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  • Writer's pictureRodrigo Baena

I didn't know I was Portuguese !


AI generated image of an idea of the streets of Lisboa

I was born in Brazil, so I thought I was Brazilian. My grandparents on my dad’s side were of African descent, so I thought I was African too. My grandmother was Italian, so I lived in Italy to connect with that part of my heritage and discovered I was partially Italian.


Recently, I remembered that my grandfather on my mom’s side came from Spain, so I thought I had a lot of Spanish in me. When I visited southern Spain this year, Andalusia spoke to me, so I thought I was partially Spanish too. Maybe this mix made me who I am.


Then…


I visited Portugal for the first time. I was never too curious about the country that spoke the same language as me. Maybe different cultures attracted me more. But the signs became clear.


First, I met a friend from Portugal who became my instant brother - we even shared the same name! We also shared our cultures, laughed about our differences, and I got more curious than ever about exploring his country.


Then my wife told me that one of her dreams was to visit Portugal. Why? Because she learned Portuguese and wanted to visit another country where she could practice the language.


Then my childhood friend from Brazil told me he was moving to Portugal soon with his whole family.


Then our dear friend living in southern Spain invited us to visit, and since Portugal was close, we wanted to see them too.


Then I realized I had traveled all over Europe when I lived in England but had never been to Portugal. It was time.


For my wife’s 40th birthday, I planned a trip to Portugal and Spain. Partially to relax and explore, and partially to see if either country would be a good choice to move to.


My intuition told me Spain would be the place, since part of my family came from there, and there was even a city with my family’s name—Baena! My wife’s intuition was set on Portugal.

We discussed all the pros and cons and embarked on our adventure, arriving first in Portugal and driving from Lisbon to the Algarve in the south. Then we crossed the border and explored southern Spain. Both countries were great. I felt connected to Andalusia and Baena, but then we spent the last two days in Lisbon, and everything changed.


The capital of Portugal welcomed us like no other place did. It helped that we spoke the language, but everyone speaks English in the country. They are super open and ready for international tourism. But the way people served us, explained how to get around, avoid parking tickets, and get into the Airbnb… it was done with heart. They really meant it.


On our last night, we went to a live Fado concert that my wife found online. They sang songs about relationships, hardships, and the joys of life. At the end of the show, they added an extra song and performed it like people used to in the past: without microphones or speakers. They sang naturally from their lungs with traditional guitars. That was when I realized: maybe I was a little Portuguese too.

AI generated image of woman playing fado

The Portuguese brought more than just their language to Brazil. They brought friendliness, culinary influences, family traditions, and religiosity. I also realized they also brought their genes to Brazil, and I probably had some Portuguese genes in me. What happens is that Portuguese colonial ancestry is so deeply rooted in Brazil that it has become synonymous with "Brazilian," just as English ancestry in the USA and Spanish ancestry in Hispanic America.


I got emotional watching that final act of the Fado show and wanted to scream: I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS PORTUGUESE !


Now it was set—Portugal would be the location of our next life era.


As a final sign, we took a little tuk-tuk tour to one of the city’s viewpoints and spotted a small tile that said, “Boa Viagem! Lisboa vai esperar por você” (Have a good trip! Lisbon will wait for you).


It might not be just Lisbon, but Portugal captured my heart and it will wait for me.!


(Actually, the very last sign was when we left another Fado show on our final evening in the city, looking for a place to eat. We stumbled upon a restaurant with live Fado, where the host was Brazilian, most of the servers were from Nepal (where I had lived and adored), and we sat beside tables of Italians, Spaniards, and Americans. It felt like everyone was saying, “We’re all here for you and we support you moving to Portugal.”)


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PS - What about you? Where is your heart from?

Add a comment, send me your thoughts. I wanna have a conversation!

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