Viewpoint: Brazilian is Not Hispanic


    By Luciana Loureiro

    Living in a foreign country brings different challenges and trials. I always expected things to be a little different here compared to back in Brazil. When I say different, I mean the food, people and culture. Back in my country, I was considered white. Here I”ve been called olive skin, darker complexion and tan, golden skin. In effect, everything but white.

    Some have said, “Oh, you”re from Brazil? Cool, I speak Spanish!”

    How should I reply to a comment like that? My reply in the beginning was, “I speak Portuguese, not Spanish.” Today, I just say “Good for you!”

    Sometimes, even after explaining that I speak Portuguese, they would insist, saying: “But, you do speak Spanish too, right? Isn”t it the same thing?” For your information, Spanish and Portuguese are not the same thing. If they were the same, one would not be called Spanish and the other Portuguese; they would have the same name. Spanish and Portuguese have some similarities, just as Portuguese has to French and Italian. It”s also funny that is easier for Portuguese speakers to understand Spanish than the other way around. Maybe we are just smarter. Just kidding.

    Speaking of languages, Americans have invented a new one – Brazilian. So now in Brazil we speak Brazilian. In the United States, we speak American. Funny. My point here is not to offend. Rather, I want to inform and voice my Brazilian pride. I”m from Rio de Janeiro, the city of Christ the Redeemer, soccer, beaches and “Carnaval.” But it doesn”t mean I am the “Girl from Ipanema.”

    Someone even said the capital of Brazil is Buenos Aires. Wow! Yes, I thought the same thing … (It”s really Brasilia). But the most surprising thing to me was receiving a different title. Here in Utah I”m labeled something that I am not – Hispanic. I am from Brazil, and the definition of Hispanic, according to a dictionary, is “one of or relating to Spanish-speaking Latin America, or relating to a Spanish-speaking people or culture.” Other Brazilians and I do not fit this category. Being called a Hispanic or anything related to Spanish is one of the biggest offenses one can make against Brazilians. My ancestors are from Portugal and Italy, which have nothing to do with Spain or any Spanish-speaking country.

    Another clarification needs to be made. Latin and Hispanic do not have the same definition. People here usually get the two of them mixed up. I could be considered Latin for the fact that I”m from Latin America. Also, just like Italian and French, Portuguese is related to the languages that developed from Latin. Even though it is technically correct to call myself Latin, I do not like the stereotype.

    It is such a BYU thing to label people from different places. Each time I meet a BYU student, it is as though each asks the same interrogatory questions. It seems like all of them have a little checklist. When you start talking and they notice your accent, they always ask, “Where are you from?” Second question: “When are you going back to your country?” To me that is just not polite. It just seems like they want to get rid of you. I am also aware that people sometimes don”t realize they are offending someone else because of their lack of culture and knowledge.

    As an example, one of my co-workers from a foreign country recently asked me how I could distinguish Mexicans from Brazilians. That really hit me. I did not speak with her for the rest of the day. There is nothing wrong with being from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Chile or Argentina, but I am just from Brazil. It is a fact, not a choice.

    (For comments, e-mail Luciana Loureiro at )

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