For my entire life, I faced issues with my racial identity. Being Brazilian meant I was Latina, but not Hispanic. In this country, I felt there were very few people who knew there was a difference. It frustrated me when I would fill out MCAS tests, college applications, or paperwork that had a checkbox for Hispanic, but not Latina. In an attempt to educate the test makers, I would write Brazilian/Latina in the “other” section.
Through my racial healing, I learned that being Latina is a huge foundation of who I am today. My ancestors, my family, my cultural community have all endured so much to allow me to be where I am today.
Let me start from the beginning. I was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts. My Brazilian parents raised me in a city where we could drive 5 minutes and be in a community of all Portuguese-speaking people. It was nice to have the best of both worlds and I always considered myself to be Latina. My family took me to Brasil for the first time when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. For the first time, I visited Rio de Janeiro, my family’s hometown. Although I never spent a day there before this first visit, I felt like I was finally home. The people embraced me and I felt like I could really be myself. There is a huge feeling of community as everyone knows and interacts with their neighbors and smiles are in abundance. It was the first time I realized I was proud to be Brazilian.
I came back to the United States determined to study more about my country, to practice reading and writing in Portuguese, and to stay up to date with the music. I kept that promise until today. I wanted to share my experiences and my culture with my friends and teach them about our way of life. I was eager to show everyone that although Brazilians face struggles, like any other culture, we love life and we love each other.
When I reached high school, my parents put me in a primarily white private school where Latino students could be counted on two hands. This was the time when I realized I was “different” from some of my peers. This was when I really started to embrace my cultural background. For many of these students, it was the first time they were ever meeting or interacting with someone from Brasil and I felt I was going to be our best representative. I was always so eager to prepare for the Multicultural Festivals at school and show everyone photos of my trips, play our music, hand out food and drink samples, and even demonstrate how to samba. I was proud of each and every thing our country created. The simple fact that even our cars run on ethanol and that our fruits and vegetables are pesticide free made me proud.
Between our traditions, our food, our dances, our music, and our passion for life, there is so much to be proud of. Our veins run warm with rich history and glory; our veins run warm with proud Latina blood.