Before we dive into this post, I wanted to take a moment to address the absolutely horrendous rhetoric that She Who Shall Not Be Named has been spewing all over the Internet like some kind of swamp troll. It’s very, very simple, and if you don’t agree with this statement, see your way off of my blog. And if you know me irl, and you don’t agree, yes, this is the official end of our friendship/acquaintance/whatever you want to call it. Humans rights are not opinions. If we disagree on basic human rights, we’re done.
Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary people are people. If you on purpose misgender or deadname or use the wrong pronouns for anyone, kindly fuck off into a void and never return. I literally do not care who you are, how you want to exist, or who you want to love. I support you. I see you. I am here, and I am queer with you, and I love you so damn much. You know that meme about don’t have a supportive family? I’m your family now. HI FRIENDS, IT’S ME, YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD BI FRIEND READY FOR MAXIMUM LOVE. Moving forward, I will no longer be rec’ing Harry Potter on this blog. I love it wholeheartedly, it meant a lot to me growing up, and it still means a lot to me now, but as this really poignant Tumblr discourse discusses, divorcing the artist from the art is kind of just ignorance is bliss, and I am not here to support its author anymore. And, I know you’ve probably already seen it, but at least we’ve still got Daniel Radcliffe, who is quite possibly the most amazing person on this planet. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that he distanced himself from her, was very polite, did not use profane language, and published the statement through The Trevor Project so that he was a) supporting trans rights, and b) likely getting a sensitivity reader BECAUSE HE IS THE BEST, and the other one had to put a damn warning label at the top of her response and turn off replies and name-drop the Cheetoh in Charge because she’s The Worst.) Instead of tooting my Gryffindor horn, guess what, my homies, I am definitely a firebender.
Which, uh, honestly, fits this post pretty well? This is going to sound absolutely crazy, but it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered I was third generation Portuguese. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I was Portuguese. My grandmother’s maiden name was DeCosta, and I knew that, somewhere along the line of ancestors, one of mine came from Portugal. I’m very proud of that heritage, but it was only recently that I actually discovered that it wasn’t just some distant ancestor, it was my great-grandfather.
I don’t know how I didn’t know. Well, actually. That’s kind of a lie. I can understand why I didn’t know. When my great-grandfather emigrated to the US from Portugal, he was ashamed of his heritage. He didn’t want to be targeted because of his accent, or because English wasn’t his first language, or just, simply, because he was different. Despite the fact that the US was literally taken from those who are different from those who now claim the country as “theirs”, and then was built on the enslaved shoulders of those who are different from those people, my great-grandfather was ashamed.
Truthfully, it’s more than just sad. It makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I have so much privilege because I am a white person in a world where being anything other than white is considered cause for discrimination, for abuse, and for murder.
I wish I could go back in time, sit next to my great-grandfather, and ask him for stories of Portugal. I wish I could ask him about his childhood friends, the struggles he faced, the hopes and dreams he had. I wish I could ask him for stories, and I wish that they could be spoken in Portuguese, and that I would understand. But, when my great-grandfather emigrated to the US, he refused to continue speaking Portuguese. He refused to raise his children in Portuguese. He refused to participate in Portuguese culture. He left all of it behind him, thinking that to stand firmly and proudly in his Portuguese heritage would cause him nothing but grief and sorrow in the US. I wish I could say that I didn’t understand why he did that, but I do. The US is a country that does not accept differences. It looks down on those they consider other. In leaving his Portuguese culture and heritage behind, my great-grandfather was trying to protect his family from the awful possibilities of being different in the US.
Because of all of this, I wasn’t raised Portuguese. My father’s side comes from Canada, and, before that, England, and so my mother, who also wasn’t raised Portuguese, defaulted to a standard white upbringing. I don’t fault either of them for that. They didn’t know any better. My mother wasn’t raised Portuguese, so how was she supposed to raise me that way? I do know better, though, and I’m doing my best to start incorporating Portuguese culture into our lives.
It started with food since people always come together around food. So many cultures, at their core, infuse their beliefs, their love, their pride in their food. As Thanksgiving was approaching last year, I decided that I wanted to change up what I usually brought for a side. We usually came with homemade (and delicious) M&M cookies and bruschetta (I make a mean bruschetta). And though we go to Thanksgiving at my aunt on my dad’s side, I wanted to infuse a little Portuguese flavor into our meal.
I made sweet bread. It was the first bread I’d ever tried, and I was up until 2AM in the morning doting on it because I hadn’t realized how long bread takes. It was the start of a wonderful bread adventure, which I’m sure you’ve seen in my wrap-up posts, and I’m always going to look fondly back on that first attempt.
But bread was not enough, so I started looking for Latin recipes that the rest of my family would enjoy. Even if all they got out of this was some good food, I’d be happy. Because every time I brought up Portuguese food, they were wary. They’d never really tried it, and they didn’t want to because all they could think about was stews and weird flavors. “You’re going to love it,” I promised, and, guess what? They did.
I’ve branched out beyond just Portuguese food, and am really trying to get them on board with Spanish and Mexican food that isn’t just burritos and tacos, Cuban food that they’ve always wondered about, but never thought to try, and soon, hopefully, Brazilian food since there’s such a huge Portuguese presence in Brazil.
don’t even start with me, I love this little guilt-tripping owl so much
But that’s not all! When quarantine started, I thought, well heck, might as well learn Portuguese, too, right? I suddenly have some free time since I’m not commuting, and I’ve always wanted to speak another language, so let’s give it a go. I love languages. I studied Italian in high school, and I nearly minored in French in college, but really couldn’t afford the required study abroad in France, so just took as many French classes as they would let me. And I wish, more than anything, that my great-grandfather had maintained his Portuguese pride and raised my grandmother in Portuguese so that my mother could have done the same. Because that isn’t the case, though, I’m taking matters into my own hands.
And it’s been a lot of fun! Duolingo makes it so easy to learn a new language, and the way they’ve setup learning means that you’re actually going to retain information. There are sections with multiple lessons that repeat phrases & words over and over so that you’re continuously exposed to them, and even when you move onto a new section, occasionally, a section will require you to practice it again so that you keep the information fresh. And previous lessons don’t just disappear–I learned about food & corresponding utensils back in the first group, but fast forward to the very end of the second group, they’re bringing it all back in as I start learning about household. Sure, I knew how to say fork (garfo), but now, after learning about prepositions & contractions, while I’m in the household section, I can now say I eat with a fork in the kitchen (Eu como com um garfo na cozinha.), and that is really cool to me.
I love how Duolingo is setup. I love that the owl guilt-trips me literally every night, and that I’m always trying to remember to get my lessons done early on Fridays so I don’t have to pause movie night when midnight’s creeping around, and I realize I’m going to lose my streak. Not to mention that Portuguese is a beautiful language, and I am having a blast learning it.
I’ve got a long way to go. It’s not just orange cake for my birthday and done. My future nieces & nephews aren’t going to be raised Portuguese, so, as their tia, I’m going to have to do my best to incorporate it into their lives in any way that I can. I can’t just call it a day when I finally finish learning Portuguese. I need to find people that I can speak to in our language. I need to find more ways to bring this amazing culture into my home so that maybe, even if just by osmosis, the rest of my family starts to appreciate and find pride in it.
This is just the beginning, but I am so damn proud to be Portuguese.