Team Meet & Greet - Vem Falar Português! Portuguese for All

Welcome to Vem Falar Português! Portuguese for All!

Please use the Storytelling & Communications Template introduced in Session 3 to tell us about yourself, why you’re interested in this project, and get to know your fellow team members.

Storytelling & Communications Template: Vem Falar Portugues! Portuguese Language for All
Project Members: Regina Castro McGowan

Part 1: Situate yourself within the Project
Use the space below to collect team bios brief bios that speak to any of the following:
I was born into a multi-ethinic, multicultural and religiously syncretic working class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s. My own family’s diversity added to the rich milieu of my environment; my father’s family descended from Portuguese immigrants from the Azores; my mother’s from indigenous, Black and biracial migrants from the northeastern region of Brazil.
Despite the diverse surroundings, my upbringing in the 1980s and 1990s was tinted by the patriarchal structure that ruled my family, my school and that supported Brazil’s military dictatorship. Censorship and authoritarianism forbade dissent. Gender identities conformed to cisgender expectations. Deviant attitudes led to ridiculing and ostracizing. Nobody discussed race. We were led to believe that Brazil was a racial democracy. One was to believe in meritocracy.
My public school was a reflection of the neighborhood’s diversity. But rather than learn the socio-historical causes of inequality that lead to the occupation of hillside areas all around us, my classmates and I learned Civil and Moral Education and that writer Machado de Assis was white because he “behaved white.” They taught us that Brazil’s colonial history was “harmonious.” We celebrated carnival, singing sambas that exulted utopian nationalism. We never learned that samba had originally been an Afro-Brazilian form of cultural resistance. Like many of my classmates, I attended Catholic masses on Sunday mornings and visited Umbanda terreiros on Saturday evenings. We did not question the historical roots of religious syncretism or the fact that Afro-Brazilian religions like Umbanda had until recently been persecuted by the state.
It was not until I started college in a Brazilian Federal University in the 1990s that I realized that only a very small number of kids from my background made it into college. Classes I took on Brazilian history made me question everything I thought I knew about issues concerning race, identity and exclusion. When I came to the United States to attend the City University of New York, I became more aware of these complexities through interpersonal relationships and classes that addressed slavery, racism and human rights. I had to be re-educated, and that shattered my long-held belief in meritocracy.
In the fall of 2009, I began teaching in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures of the City College of the City of New York as a Lecturer of Portuguese and Spanish. In 2012, after receiving my Ph.D., the college promoted me to Doctoral Lecturer. Along with teaching responsibilities, I was soon appointed as Language Coordinator for my department. As such, I redesigned the syllabi for the Portuguese and Spanish non-heritage language sequences, reviewed and adopted new textbooks, and supervised the department’s new Writing Center.
In 2014, in view of the increasing enrollment numbers in the Portuguese language and culture sequence (for which I was then the only faculty member), I took the initiative to design upper-level Portuguese courses, proposing to my department the creation of a Portuguese Minor. In the fall of 2014, after I defended my proposal before the Faculty Senate and received their approval, I started directing City College’s Minor in Portuguese Language and Lusophone Studies; the only Portuguese Minor in a university system composed of twenty-five colleges.
While teaching Portuguese language and coordinating new adjunct faculty who teach elementary Portuguese, I have also been teaching in Black Studies. Through my partnership with their program, some of the classes that I created focus on Afro-Brazilian representations in cinema, contemporary Afro-Brazilian literature, and Afro-Brazilian music as cultural resistance. Other courses addressed postcolonial and transcultural narratives and identities in Lusophone Africa. Meanwhile, I have served as mentor to senior students minoring in Portuguese and Black Studies, and as an adviser to students taking or interested in taking our courses. Over the years, I have helped many students choose courses that channel their interests into specific areas in the vast and complex Luso-Afro-Brazilian field of studies.
My personal, academic and intellectual interests all stem from a desire to rectify my early ignorance. I am motivated to promote diversity, equity and inclusion not only in higher education but also in my day-to-day actions and attitudes.

# Part 3: Thinking Ahead - Plan your Marketing Avenues

History: Outdated Portuguese language textbooks, The orthographic agreement and state sponsored linguistic policies.

Inclusiveness: Language pronouns, Lusophone Africa, traditional knowledge, agency, photos and drawings that reflect diversity.

New media forms: Youtubers, content.

Make the material interesting and accessible to those researching Lusophone/colonial historical documents (primary sources).