National Treasure Trip #1—–Anisha DeSilva

The first National Archive’s trip was such an exciting experience. I found that files not only varied in size or thickness but even contained recommendations, bonds statements and pictures. Though I was not fortunate to find files on my group’s research topic, the rest of my group was able to. One of the files was about a Portuguese East Indian, Gastano P. Moronan, entering Ellis Island in 1918.  He was 26 years old and was born on the island of Goa. Also, his last job was a marine chief chef on the ship, Murphy, in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad. The only documents he was carrying was his identification card and a passport. When reading this file, I became very interested in his classification as a ‘Portuguese East Indian.’ I think that Moronan was trying to use ‘Portuguese’ to either elevate or separate him from the racial status as an East Indian. Claiming a more ‘white’ race could possibly push his inspector to overlook that he’s native to a country included in the Barred Zone Act of 1917.

The most interesting question that asked Moronan was asked during his interview was why he didn’t ask the American Consul to give him new papers. Earlier in his questioning, he previously told the Inspector that he lost all his documents in the burning of Murphy. In response to that question, he said, “The American Consul said that (indicating passport) his ok oh.”[1] This answer I believe is one of the factors that lead Inspector Bruno and the Board to exclude him from the United States. In addition, his lack of documents also made him look very suspicious too. The ambiguity on whether his passport was a valid means of identification, demonstrates how the administration manipulated laws and their meanings. 

[1]Bruno, Ellis Island, Immigrant Inspector, New York Harbor, N.Y., December 7, 1918, File 54436-253; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

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