Brenda talks about her experience being a daughter to Brazilian immigrants and first generation college student. Brenda describes the transformation in her perspective from once desperately wanting to fit in to typical American standards, to now embracing her Brazilian roots and culture.
Both of my parents emigrated from this state in Brazil called Minas Gerais. My Mom came from the capital which is Belo Horizonte and my Dad is from this small, more rustic rural town called Governador Valadares. I didn’t think too much about it in my early, early ages but as I started getting into like third grade, fourth grade, with people, you know, dressing up for St. Patrick's day. And just being like, there is no Brazilian recognition, like really, there would be hispanic heritage month that we kind of talked about and black history month but Brazil is really weird because we are a little bit of everything. Usually, you know, when I am in the sun, I get like very, very tan. And my hair, especially when I was younger, was very long and big and curly and I had bushy eyebrows and I hated that. I really hated that. My best friend growing up was blonde with straight hair and blue eyes. And I would pray to God, like literally this third grader, I would cry to my Mom, and be like why don’t I have blonde hair and blue eyes, why don’t I look the way I want to look and fit this mold that I so desperately wanted to fit in. So at the time, I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to identify myself with something but that's what the issue was is that I often felt like these kind of headline identities, none of them really fit for me. But a lot of that in hindsight came from me trying to push down a lot of these aspects of myself that I feel like made me inauthentic. And it didn’t really, I guess come full circle until I got to UMass, and that's when my bubble really burst. And so my whole floor was filled with hispanic people, black people, caribbean, a very diverse mix of college kids. And when their families would come they would bring their traditional little Brazilian pastries and stuff, like pao de queijo, which is like cheese bread. And I remember this so well that one of the guys Mom came and brought it around for like to everyone on the floor, and that is such a Brazilian thing to do, like if you bring one thing you’re bringing it for everyone, I don’t know, and it just felt like, it was weird, it felt like a piece of home that I got to have at this really scary huge place. And I don't know, I feel like UMass being so big gave me the space to stop the comparison. That was when I was like, oh my god, I can stop being a poser kind of, and try to just relax a little bit, wear my hair natural. I also feel like going through different experiences and really realizing how much my parents sacrificed for me and care about me and show me so much unconditional love that not everyone in college gets to experience made me really appreciate them on a level that I never had. They really raised me with so much warmth, that it is crazy that I ever wanted them to stop being like that and be more American because it was the most nurturing environment. And now it's like, I’m like Mom please cook and yeah, just embracing that aspect also just like, now it’s time to kind of embrace differences. So yeah, I guess just like not thinking so hard about who I am and just being who I am, is what I am doing right now.