Sandro Pinheiro

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Sandro Pinheiro was born in Fortaleza, Brazil and moved to the United States when he was twenty-one to attend graduate school in Michigan. He received his PhD in Adult and Continuing Education and has worked for Compassion International, Michigan State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, where he still works today. In the interview, Pinheiro discusses why he wanted to come to the United States for his graduate education, life in Michigan compared to life in North Carolina and instances of racism and discrimination that he has faced in North Carolina.



Molly Acuff: My name is Molly and I'm here in Durham, North Carolina with
Sandro. Where are you from?
Sandro: I was born in Fortaleza, Brazil. That's the northeast part of Brazil.
MA: And in what year were you born?
S: I was born in 1962.
MA: At what age did you decide to come to the United States?
S: Twenty one.
MA: And why did you decide to make that move?
Sri, 1 decided to come here to go to school. I wanted to go to do graduate studies
here in the United States. I had also— growing up, I always, I was very interested in
learning about languages and learning another language. So that gave me the motivation
to learn a language and also to think about doing studies in another country. So I thought
about going to Europe or to the United States and the United States was much closer to
Brazil, and through a relationship with friends in Brazil who were from the United States,
I was able to come here and live with them for a year as I was going to school. So, I came
to go to go to school.
MA: And what did you come to study?
S: So the, my undergraduate degree was in physical education. I was a coach and
I played sports in Brazil, and I wanted to come to the US to continue my education,
maybe do a specialization in physical education or sports psychology, but I also, I — at
one point in my life, growing up when I was about nineteen, I had an experience, a
spiritual experience where really I decided I wanted to learn more about my relationship
with God and what that meant, and understand more about what the Bible taught, and
then also be able to teach others about that. So instead of coming to the US to study
sports, I ended up going to theological seminary and that was my focus of my first three
and a half years here in the US.
MA: Where were you studying here?
S: I went to Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was quite a different climate compared to
Fortaleza, Brazil, right on the coast, tropical weather, but that didn't matter to me. For me
what was important was to come and study, and I went to Michigan —Grand Rapids was
the place where the seminary was, and the reason I went there, is because I met a family
in Brazil, they were missionaries, they had been in Brazil for many years, and I met them,
became very good friends with this family, and they were coming back to the US for a
furlough which is a time when the missionaries take a break — it would be like a
sabbatical— and they invited me to come and live with them for one year. They had
attended the seminary in Grand Rapids, so it was just natural for me to follow that path
and start my studies there.
MA: Did you come alone or did any of your family come with you?
S: I came alone. I came of course with this family, which was a great introduction
to the country because they knew the culture, they had already helped me to learn a little
bit about the food, they had served some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a few times
when I was in Brazil, but I came with them, but alone. My immediate family stayed in
MA: Are you still close with the family you stayed with today?
S: Yes, yeah I'm still in touch with them, especially through Facebook right now,
sometimes Skype. I know their children -they're adults know— and of course they also
have kids, and one of them, one of their sons lives now in Brazil, so we always joke that
we switched places, because he stayed there, and I came here and stayed here, so.
MA: So after graduation from graduate school, what was next for you?
S: So seminary, I spent three and half years there, I did a Masters in religious
education, and I was very interested in the area of education, leadership training, so this
program was very important for me at the seminary. But, as you go through your studies
you realize that you need to know more and you never know enough it seems. So I really
felt that I needed to continue my studies and I was very interested in pursuing a PhD
program, so after finishing seminary, I applied to do a PhD program at Michigan State
MA: And so after finishing that program...?
S: So yeah, it's interesting because when I came to the US and I went to seminary,
my focus was very much, I need to finish this and get back to Brazil and go to work.
Going to seminary was not ~ I didn't have in mind that I'd become a pastor in a church, but I did believe that my focus would be education in the church. So that's why I ended
up deciding to go into a PhD in education, but what ended up happening, just the way life
is, you begin to work in an area and then that area becomes interesting and exciting and
motivating, and then it becomes an opportunity for you to support yourself. So when I
finished, I , when I was at Michigan State and I had completed my PhD program, almost
completed--I had finished all the course work but I still had a dissertation— I got married,
of course I met someone that also motivated me to stay here. But even meeting my wife
here, the reason we connected in a way is because we both had international experience
and we thought that we'd probably live outside of the US someplace. So as I was
finishing graduate studies I got married, and then six months later I took a job with an
organization and I went overseas to Ecuador, where my wife and I lived for two years. So
for me, this was an opportunity to say, okay I studied, I finished my graduate studies,
now it's a great opportunity to go and do something that we, that was part of our goal, to
go overseas and work. So I worked for an organization called Compassion International,
and I was an education specialist with them for the area of South America. So my work,
we lived in Quito, Ecuador, but we traveled— I worked in different countries: Brazil,
Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. So, after graduate studies, really taking this job for me was,
okay this is where I'm going to put into practice what I learned in graduate school.
MA: So with Compassion International, was that only a two year thing that you
signed up for, or did you decide to leave after two years?
S: So, no. In fact, when we left for Ecuador, we thought that we'd live the rest of
our lives there. It was pretty much, the intention was to go and work with this
organization and do that work overseas. So this was a very interesting job... I worked
with projects in different cities in South America and these projects were for underserved
children. A lot of these projects had to do with providing supplemental education for kids
who went to schools during the morning or afternoon, but then could come to us, an
education center, in the afternoon or morning, to do some more —to have tutors, to learn
about maybe a business or be able to develop some skills that would help them. So my
idea was to stay there for the rest of our lives, but there was some changes with the
organization, and some of these changes had to do with changing the office to a different
location, and the office relocated to the US, and so at that point, I had not completed my
dissertation, which I hoped I would've done in two years, but it's quite impossible when
you're taking a new job, then you're learning the new job, trying to do your best, and at
the same time you have this huge thesis that you have to write. So with that transition, it
worked well for me and my wife to return to Michigan State, and I felt that going back
there would be a better place for me to refocus and be able to write my dissertation and
get my PhD.
MA: So when you returned to Michigan State, what were you doing for a living?
S: That's a good question. So when you're working full time and you have a
salary, you have things taken care of, and of course when we were leaving —we left
Ecuador with a child, because my son, my first child was born in Ecuador. So coming
back, yeah I needed to find a job, I needed to figure out what to do to support my family.
So what I did, of course in the universities for graduate students, we find jobs as
researchers or graduate assistants, so that's what I did. I found a position for the college
of education, where I was working as a researcher. So that paid for my family, we lived
on campus at Michigan State University, great experience meeting families from all over
the world. So that's how I got to take care of things.
MA: So when did you move from Michigan to North Carolina?
S: Yeah so after returning from Ecuador and then working at MSU as a graduate
advisor, that opened up doors for me -- well I got a job as a graduate assistant in the
Medical School. There was a position open, and at that point, when you have a child and
you need a job, you're knocking at different doors, so that's what I did. There was an
opening for a graduate assistantship at the medical school and even though I had no — I
had never studied, I had never worked at the medical school, I thought, they're looking
for an educator, maybe someone to develop, to do evaluation for faculty involvement
programs, and I had that school because of my program in the college of education, so I
thought I'd try that. I got the job, started working in the medical school, and it wasn't too
long after that there was a faculty job open in the medical school and I applied for that
job, and I got that position. I became a faculty member at MSU in the medical school and
so from there, I met someone here at UNC, North Carolina, who was the director of the
office of medical education and she mentioned that there was an opening here at UNC,
and if I would be interested in that position. So I applied to that position at UNC, again in
the medical school, and I got the job, so I moved to North Carolina.
MA: Are you still at UNC today?
S: No I'm not, but let me talk a little bit about our trip here, or our transition to
North Carolina. When, so living in Ecuador for two years, my wife had lived in Dallas,
she had lived overseas, also warm weather —we decided that we wanted to move out from
Michigan and go down south. So we were looking for jobs, any jobs below the latitude of
Michigan, because we were just thinking we want to get warmer. So when this position
came up at North Carolina it was perfect. So I worked at UNC for two and half years and
at that time after the two and a half years I was working there, the person who recruited
me to come to UNC left the medical school, and there were some transitions in the
medical school, and I felt that at that time, it worked well for me to be looking at other
positions. So I applied to faculty positions at a few places, Johns Hopkins, Baylor school
of medicine, and then Duke University, here in North Carolina, and Duke University
offered me a position, and I felt that it was, it made sense to move at that time and make
that transition, and I'm very happy with the work that I do now at Duke. I still work in
medical education, mostly graduate medical education now with graduates, faculty, and
residents, but that's where I am now.
MA: How have you liked North Carolina in comparison with Michigan?
S: Yeah so, North Carolina is, it's a great place to live. I mean the weather is
incredible. I mean I remember our first winter here in North Carolina, comparing to
Michigan, we couldn't believe was January and winter hadn't started yet. That was,
it was amazing to us, and the's just a great place to live. There were some
differences in the culture and how, accessing certain things, but I think in part, when you
go to different places, you live in a new place, you have to learn the culture of that place,
how you get things, where you get things done. You know it's drivers license, it's all
these, so many things that you have to worry about. So there were some changes and
adjustments there but we were very pleased.
MA: In North Carolina have you encountered other Brazilians, like is there a
Brazilian community at all?
S: So there is a Brazilian community, I believe in Raleigh, which is about 30 so
minutes from here. Not here in Durham, there's not a strong association or committee.
I've met some Brazilians at Duke University, also at UNC when I worked there —these
are professors some of them, or people working in the health professions field. But, I've
never got too involved or very involved in the association. I think part of it, part of it is
just it's busy when you move to a new place, you're learning a new job, you have kids
and you have to do different things. It would have been nice if there was an association
close by that we could connect more, but it was not a reality for me, so.
MA: You mentioned that when you first came to the United States, you came
alone without any of your family. Is your family all still in Brazil or have any of them
come since?
S: So, no. My family stayed in Brazil. I'm the only person from my family here in
the US. My mother and one sister came to the US to attend my wedding and that's the
last time any of my family members have been here, but we as a family have visited
Brazil several times.
MA: How is that? being so far from your family?
S: It's different. When you think of having kids and raising them away from their
family, especially when it's a family from a completely different culture than what
they've experienced living in the US. We also live far away from Joy's family, they're in
Michigan. You know, you try to connect, you try to visit, you try to be on the phone and
do different things, but of course, the reality is that you miss them a lot in life, as far as
you yourself, your experiences with your family, but also with your children. You
question sometimes, I wonder what it would've been like if they had grown up with their
cousins and uncles and aunts, it would've been very different, but sometimes there's
nothing you can do. It is, it is difficult. The answer is it is difficult, because you want
them to learn about your culture, you want them to be just engaged with your family, and
living far away it's not easy.
MA: How often does your family get to go to Brazil?
SA: We, we try to go to Brazil at least every two or three years. Every two or
three years we try to go back. We have been to Brazil with our kids I would say at least
ten or eleven times, we go a lot. Now my son is 17, my daughter's 12, and they have been
to Brazil several times. But it's not always possible, especially not as they're getting
older and you have to pay for school and do this and that, and it becomes very expensive
to take four people to go visit.
MA: And how are those reunions when your family gets to go back and your kids
get to see their cousins?
S: It is incredible. It's an incredible experience. It's almost like you would like to
be able to go there every weekend to go visit them. My kids have been able to experience
weddings back in Brazil where my, their cousins are getting married, or their Aunt got
married, and it's just an incredible party. They enjoy it, they relate well to that, and for
me -it's so rewarding to see them be part of that celebration and be laughing and dancing
with the family. It's just really, really great.
MA: How does your family in Brazil, like your Mom, feel about your family
living in the United States? You mentioned it'd difficult for you guys to be away from
them, but is it difficult for her as well?
S: I think it is. I, of course nowadays, you get used to that distance, but I —so
many times when I call Brazil and speak with my mother, she'll say "Oh how are the
kids?" and "I miss them so much" or "I pray for them". So you would think that you'd
get used to something and you will not miss these people, the kids, but for my mom,
she's missing all the growing up of these kids, how they're changing, and their lives. She
may see pictures, but it's really not the same. I think it's even more difficult because the
kids do not speak the language, they don't speak Portuguese, and again, when you live in
a culture where there's no Portuguese around you, there's not reason for you to learn. So
it becomes very hard. They don't have very much connection with Portuguese here, and
I've tried to teach them, I've tried to work with them since they were kids, but then
there's no environment for them to use that language and there's no motivation to learn.
So that's very difficult, and I would say for my family back in Brazil, it's very difficult
for them to not have been part of our lives as we live here.
MA: Aside from the familial aspect, are you pleased that your children have been
able to grow up in the United States versus Brazil, how do you feel about that?
S: I think there, different cultures have different values. The US provides a lot of
opportunities, and I find that I've been so blessed and lucky in a sense— I guess we can
use that word— but really blessed to have had the opportunity to come and study here,
and when I came to this country, I probably had 2,500 dollars saved and I lived with a
family, they helped me, I went to school. You realize that if you work hard in this culture,
if you study, and if you're determined about creating an opportunity for yourself—and I
say that, at least from my experience— you really have a lot of opportunities. So I think
our kids are growing up in a culture where they truly can become whoever they want to
become, so that's a very positive thing. One thing of course that they're missing is the
whole group culture in Brazil, the values of being a family, that we are all part of each
other's lives. I think they miss some of that. I think the culture here, we have friends and
all this, but it's not the same —of course for us it's a different experience because we
don't have our family close to us— but there's something about the culture and the
joyfulness, and the relationships and friendships that I think that they are missing. I also
think that the food and all the things that exist in Brazil, we're limited to some of that.
You know, fruit is really expensive. When I first came to this country I would go to a
restaurant and ask if they have any fruit juice, and they'd say yeah sure we do, and then
they would bring me something from a can. When in Brazil, if you go to a restaurant, you
have fresh fruit juice and that kind of- it's a simple thing but I wish my kids had juice
instead of a soda!
MA: So because you grew up in Brazil and your kids are growing up here, do you
see any cultural differences between yourself and your children?
S: There are some differences but I think, it's almost like , you know culture is
something that if you're living in another culture, you start adjusting to some ways. You
still keep some of your values but you're also adding different values and they're not like
you're picking, okay I'm going to pick this value, that value, like just keeps moving and
then you become what you're becoming, and so I don't think I'm very different from my
kids. I do know that I try to talk to them about things that I definitely believe came with
me as I spent 21 years of my life growing up in Brazil and I still have family and I relate
to them. I think after you spend 21 years in one culture, growing up in that culture, those
are times when you're building the core of your identity and who you are. I try to pass
some of these things to them. I think sometimes I try to be deliberate about the kinds of
things that I talk to them about, but other times I think that it's happening just because of
who I am. Hopefully that's making a difference in who they are and what they will
become. So there are differences, but I think there are also similarities in the sense that
they're learning who I am, and that becomes part of their lives too —how I connect to
Brazil, how I connect to my parents and my siblings, and the whole idea of going back to
Brazil. It creates in them a different person than just if they were a child growing up this
country, probably never having to go overseas and be part of a wedding with family
members. So there is a difference of who they are as compared to other kids in this
culture, and I would say part is because of who I am and what I bring by coming to this
country and having lived and grown up in another culture.
MA: As far as education, what differences have you seen in how your children
have been educated, or are being educated in the United States, versus how you were
educated in Brazil?
S: Well, it's a big difference in a way. I should say, I had great opportunities in
Brazil too. We come from a middle class family, I went to public schools in Brazil —
even though I think that the level of education of public schools in Brazil as compared to
the US is very different, I mean the resources that exist here are very different, so it was
tough in the beginning. But I, in those years I mentioned, I played volleyball, I was a
player growing up. I started playing volleyball when I was 11 years old, by the time I was
fourteen I received a scholarship to go to a private school, and that's the system in Brazil
where kids can get scholarships even in high school. Then in high school I also got
scholarship to one of the best private schools in the city, in my state, so I really had a
good education. My kids here in the US, definitely got a good education ~ different from
mine because my wife decided to homeschool my kids, which was a completely different
concept for me, which was not seen in Brazil when I was growing up there, though I
know that there are some people that homeschool in Brazil but it's not, it's an exception
really. So they definitely got a great education. They're Mom , she's a teacher, so she was
able to work with them and guide them, and now they're —you know my son goes to a
private school. It's a very good school, it's a school that challenges him, and I think he's
getting top education, that I would say is much better than my education in Brazil. My
daughter's also going to school next year, so I think they are definitely going beyond
where I've been, and I'm so blessed that I'm able to provide for them to experience that.
MA: What are your hopes for your children, after graduation from high school
and everything ? What do you wish for them?
S: Wow. I've been, definitely at times I'm just thinking day by day what they
need to achieve ~ do your homework, clean your room, clean the bathroom, do what
you're supposed to do, but I definitely see things sometimes in my son —he has a very
curious mind, he loves learning— and I really, I don't joke with him, I seriously talk to
him and say, "I wonder if one day you will be one of the people that will discover a
vaccine for cancer. You have that type of mind that's really willing and determined to
figure out things." I talk to him about that but I'm not setting an expectation in a sense,
I'm just saying, that seems to be the kind of person that you are. Truly I feel that and I tell
him that, God will show him, ~ we're a family of faith— that God will guide him in
decisions he'll have to make, and paths will be opened and you will have to make a
decision which way you will go. My hope for them truly is that they will continue
walking with God « which is the faith that we have taught them— and I hope that they
are, I know that they are learning to embrace that as part of their own life. And I think
that if they focus on living life in a way that in our perspective is pleasing to God, that
they will be okay, and that they will use what they have to help others, to help society, to
be a good citizen. I hope that they will have children, have a family, where they can share
their love and share their experiences, and I hope that they can connect to the culture that
it's not necessarily a primary culture for them, but because of my life and where I came
from, that that will also be part of their lives as they grow up and become adults.
MA: So if either of them ever decided that they wanted to move to Brazil and live
there, how would you handle that?
S: I would applaud them. I would say Go! Go! I think it would be great and I -
that's the thing that I sometimes, I realize that they weren't able to learn the language,
and I tried working with them, but it's very difficult again, as I've mentioned before.
When you don't have the context to use that language, there's no motivation to learn, but
I feel that they have some concepts of the language, they've learned the language since
they were later, they have experienced some of the culture, they consider themselves half
Brazilian, and I think that it would be incredible. All these things would give them some
tools in a sense, that one day if they want to go back there they'll have some knowledge
already of the culture and the place. I think it would be great.
MA: Could you ever see yourself moving back to Brazil?
S: I've thought of that several times. I mentioned to you that when I first came to
study here, my idea was to be done and go. But life is not as simple as that. I think that
there are so many decisions you make on the way that aren't necessarily good, or bad, or
wrong, or right, it's just you have to make a decision which path to take, and then that
starts becoming your life in many ways. So I thought about that in the past, then I held
that idea for many years with me, "I should go back, I should go back, that's really what I
should do." And then I came to a point of realizing that, it's not that I need to go there, I
need to be someone wherever I am. So I don't know if I could, I don't think I could
readjust to the culture in Brazil. I imagine I could, but it is, it is a different life, and I
don't have any ... I never lived the professional life in Brazil, I lived the student life until
I was 21,1 grew up there. But going back, you need to get a job. You need to live in the
culture, you need to learn, and I think it would be quite difficult to recreate all that. Not
impossible, but I think it would be very difficult. I have taught in Brazil, I've had the
opportunity to go and teach in a medical school for a week, I was invited to go there. It
was very interesting. It was a great opportunity and I'd like to have more of those
opportunities. I think that's a great way of collaborating with Brazil, and for me that
experience was very positive for me in being able to do something in Brazil, use
something that I've learned here and get it to Brazil, by teaching in the medical school
there. But I don't - it's not just me moving to Brazil, it's my family. It's beyond, I think
it would be very difficult at this time.
MA: So this is sort of switching gears a little, but in the United States do you feel
like either in Michigan or North Carolina, you've ever encountered any discrimination or
racism because you're Brazilian or of a different race?
S: You know it's, living in this culture there are times that ~ I
don't know how I can, I have to think about this carefully— but language, well I grew up
in Brazil, of course my first language is Portuguese and speaking English is a second
language, and it's a difficult thing...especially when you're trying to work as a
professional here, and you're working in a field where, that you work with professionals
to some extent believe they're at the top of all professions, being physicians and working.
So there's a lot of pressure to make sure that you communicate well, that people
understand you well. But also, you can't, there's nothing you can do that, you have a
strong accent, you carry that with you, and many times when I teach, usually when I
teach a group of people I haven't met before, I know that there's that ~ I sense that they
look at me and I have this accent and they're trying to figure me out. Who is this person?
He has this accent, and he's teaching us. I think, but this country is also so diverse that it
allows for that. But when I started it was very difficult because I was one of a few, and I
still am, one of a few Latinos I think that work in medical education in the level that I
work, as a PhD educator and so on. It is difficult, but I think life has taught me a lot of
things about being determined to do what I can do. I really feel that if I'm focused, and
I'm determined, and I commit myself to something, than I can do it. There are certain
things that I can never change, I don't think my accent will ever change. Some people say
"You don't have an accent! How did you learn to speak English?" I say well talk to me a
little longer and you'll hear the accent. But it doesn't matter. If you have something , if
you have some content and something that you can teach and help others, and you have
knowledge, your accent should not be a barrier for you to communicate and be able to
share your ideas. So I feel comfortable with that now, and it wasn't easy in the beginning.
I did notice at times that when I'd work with a new group of fellows that would come in
to our program, I was the only foreigner as one of the faculty members, and when they
would assign fellows to the different faculty and some people would get me as their
mentor, there was kind of a let down for people to think, oh I'm going to be with that
foreign guy. But then, what I found so interesting, is that I was so confident about what I
could do and I really knew I could do this well, that I could see the change throughout the
year of how people appreciated that they had gotten me as their mentor, because I really
knew what I was doing as a faculty member. So that also provides, it gives you the sense
that, see I knew you could do it and you can do it well. So it motivates you to continue
doing well. So there were some struggles there.
I have experienced..there was one episode in a city here, close by, we lived in
Hillsborough for a few months, almost a year even when we came to North Carolina. It's
interesting because in Michigan, I don't know, it was different, I never sensed, you know
being in a big university, an international university, people don't see as much "you're
international" it's "you're part of this university?"although looks and things, people do
notice that. But it's a much more open minded place and environment. There were a few
situations when I moved to Hillsborough. One I had to do, the license plate needed to be
changed, and here in North Carolina you have to take your car in to be inspected every
year and so on. So I just knew one mechanic that I passed by in the main road in
Hillsborough, so I decided to stop and ask do you do inspection on cars, I'm new in the
area, and so on. The guy said yeah we do, come back five o'clock, another day, and I said
oh sure, I'll be here. So I go there, and for whatever reason that day he couldn't do it, he
said oh sorry I couldn't do it or whatever, he was busy with something, I said oh no
problem I'll stop by another time. Then I stopped by again and he said oh sorry I can't do
it. So I thought what's going on? Why is this guy not helping me? I just said well I better
go some place else. So I went to another gas station and I had that done. But as I reflect
back, I thought you know I wonder if that gentleman just didn't want to do any business
with me. Of course he didn't know me, but possibly I look Latino, so I'm probably a
Latino like any other person he's ever met before. I don't know what perception he has of
Latinos, but he never helped me and I realized there may be a problem here.
There was another situation also in a video store in Hillsborough, that I really felt
that I was not well treated, and in fact, the treatment was more of a silence treatment and
it was a very weird situation. At that point, I decided to just leave the store because I
didn't feel comfortable with that. You know, there are certain things that you know,
something is not right, and that's what I felt when I was in the video store. I had gotten a
video, first I guess I got the name of the video and I went to the counter and talked to the
gentleman, and I said I want to rent this video, and he said well you need to get the box.
So I said, oh okay I didn't know that. So I went to get the box and I get back and he
didn't, instead of talking to me, he started helping another customer. It was definitely like
a silent treatment, it was almost like "I don't want you around here" or something, it felt
really strange. So I just decided you know what, I'm leaving this place. So I went home,
and in fact my wife said "Oh did you bring the video?" because we were planning to do a
family night, it was a Friday night, and I said, you know, no I didn't, I felt really weird.
This is what happened to me in this store. So we decided, lets go to Chapel Hill to get the
video. So I drove to Chapel Hill, and as soon as I entered the Blockbuster the woman
said, "Hey! Welcome! Can we help you with anything?" It was like day and night. It was
like day and night. And I said , "Joy, this is what I did not get there. It was so clear."
Chapel Hill is a different place, it's an international place. People treat people differently,
I could definitely see that.
MA: Have you noticed that people's reactions are different when they find out
that you're from Brazil rather than just grouping you in the overall Latino population?
S: I think so. There are two issues. People don't understand sometimes...they look
at me and they think, you're Hispanic. And there are of course the labels, Hispanic,
Latino, and it's just all confusing, but, but yeah there is a difference. I'm not from
Mexico, or El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Central America where people would think of
Hispanics, but they consider me Hispanic in some ways because of the way I look. But I
also, for some people, Brazil or whatever, everything that's down South of the Border is
all the same in a way. So I truly am not sure how they perceive me that way. I consider
myself Latino. I'm not Hispanic because we have a Portuguese, our background is
Portuguese and not Spanish, which that's the concept that Hispanic comes from. So most
of Latin America is Spanish, or South America, Central and South America, but there are
Portuguese, English, French, Dutch, all in South America. I consider myself Latino, but I
think the question that you're asking, to some extent, I think what people find that is
surprising to them is maybe that I look this way, but I'm a professor at Duke. So it's not
as much Brazil or Mexico, but it's you look this way but you're a professor? So there's
more of that.
MA: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
S: No, I think, I probably talked a lot. I think it's, I think this is a great project. I
think I've always thought of, as I mentioned to you in the beginning, writing a book
about this journey. You know, immigrating or what was it like. It's, it's really fascinating
to come to a different culture. I remember being 10 years old when I would first hear
reporters on TV speak different languages or interview people in different languages. I
thought "wow that is so amazing. I would love to learn a language like this and be able to
speak to people of other cultures." I realized that language, learning another language
really opens up the world for you in a way that's unbelievable. I think, I was lucky in a
sense to choose English as the language to learn when English is spoken in some many
places in the world. It would have been different maybe if I would have decided to
choose a language that, say Polish for instance. It would not be as international as English
is, but it definitely amazed me that when you leam a language you get to explore the
world of other people in a way that you couldn't if you only spoke your own language.
Coming to a new culture is like that. It's being part of something that's so unique, so
different than your own culture, and some people, if you're comfortable with that
process, they really, and I think I did that. I really engaged in the culture, I tried to learn
more. But also not losing what I believe to be my own values and what I wanted to , not
necessarily think that I want to keep these values, but there are certain values that are
important to me, and they came together with new values, new things, new experiences
that I have had in this culture. And it's been ,it's an incredible journey. Living a different
culture is so exciting. There's so much that you learn about people when you have this
opportunity to relate to people that were not part of your life at all. I couldn't dream that I
would end up living in this culture, have a family in this culture, have friends, be part of a
church, be part of a university, be part of life here. It's really a fascinating journey, so I,
it's just great.
MA: Alright, well thank you very much!