and Brazilian Communities in California
The Portuguese Communities in California project seeks
to bring the narratives of Portuguese and Brazilian
residents in California to life. This project will
preserve and explore the history of Portuguese and
Brazilian communities using oral history and qualitative
interviewing methodologies. We will explore why people
chose to come to the United States, how they came
here, and their experiences after they arrived. We
will compare contrasting attitudes on politics, economics,
race, family and gender relations, as well as issues
involved in cultural maintenance. Some of the interviews
will focus on music, song, and food ways.
Tammy Elwell was a senior, majoring in Political Economy of Industrial Societies.
She spent the 2002-03 academic year studying at the Pontífica Universidad Católica
in Santiago Chile and traveled through Brazil on her return.
Kate Pielemeier was a junior with a major in Development
Studies. She attended two years of elementary school
in Brazil and returned there in the summer of 2000
as a volunteer with the Amigos de las Américas
Natalie Vail was a junior, majoring in Music
with an interest in cultural anthropology. During
the fall semester Natalie conducted a very interesting
interview with a young immigrant from São Paulo,
Lisa Hsia was a senior, majoring in History with
a specialization in Chinese American history.
She had taken several courses in Portuguese language
and Latin American music. Lisa interviewed a
young woman from southern Brazil who was trying
to adjust to a very different type of life here
in the East Bay.
Fabiana Yu was a sophomore, planning to major in Political Science. She was born
in Brazil of Korean immigrant parents and came with them to the Bay Area as a
During the semester all five students had an
opportunity to learn about the Portuguese and
Brazilian immigration experience. Each was
able to locate an individual whom they interviewed
about their personal experiences as immigrants
to the Bay Area. Additionally, Tammy accompanied
Don Warrin and Deolinda Adão to the Napa Valley
for an interview with the musician Hélio Beirão
and his wife, the poet Maria das Dores Beirão.
Paulo Lins interview
March, 2004, Brazilian author Paulo
Lins spoke at UC's Center for Latin American
Studies. Afterwards he was approached by
three of the URAP students then working on the
Portuguese-Brazil project, Tammy Elwell, Kate
Pielemeier, and Fabiana Yu. Prof. Lins agreed
to meet with them the next day for a video-recorded
Paulo Lins is the author of the acclaimed novel Cidade de Deus, which
takes place in the violence-wracked Rio slum (favela) of the same name.
Made into a film, Cidade de Deus (City of God) garnered several nominations
for this year's Oscar awards.
Kate wrote later about the experience: “Mr. Lins
was in Berkeley for about a week, doing events,
interviews, and talks with the Spanish/Portuguese
Department and traveling around the Bay Area.
We decided to take advantage of this opportunity
by setting up an interview with him as quickly
as possible before he left. We miraculously were
able to get in touch with him and actually conduct
an interview the day before his departure. Because
he does not speak English (intentionally, we
learned!), Fabiana was the main interviewer and
I also helped to ask questions in my rusty Portuguese.
Tammy helped to film the interview and assist
us in the whole process of interviewing and thinking
of questions. It was amazing for us to conduct
our first interview with someone ‘famous'and
someone so inspiring.”
All three considered this the highlight of their
internship, to be able to sit down with such
an important writer and ask about his life experiences,
his art, and his concerns for society. Ultimately
we hope to translate the entire interview and
make it available to the public.
2002 - 2003 School Year
Karthik Murthy was a fourth year EECS major.
Karthik mainly handled the filming of the interviews.
He worked with the digital video camera and minidisc
recorder providing valuable assurance that our
interviews would be documented and available
Andreia Lee was a first year student at the time
undeclared, however, contemplating the history
major. She was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved
to the United States when she was 5 years old.
She is fluent in Portuguese. Andreia mainly interviewed
for the project.
Janice Hwang was a second year English major. She
primarily interviewed for the project, coming to
the project out of an interest in oral history.
Janice now works with ROHO as a transcriber, as
well as continuing with additional interviews for
Student Take on the Experience
Janice describes this first student group's experience below:
When we began our URAP experience, we never imagined
that a month and a half later we'd be in a dimly
lit, cool purple draped back corner of the PR room
of the San Francisco International Film Festival
with an actual film director sitting across from
us, only a Jellybelly filled candleholder between
us. Who knew? But it happened. The possibilities
of oral history interviewing! Professor Candida
Smith and Kathy Zvanovec were truly encouraging
and without fail, open to any ideas. Instead of
assigning us certain interviews, they left the
choice to us. We explored the different areas of
Brazilian culture in which we were interested and
found our own interviewees. There
was so much we freely did that were our own ideas
and interests, while still being steered and guided
by Professor Candida Smith and Kathy Z's advice
and help. So needless to say, we learned much about
oral history interviewing while at the same time
learningmore about our own interests in the culture.
One interest all three of us shared was film. What
was at first a whimsical “could-be” idea of interviewing
one of the Brazilian film directors at the festival,
was soon realized into a real interview sitting
with the director herself. And it was all in a
matter of two weeks.
One thing led to another and finally one Saturday
I got a call from the PR representative telling
me that Suzana Amaral had agreed to do an interview
with us. Now in complete disbelief, but utter excitement,
we began preparing for the interview. We had to
do our research on Suzana Amaral. We rented Macabea,
her first film and called Karthik to pick us up
—chauffer/cameraman/interviewer— because my VCR
wasn't working. It was about 10 o'clock. All three
of us sank into the couch and watched. Our interview
preparation. The day of the interview came. It
was one of the most enjoyable moments of that semester.
The three of us got into Karthik's car with camera,
tripod, minidisc recorder, and questions in hand. However
unprofessional we might have actually been, we
felt professional. Fledging interviewers on the
quest for a top interview. Still, there was definitely
no shortage of laughing on the way—not so serious.
The interview was definitely unique. The director
probably had never experienced such an unconventional
interview with even Karthik, who Andreia and I
thought would just be filming, suddenly posing
questions from behind the camera, “So what do you
think about fatalism?” All three of us interviewing,
eagerly and intently listening.
I f ever there was a group effort, this was it.
With the end of the interview, we packed up and
left the theater happy and feeling rather triumphant.
Before going back to Berkeley, we did one last
thing. To seal into memory this, our magical experience,
that a month ago we didn't even imagine happening,
we went to Café do Brasil for dinner. Andreia had
made reservations for us in the car on the way
to the interview. She introduced Karthik and I
to fejoada. Three orders of fejoada. So delicious!
We were so full and so happy. What an introduction
to oral history and Brazilian culture. What a memorable
and precious experience for all of us. We learned
how to listen, and received a privileged glimpse
into another's life.
Qualifications: Students working on this
project will have the opportunity to work with Portuguese
and Brazilian community organizations and Don Warrin,
the leading historian of Portuguese-language communities
in the Western United States. The main tasks students
will undertake while working on this project are
conducting interviews and transcribing interviews.
Some of the interviews will be with retired cannery
workers, family farmers/ranchers, teachers, religious
leaders, journalists in Portuguese-language newspapers
and radio, as well as the founding director of the
Portuguese museum and artists. We are also interviewing
owners of restaurants and teachers of capoeira (Brazilian
martial arts). Other tasks may include: indexing
interviews, working with digital video and/or audio,
preparing materials for publication, or making materials
accessible via the World Wide Web.