In every community there are people who have different experiences, who are unique and yet similar. We live side by side with each other, but how much do we know about our neighbors? Most of the people I spoke to for this piece are well known to me, and yet I did not know their stories. We all have a story, sometimes known only to ourselves.
Maria Barbosa, Helio da Silva, Jhoseph Ramon da Silva, Ivani Proti and Valci Neto Carvalho were all interviewed. Each of them was asked the same set of questions, including why they came here, what were the challenges, joys and surprises, and whether they filled out a U.S. Census form. And while they were interviewed separately, all their answers had a little something in common. Their reasons for making this huge journey into the unknown were either because of family or the chance of getting a better job. Their biggest challenges were the language barrier, and for some, not being able to drive, an issue for most Brazilian immigrants. The feeling of being safe and the friendships that they have made are the best things about living on the Vineyard. Most mentioned that the friendships they have made here are the best friendships they have ever had. What follows are the interviews.
Why did you come here? And how?
Mrs. Barbosa: “I moved here to help my ex-husband pay his bills and I did not come illegally. I came with a 10-year visa.”
Helio da Silva: “I moved here in search of work.”
Mrs. Proti: “I moved here because my children were here. And also because my grandson Caio was in Brazil living with me and his parents were here and he needed them around. I came here with a visa for 10 years.”
Ramon da Silva: “I came here because my mother asked if I wanted to come with her and so I did. My father stayed in Brazil, taking care of the other two children.”
Mr. Carvalho: “I moved here because of my parents. My father (the Rev. Valci T. Carvalho) is a minister and, as such, was invited to cooperate with a local minister at a Portuguese-speaking church back in 2001. He was the first to arrive in order to ensure all arrangements had been made in regards to our accommodations. Three months following his departure, we joined in.”
What are the challenges of living here in Martha’s Vineyard and in America?
Mrs. Barbosa: “The hardest thing for me was learning to speak English, It was definitely the most challenging thing. But then finding a job was also hard just because I didn’t speak any English whatsoever and I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. I also didn’t have any job experience because of the fact that when I was in Brazil I had everything I wanted. I had never worked outside the home.”
Helio da Silva: “I think what makes it hard to live here is the fact that I cannot drive, and I must live away from my family. Not being able to speak English is very hard. Without a doubt having to take the ferry every time I need to go off the Island is very difficult.”
Mrs. Proti: “I do not think I had any challenges here besides the language barrier, especially because all of my family is here. I didn’t have much difficulty with adjustment.” Ramon da Silva: “First, the language was the greatest difficulty, and living with the culture here was not easy because it is very different from my culture. Living here in Martha’s Vineyard is good, but my main difficulty is the means of transportation because I cannot drive. I depend on the bus and during the winter I’ve had days that I had to walk from Oak Bluffs where I work to Vineyard Haven where I live.”
Mr. Carvalho: “In my opinion, the different lifestyle, the new faces, the climate and the language barrier were definitely the greatest challenges I had to overcome. In Martha’s Vineyard, those challenges were somewhat heightened because of the unique, yet exclusive culture of the Island. It takes time and a certain amount of effort to ‘get in’ and be able to immerse yourself into everything the Island offers and represents.”
What are the joys of living here?
Mrs. Barbosa: “The joys of living in Martha’s Vineyard are the friendships that I have made and the great job I have got. For me the greatest joy of living in America is the opportunity of giving my daughter her papers and best of all is the fact that I had the opportunity of becoming an American citizen.”
Helio da Silva: “Good things about living here are the friendships, the work opportunities that are better and the feeling of being safe.”
Mrs. Proti: “What I like most here is that I feel safe. It is a beautiful place and it’s quite (different).”
Ramon da Silva: “Good things that I see living here, are that when we reach a certain age this place helps us grow to be independent. The need to work is great and here we have more choices, more opportunity. Our chance to grow into a profession is greater, and our services are recognized.”
Mr. Carvalho: “The joys of being here are the results of overcoming some of the challenges I have just mentioned. Having resided in Boston for quite some time now, I always find relief and tranquility while on my trips back to Martha’s Vineyard. After 10 years, I can honestly say that I am fully synchronized with the tides of the Vineyard. Being on ‘Island time’ is something indescribable. As far as being in the U.S., I enjoy and appreciate all the opportunities for personal growth it has offered me. Likewise, I try to con-tribute as much as I can, and giving back also gives me a peculiar sense of righteousness.”
What surprised you?
Mrs. Barbosa: “In the beginning I would say the discrimination, then how much easier it is to own material stuff. I was surprised to find how some Americans are sweet and care about me and my family and last, but not least — how hard it is to adopt a baby in this country.” Mrs. Barbosa said she has tried many times to adopt a baby, but gave up because the process would take too long. Unlike here, it is very easy to adopt a baby in Brazil.
Helio da Silva: “What surprised me most was the Boston tunnel, the ferry and surely the beauty Aquinnah has to show us!”
Mrs. Proti: “The dirt streets and wooden posts. I thought that everything would be more sophisticated, and that being in America I would have more leisure, more fun and so on.”
Ramon da Silva: “What surprises me is that I’m afraid to go back to Brazil. I’m so used to the way of life here that just the thought of going to Brazil and not being used to the way of life there scares me. Especially because I don’t know if I go to Brazil that I’ll ever be able to come back.”
Mr. Carvalho: “Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor! Just kidding. I suppose I’d have to say everything! The only notion I ever had of America was through the movies and the news.”
Did you fill out a census form? If so, what did you list as your ethnic background?
Mrs. Barbosa: “No, I never filled out the census form, but I always use white as my ethnicity.”
Helio da Silva: “Yes, I filled out the census form. I always put Hispanic as my ethnicity.”
Mrs. Proti: “I did not fill out a census, not even a bit.”
Ramon da Silva: “I always put Hispanic as my ethnicity.”
Mr. Carvalho: “Yes, most certainly. It took me quite some time to find my identity! Am I Brazilian or am I American? I consider myself American, but ‘real’ Americans consider me Brazilian! Today, after long periods of existential pondering, I have finally realized that I am what I want to be; pieces of paper do not describe what I feel inside nor what I stand for. Currently, I feel completely integrated into the culture and, to some extent, feel as a bit of a stranger to my background. It’s almost comical, because I never knew what to put down as my ethnic background. ‘Other’ was and has always been how I see myself.”
No final do dia somos todos parte desta comunidade brasileira! Nós vivemos no mesmo lugar, comemos o mesmo tipo de alimento, durmimos, trabalhamos, nossos filhosvão para a mesma escola.Nós somos todos apenas parte de culturas diferentes, que acabaram sendo unidas. (At the end of the day we’re all part of this Brazilian community! We live in the same place, eat the same kind of food, we sleep, we work, our kids go to the same school. We’re all just part of different cultures, that ended up being joined together.)
Gazette contributor Ana Nascimento is a junior at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.