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|March 20, 2013
College VoicesInheritance - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Freshman, Brigham Young University
I’ve been to a restaurant like this one before, but back then all I really noticed or remembered was the meat. This place (called Tucanos) is almost overwhelming in its extensiveness — a long bar that winds around in a circle teems with different Brazilian sides and salads; servers scurry around the room, each carrying a skewer of some different kind of meat, moving from table to table in response to the little green and red wood cylinders on each table. Green-side-up means keep it coming; red-side-up means stop.
They stop by our table every few minutes to offer us a skewer of some new meat; they say the Portuguese words, so I don’t even know what I’m getting as they saw off small chunks and put them onto my plate. The meat is delicious. The roasted pineapple is even better. I feel guilty as I look at my other plate, heaped with sides that I got before I realized what exactly this restaurant was going to entail and probably won’t be eating now.
Most of the waiters speak Portuguese. They’re all either from Brazil or served their missions there. I follow their short exchanges with Vovo and with my uncle Appio, trying to pick out words I know or can recognize from my knowledge of Spanish and Italian.
Portuguese is a beautiful language; not having had much exposure to it before, I find a strange fascination in listening to them speak it. I repeat some of the words to myself, rolling them around on my tongue and trying to decide if I like the way they taste.
It’s been a curious series of events this past few months as a new proximity has allowed me to spend more time with my dad’s mother, who is from Brazil, than I have ever before. Much like discovering the existence of a new limb or a talent that I’ve never before realized I had or could use, I’m finding out a whole new side to my family and myself.
It’s not that I didn’t ever care about the Brazilian side of my family before. It’s just that I didn’t know much about it. So when Vovo and Appio took me to a Brazilian Independence Day celebration in Salt Lake City way back in September, I was mesmerized. I’d never seen anything like it. It was scaled down and Utah-styled, of course, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still fascinating — the elaborate costumes, the dances, the capoeira, a martial art that looks more like a dance than anything else.
I tasted things I’d never tasted before — pão de queijo (cheese bread) and other treats I’d never had. I think it surprised me to find out how much I loved it, just because I’d had no idea about of any of it up until then.
Going to things like this and spending so much time with this branch of the family reminds me strongly of my dad, across the country. At times like this I really feel his absence. But in a way it makes me feel closer to him too, as I see a part of him, of me, of our family that I didn’t know before.
I love listening to Vovo’s stories about her childhood and imagining the past generations she knew that I never got the chance to meet. Though I don’t know them, listening to her stories makes me feel closer to them, to a part of myself that I didn’t know existed until now.
I don’t know what I’ve inherited from them, those unknown ancestors and even the distant relatives I’ve never met; but allowing myself to experience these things that my grandmother and uncle provide for me, become immersed in the Brazilian the way I immerse myself in the Italian, helps me to find out that part of myself; and then I feel a connection and a closeness to them and to that part of my heritage that I have never before felt. It is one of the many blessings of coming to BYU that I am grateful for.
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