May 24th, 2009 | No Comments »

Living in the United States, race, color and ethnicity became subjects of reflection like never before in my life. These are matters of great importance in the humanistic fields like education and psychology, and what calls my attention is that these aspects are discussed, analyzed and studied almost detached from the whole of the person “carrying” them, rather than as part of a complex individual.

According to Wikipedia, “multiratial Brazilians make up 42% of Brazil’s population”, which is to say that almost half the population of my country consists of mixed race people. Although the actual number is new to me, my observation pointed towards something like that, and I have taken pride in this perception since the first time I got in contact with the schizoid way race is perceived in the United States. More recently, however, I have realized that the separation has its advantages, and the main one I see is the attachment each people has to their own culture, keeping in contact with their origins, their mother language, their customs and traditions. In one word: roots. I come from Arabs, Amerindian and Portuguese on one side and Lebanese and Portuguese on the other. I love having this rich ancestry, but I know very little of the history and the geography of my family. I wonder if this obliviousness was purposeful on the part of the miscegenating couples to avoid cultural shock.

About ten years ago my sister befriended a group of Arab girls in Sao Paulo whose families kept their breed almost pure. I do not think it was a coincidence that these girls could speak at least a few words of Arabic and knew their ancestors’ history. I became envious of them, I wished I knew more about mine, and I asked my relatives for information. Although I was told about our origins, I can only remember some fragments. I do not know the name of the city my great-grandfather came from – or was it my great-great-grandfather? I can barely pronounce his original name – the one he had before he changed it to be more understandable for the Brazilians – and I do not know any words in Arabic. I know absolutely nothing about my Amerindian ascendence, nor about the Portuguese one.

The other day a friend shared the story of an acquaintance who had been adopted. As we often hear happens with adoptive children, this person my friend knew became uneasy with the unknown and would not rest until she found her birth mother. After she met her, she gladly rejoined her adoptive one and dropped the matter.

I feel a little like the adoptive child, who seeks the lost mother  and decides she can be dismissed once they meet. However I still feel the emptiness, the need to belong like these “pure breed” people do. I wonder if other multiracial individuals feel the same, if what happens to me is as common as what happens with adoptive children. That does not solve my personal restlessness, but it would be quite interesting to find out.

Posted in life
May 22nd, 2009 | No Comments »

I find it interesting how some people who are truly concerned with multicultural education and overall human acceptance of the fellow human sometimes aiming to make a point of broadening the perspective dismiss as superficial the food of a people.

Although we cannot fully understand the complexities of a culture by simply preparing and eating its staples, they are a great source of information if we are willing to explore. The reasons behind each item, the influence the weather has on what is produced or not in a determined region, what is considered sacred, what is considered profane, what is eaten every day and what is reserved for special occasions, how things turned out to be prepared the way they are and what they are called, all these aspects of what we eat in each nook of the world may not determine the people’s character, but are very likely determined by the same factors. Dry weather, dry food, dry people. Hot weather, hot food, hot people. Not always straight forward like that, but connections can often be made. Isn’t it interesting that most middle eastern cultures use bulghur wheat, lamb, mint, yoghurt…? The list could go on. In South America, for some reason, beans are favored, along with beef and vegetables. Different seasonings mark the variations in countries or regions, but we can almost certainly count on beans.

I see an undeniable connection between food, geography, and culture, and I firmly believe it is perfectly plausible to begin diving deep into the most intricate aspects of diversity beginning with the eating habits and traditions – as long as we keep in mind that these are the path to understanding, not all of the culture in itself.

Posted in Education, life