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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Interview Essay with my Brazilian Immigrant Aunt

For this assignment, I decided to interview my Aunt Sueli who is Brazilian. I interviewed her at her house in Orem, Utah. We had a great time talking, and I learned a lot about her that I didn’t know before. She was born in Recente, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Recente was the main army base for all of Brazil and her father served as a soldier for the army. My aunt was one of eight girls in her family. She lived with her family for a number of years however, she also lived with one of her older sisters in Sao Paulo for a short time. When she was fifteen years old, her older sister wanted her to come stay over the summer with her and her family. My aunts mother however, requested that she not go. Aunt Sueli left regardless of her mother’s opposition. The main religion in Brazil is Catholic, which my aunt was until her sister introduced the LDS church to her. She was baptized into that church by the end of the summer. My aunt’s parents were not happy about it at first because they were all catholic; however, after awhile, they supported her decision and her mom would even wake her up to get her to church on time. When she was old enough, she decided to serve a mission for the LDS church. She was assigned to serve a mission for a year and a half in northern Brazil.

The first time my aunt came to the U.S. was for a vacation. She spent a month here in Utah, and when she went back to Brazil, she realized how much she liked America. She thought, “I am going to quit my job in Brazil, and go back to Utah to learn English. So that’s what I did,” she said. Therefore, learning English became her main goal while living in Utah. In Brazil, if you know English well, people look up to you. In Brazil she had been attending college, and she felt that if she could learn English more fluently, it would benefit her in the degree she was pursuing. She said, “It was hard to learn English at first, but I picked up the language more quickly by having American roommates, a T.V, and being able to interact with people at stores and other places.”

My aunt’s friend introduced her to my uncle who served his LDS mission in northern Brazil also. They could relate to each other since they both had lived in Brazil and could speak Portuguese. There are many important cultural and holiday traditions from her native country. One tradition is sitting as a family all together and having a feast at midnight on Christmas Eve. On January 1st (the new year), all her family would wear white clothes on that day. They would talk and listen to music and dance. Brazil has also adopted many of the same holidays as America.

Everyone dances in Brazil for celebrations, parties, and just to enjoy themselves. However, only the more wealthy people were able to take actual dance classes like ballet. My aunt attended a lot of church dances instead of going to the risque communal dances that made her feel uncomfortable. Samba is a very popular dance in Brazil and my aunt’s favorite. Every year there is a celebration called Carnival. It lasts about three days from morning until night. My aunt never actually went because it was a long drive to the center part of town, and people wore little clothing and their dance was very suggestive that she opted from participating. When she was little, her family would go to a more appropriate place for children during the day at the time of Carnival, and they would dance the day away. The LDS church would try to coordinate camps around the same time as carnival where the youth could go swimming and do other activities instead of being around Carnival.

My aunt shared some differences that took time getting used to between her native country and the United States. One difference was how people greeted each other. When you greet people in Brazil, you hug and kiss each others cheeks, unlike the U.S where people don’t like to be touched as much. Since she has been living in the United States for many years now, she has become more accustomed to the U. S. greeting and doesn’t like to be touched during greetings anymore. Another difference she observed was acquiring food and other shopping. My aunt said. “We liked to go shopping a lot in Brazil. We shouldn’t have shopped so much,” she laughs. “When I moved here it was hard to get used to the fact that not everything was fresh. In Brazil, we would buy our fruit and vegetables at the markets each day. We liked to make a lot of home cooked food. In the U.S. when I saw that vegetables were in cans, I was shocked. I didn’t want to eat them!” Another clear difference she has come to know between both countries is camping. “We never camped out in Brazil. I didn’t really know what camping was until I moved here to the state of Utah in the U.S.” She has since learned how to set up camp in designated camping areas such as in Utah and Idaho and has slept in a tent and cooked by campfire.

After working hard for many years, my aunt was able to graduate from UVU with her Visual Arts degree. She still loves to learn and if she could go back to school, she would. She wishes to study English more.”Many people have two degrees in Brazil. Once they finish one, they start another one,” my aunt said. “A lot of people will come to America to get their education and then go back to Brazil to work, because it is a lot harder to go to college in Brazil. If you don’t have the money, you most likely won’t be able to go to college because the government doesn’t have funding like they do in the U.S. Scholarships are also a lot harder to qualify for. Some people who can’t afford it when they are young, will start working right after high school until they have enough money. It can take them years, but they work until they can afford it, even if they are old,”she said.

My aunt didn’t have any problems coming to the U.S. Currently she is a legal resident but not a citizen. Eventually, when she has the money, she will be able to pay the fees to become one. She feels like people who are citizens get more opportunities, especially in school. Aunt Sueli said, “I believe that if you are a citizen instead of a legal resident you have more privileges. However, I don’t really understand what all the benefits are yet. One thing I do know is that If you are a citizen, you are protected by the country.” One thing she has struggled with is some of the “different attitudes from Americans towards other people who are foreigners, compared to people who were born here in the United States.” For example, the egoistic attitude that Americans are better than they are. At the Macy’s Department store where she works she said, “they are very open to Latinos and supportive of them because they shop there a lot.” My aunt also is a substitute teacher for many school districts within Utah County.

Sometimes in schools, she has seen teachers treat children who are from other countries or speak different languages almost like they are children with special needs. In regards to women’s rights in Brazil, she said “women are very strong and have many rights just like the women in the U.S. Some men make more money than women at their jobs, just because they are men. However, in Brazil it’s changing and I have seen women make more money than men depending on the occupation. Personally, I’ve never felt like I’ve been mistreated for being a woman or being from a different country here in the United States, but I have seen others who have been mistreated.”

After this interview, I realized how much of a blessing it is to be a citizen born in this country. School is taken for granted in the U.S. I don’t always remember the struggles some people go through to get their education. We are very privileged in that way. I personally like that Brazilians are so warm in their greeting when they meet. It seems so much more friendly and welcoming than just talking to someone or giving them a simple handshake. As a woman, I can relate to my aunt when she talked about how men sometimes get paid more just because they are men. I agreed with her when she said that women should get paid just as much as men if they can accomplish the same task. I have gained more respect for my aunt knowing the sacrifices she took to follow her dreams and become the person she is today.

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