SURE, I have the smallpox vaccination mark on my right arm, the big round butt, and the curly hair that turns heads in a crowded street, but that doesn’t make me sleep at night. Despite the physical proof that I’m Brazilian, I still can’t avoid the cringing embarrassment that comes from admitting I barely know my own culture and country. I’m one of those “immigrant” children that grew up undocumented until several years after my international move. I couldn’t go back to my own country until I held on tightly to a green card (which is actually pink), and even then there was hesitation and fear of returning.
The simple version of the story is that my mother brought me to exotic Connecticut when I was five years old to give us the “American Dream.” 12 years later, I branched out to New York City for college where I was actually exposed to a little color and culture. I’ve spent the last two years traveling to countries in Europe and Latin America to film travel videos for my YouTube series, #shutupandgo, but I have yet to spend quality time in my homeland.
Fast forward to present day and I have to admit, saying I’m Brazilian is probably the best way to get conversations started. Guilty. Let’s keep it real though, every time the words come out of my mouth, I cringe to myself because there are a few things I’m embarrassed to confess.
I don’t know how to cook feijoada.
I can look up recipes on the web, but nothing beats learning how to cook up Brazil’s most cherished dish, feijoada, while in Brazil. Lucky for me, all of my relatives are 4,300 miles away, so the cooking lessons with Grandma will have to be postponed until my next trip.
I look like a duck when I dance samba.
When I was five, I danced samba like a triple OG because that’s just what you’re trained to do in family churrascos. Fast forward 17 years and I just look downright dumb when I attempt to cut a rug. In my defense, it’s not the easiest foot work ok, let’s get that straight. Now when Brazilian women who have been training all their lives to dance samba in the Carnaval floats do it effortlessly, in heels, it just makes my chances of looking somewhat decent pretty slim.
Oh sh*t, you caught me Google translate.
I speak Portuguese fluently because I just have that “thing” for learning languages, but when it comes to writing, estou fudida. Back in the day when I had to learn English in school, I sort of had to “unlearn” Portuguese, which meant that my writing just stayed at five-year-old level. Since learning English, I’ve also learned French, Spanish, and Italian, so I’m just kind of all around screwed in the language realm. At one point, everything started looking like one big ol’ blah blah blah to my brain.
My favorite songs are all from the ‘90s, including Gabriel O Pensador’s 2345meia78.
My American best friends always ask me what songs are hot in Brazil and I respond with the oldest records that are still fresh in my mind. It’s become a joke actually — my new favorite song is still from a ‘90s rap star who looks like Jesus.
I’m ashamed when non-Brazilian people ask me if I’ve ever been to cities I’ve never stepped foot in.
This one might just cut the deepest. When a rando goes on and on about how in love they are with Bahia, Sao Paulo, or Curitiba, it just kills me to admit that I have not been to any of those damn places. Oh, and when people watch my travel show and automatically assume that I’ll know every single tip about going to Brazil, it’s just the death of me. I just have to cough up and say it, I’m an Americanized Brazilian, and I’m completely sem graça.