Oi, Gente! Tudo bom?? Some updates from the last month of my time in Brazil. A LOT has happened. In July 120 of us came together in Salvador, Bahia for our Mid- Year Enhancement seminar to reflect, reenergize, and reconnect with our purpose as Fulbright Scholars in Brazil! Hard to believe I am halfway done with this grant.
During our time in Salvador we went on a city tour. My favorite part of the city tour was passing the Gordinhas de Ondina sculptures designed by Colombian Artist Fernando Botero. However the sculptures were built by a local artist – Eliana Kértsz.
“Das três esculturas representa as raças formadoras do povo brasileiro, a negra, a branca e a índia. As esculturas estão voltadas cada uma para a sua terra de origem, Damiana representa os negros, Mariana, homenageia os brancos a terceira é Catarina, e representa a comunidade indígena que ajudou formar o povo brasileiro. Juntas, as três formam as Meninas do Brasil”
Our tour guide explained that the three women represent the races that created the Brazilian people – the African slave, the European Colonizer, and the Original Indigenous Natives of the the region. Thus, each woman faces their land of origin. Damiana represents the Black community, Mariana the white Europeans, and Catarina represents the indigenous natives of the land.
Through this artwork in Salvador I was reminded about my own cultural heritage and history of the Paraguayan women who rebuilt a Nation that was destroyed after the Triple Alliance War. I saw the intersection of these identities and the rich cultural history that exists in this Region of Brazil. This beautiful Representation of Strong and Fierce women; standing tall despite all the historical wounds ignited a renewed sense of gratitude in me. The tour guide uniquely described the Indigenous Woman Sculpture (Catarina) from the Indigenous Tribe – Tupí Guaraní – where descendants of Paraguay also come from. Seeing those sculptures brought me closer to the history of Brazil and how it connects not only to Paraguay, its neighbor, but also to the rest of Central and South America – Latinoamerica, Las Américas. This rooted me in my presentation the next day.
My fellow ETA’s Kiaya Rose, Stefano and I presented on Latinidad. Our presentation was titled “You Don’t Look American! US Latinx Perspectives in Brazil”. In this session we discussed topics regarding US Latinx experiences and living abroad representing the United States. One of the most common microaggressions we have to navigate as self-identified Latinos/as/x abroad is the notion that the people we meet daily, automatically do not believe we are U.S Citizens. We do not fall within their working knowledge and stereotypes of “Americans” as Blonde blue-eyed individuals. Thus, in these spaces we have the opportunity to create change – our simple representation and presence shifts the paradigm of what an “American” looks like. Not only are these workshop spaces important for our collective relationship building, but also for those ETA’s who do not identity as Latinx to begin to understand what our day to day lives look like. Every person’s lived experience is different no matter where their cultural heritage is from. However, those individuals who have roots and familial lineage in South America, living in Brazil as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar adds another layer of immersion, processing , and navigating.
In addition, we attended workshops led by our fellow colleagues on various topics such as Controversy in the Classroom: Tackling the Tricky Issues of Our Time, The Importance of Movement in Recife, Pernambuco & the Classroom & The Blacker The Berry: Consciously Bringing Black Culture into the ETA’s Classroom. It was a hard choice to pick between the presentation options because all of the topics were relevant and important to the ETA classroom.
Salvador, Bahia and its rich cultural history, art, and sunsets renewed my sense of belonging in Brasil and reminded me “why” I chose to apply for a Fulbright Grant in this particular region of the world. The moment of seeing the Gordinhas de Ondina re-centered and refocused how I wanted to continue with the grant for the rest of my time here. It’s hard to believe that 6 months have already passed!
I am grateful for this journey of international immersion and the lessons along the way that fundamentally shift my perspectives on what I know the world and people to be. What a gift!
Above all in celebration of 72 years of the Fulbright Grant I am reminded by Senator J. William Fulbright himself: “The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy – the the ability to see the world as others see it.”
During the remaining three months of my time in Brazil I hope to continue learning how Brazilians see the world and in turn widen my understanding of South America and its interconnectedness with other countries.
Until next blog post, gente!