The daughter of two Azorean immigrants, I grew up in a city with the largest percentage of Portuguese descendants in the United States, which meant that walking in church processions for the Holy Ghost feasts – a tradition from the island of St. Michael – was an obligation I had no chance of sidestepping. While I am unabashedly proud of my roots, my memories of marching in Portuguese processions remind me why it has been so important to escape a place where the mantra is “Born in Fall River, die in Fall River.”
Eager to learn of knowledge worlds beyond my own, I chose to attend one of the most diverse public universities and embrace difference. The more I learned about Islamic, Korean, Ethiopian, South African, Jewish, French and Latina culture from friends and coursework, the more I wanted to know. Finding points of similarity in different worlds, I relished in sharing my experiences with others to whom Luso-American culture was foreign. My new friends had never even heard of the Azores. Hundreds of years existing on the periphery in political and cultural isolation made the islands largely unknown, but I felt like I was bringing the culture to the forefront on a real, personal level with a renewed sense of cultural empowerment. I was really sharing the culture a huge part of me in an authentic way, without having to dress up in a costume and be told how to walk. Learning in an atmosphere filled with different faces, backgrounds and views has been transformative in my academic career and personal life. It has allowed me to open new pathways of thinking about difference and my place in the world.
When I walk across the stage on graduation day, I will be the first person in my family to earn a college diploma, but I am not done walking. I will neither slow down nor be held back. Inspired by my parents who courageously emigrated as young teens, I keep moving forward because ignorance is painful and a law school education provides me with opportunities to create social change by continuing to embrace difference.
Upon my professor’s request, I created a PowerPoint presentation on the City of Fall River for my Portuguese Culture course as an undergraduate in December of 2011.