Ana Appelt, a friendly Brazilian Rotary Exchange student gave her talk on October 29 and engage Pearl Rotarians about her home country. She introduced herself by asking the audience to vote on the primary language of Brazil. Was it Spanish, Brazilian, or Portuguese?
Much to her evident surprise, she found that the great bulk of the audience did well by knowledge standards. They overwhelmingly voted for the correct answer, Portuguese. But then Ana, who comes from a Brazilian Rotary family, should not have been highly surprised, given that the orientation of Rotarians to global service results in unusual levels of knowledge about the world.
Brazil, a huge landmass in South America, was settled in the early 1500’s by migrants from Portugal, one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of area. The migrants came looking for gold and agricultural riches. In the process, they brought a large African slave population that produced a multiracial society.
Ana is spending her senior year in Portland, studying at Benson Tech. She will be returning in the summer to her hometown Paracatu (population about 71,000) in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Her father has been a Rotarian for 18 years, serving during that time as the president of his local chapter. Rotary is big, big in Brazil as Ana reported 2,284 individual club chapters.
Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1822 and abolished slavery in 1888. Although the details differ, Brazil and the United States share a troubled history in regard to the relationships of the European settlers, the indigenous peoples, and the large number of African slaves. Ana told Rotarians that the indigenous people had been forced to leave the lands in the eastern part of her country for the less attractive areas to the forested west. Communities of former slaves, often impoverished, exist throughout Brazil, including Ana’s area of Paracatu.
These days, Brazil and Portugal still share a common language, but they are not highly interdependent socially or economically. “Usually we make fun of Portugal,” Ana told Pearl Rotarians. “We tell them that you took all our gold and treated our people as slaves.”
Ana is very positive about her school and community experiences in Portland. She likes the diversity of students and trying new things at Benson. She is participating actively in dance at Benson.
While Ana plans to attend college after returning to Brazil, she is quite uncertain about her specific course and vocational plans. She clearly anticipates a great deal of traveling in the years ahead, and she expressed some general interest in diverse languages.