’s Cape Verdeans and the local post of the American Legion

Post 82 of the American Legion was organized on Nantucket in July 1919. By the end of that year, it included more than a hundred veterans of World War I, and it was named in memory of Byron Sylvaro, a Nantucketer of Azorean heritage who lost his life in France.

Two Nantucket Cape Verdean men were charter members of the Legion and remained active members throughout their lives.  In 1968 life certificates were awarded to John Gebo Sr. and Joseph Viera.

Nantucket WW I veterans on the Methodist Church steps. John Gebo, Sr., WWI veteran, 1919, is on the far left, standing in Navy uniform. P1576

John Gebo Sr. (1896–1979) was born in Oak Bluffs to Cape Verdean-born parents. The family moved to Nantucket when he was in his mid-teens. He soon enlisted and served four years in the U.S, Navy in World War I. As a young veteran he competed as an amateur boxer in bouts held at Legion Hall, where members contended against Coastguardsmen. He was also featured as a singer at Legion fund-raising events.

Joseph Viera is shown playing checkers, seated outdoors. SC118

Joseph Viera (1894–1987), was born in Harwich to Cape Verdean-born parents who moved to Nantucket. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 and lived to be the oldest surviving Nantucket WWI veteran.

More recently, star athlete and musician extraordinaire James “Jimmy” Duarte (1936–2007), who did his service with the US Army, was a member of the Legion He has been followed by his son Dominic “Nick” Duarte, who has assumed many responsibilities in the organization. Nick and his daughter Keziah Duarte participated together in one of the Nantucket Cape Verdean oral history interviews.

Back in 1928 the post acquired the red brick former warehouse now known as Legion Hall. Throughout their tenure, the members have made the space available for countless community purposes as well as their own events.

Significant Nantucket Cape Verdean events have taken place in Legion Hall. In September 1954 it was the venue of the wedding reception for Norma Cabral and Albert Teixeira, a celebration for Nantucket’s Cape Verdean community, since they were only the second Cape Verdean couple to have been wed in St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle Church.  Previously, Cape Verdean couples were only permitted rectory weddings.

The newly-formed Sons and Daughters of Cabo Verde held their first Cape Verde Heritage Festival on Nantucket in 1988 at Knights of Columbus Hall on Cherry Street, and they wound up the year 1988 by sponsoring a benefit dance at Legion Hall.  In July 1990 they held the festival in Legion Hall. Having outgrown that space, the July 1991 Cape Verdean festival was at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall at Tom Nevers with transportation departing from Legion Hall. Annual festivals continued at Tom Nevers.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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