Family info: Hunter, 14 and Shane, 12
In addition to Hunter and Shane, I have my fiance, Collin, and his two girls – Sasha (14) and Juliette (11). Collin is in LA, but they will soon be relocating to NY. We are looking forward to having the girls join the boys at Rye Middle and Rye High next September!
What country are you from?
I am from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The boys were born and raised in New York.
Currently, none. I have worked for the United Nations for 19 years and I travel a lot for work, which has always been an issue with having pets. We hope to change that soon though and we are very fond of dogs and chickens!
Do you still have family members in Brazil?
Yes, my sister lives in Brazil and all my relatives are there.
Why did you choose to move to the US?
I had taken a leave of absence from my career as a lawyer to travel around the US for a year. I eventually started working at the United Nations, got married and have been in NY since!
What was your perception of US before you moved here? How has it changed (or not) once you lived here?
I was always very enamored with the idea of living in the US. I learned how to speak English from a very early age. I loved the movies, the landscape, the changing seasons… And your legal system! Moving to New York was certainly harsh in the beginning, but I had a great network of family and friends who supported me, making the transition a lot smoother.
What is your profession? How is working in the US different from Brazil? Are there stark contrasts?
I am a lawyer, and have practiced corporate labor law for many years. When I joined the UN, I had a few different assignments in the areas of Human Resources, Administration and more recently Programme and Project Management.
Brazil is a land of many resources. Like other underdeveloped countries, politics and policies can sway the economic stance of the country tremendously. Since the Pandemic, the country has suffered a downturn which we hope to recover from soon.
My experience in the corporate world in Brazil was very determining in my professional career. Brazilian law firms are just as competitive as New York ones, and I am thankful for that experience. I have found however that my niche is in the public sector, serving peacekeeping operations and the wider United Nations organizational goals of delivering sustainable peace across the globe.
What is the role of women in Brazil?
Gender balance and parity is certainly at the forefront of many social and economic sectors in Brazil. We, for instance, had a female president from 2011-2016. I believe that, just as with the US, depending on your geographical location, socio-economic standing, certain areas seem to have more progressive gender agendas than others. In my family, my grandmother was a Librarian at a leading university, my mother was an educator/director of school in the public system, and my sister and I were encouraged from a very young age to be independent thinkers and career-driven.
What challenges have you faced in the US? How have you overcome them?
I think we are just coming out — or perhaps we are still in the throws of a highly politicized and highly polarized environment. As a foreigner, someone with olive skin, it has been hard to witness the murder of George Floyd, the propagation of Asian hate, and so many other trends that target minorities so ostensibly.
I work in the service of peace and truly believe we can coexist as one. Meditation and yoga did help me very much during the early stages of the Pandemic, particularly at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What are typical traditions in Brazil? How do you continue to teach your culture and continue your traditions with your children?
I think our traditions are very tied to our families. For me, having grown up in a family of Italian descent, our traditions revolved around food! Sunday lunches were usually a major affair, with my mom making fresh pasta at home. Or with my dad making churrasco (barbeque). To carry that forward, I make it a point to have big cooked meals on weekends. I’ve been in the US too long, and the boys are not the greatest fans of Italian food. So instead of homemade lasagna or gnocchi, we normally have a huge Sunday breakfast of eggs, bacon, waffles/pancakes or hash browns!
What are typical foods from your country? Is there anything you miss that you cannot get here in the US? Favorite American foods?
Oh…. We love our food! And our drink! Brazilian’s National dish is the Feijoada, which is a black bean stew with several pork meats and sausages. Feijoada is traditionally served with a number of different sides — i.e rice, farofa, collard greens and slices of orange. Feijoada is traditionally only served on Wednesdays or Saturdays. But Brazil’s churrasco cannot be ignored. We have some of the best meats in the world!
The one thing I miss the most is the french breads that are made at the local boulangeries (‘padarias’) in Brazil. It must be something to do with the water, because the french bread that I can find in local Brazilian spots here is just not the same. Not as crunchy!
American food is such a huge melting pot (no pun!). I think my favorite meal here is Belgium Waffles topped with fresh strawberries and a side of bacon. We are breakfast people and we love a good ole diner!
What is your native language? What languages do you speak? What language do you speak at home? What are you teaching your children?
My native language is Portuguese. I also speak Spanish and dabble a bit in Italian. At home we speak English, and the boys were raised speaking English.
Do you practice a religion? What are the differences with typical US culture?
I always say that Catholicism and Football are birth rights in Brazil. The majority of the country is catholic (and has an ardent passion for football). I am spiritual, but not religious, though I attended Sunday school and church until I graduated High School. The boys also do not observe any organized religions.
What is the climate/geography of Brazil?
Brazil's geography/climate is so vast. It is a huge country with many contrasts. We are mostly a tropical weather country, with slightly cooler weather down South, and warmer up North. In São Paulo, where I am from, the weather is temperate. Our winters are more on the wet side. Sao Paulo is nicknamed ‘a terra da garoa’ or ‘the land of the drizzle’.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot in the US?
Many! We like to travel a bunch. We recently went to Newport, RI, which was oh-so-cute! But between us chickens, I also absolutely love Miami!
Do you connect with others from your culture here in the US?
I have quite a few Brazilian friends at the UN or whom I’ve met through work. I also have many friends that relocated here, and with whom I’m still in touch.
How do you maintain your connections with family in Brazil?
Oh thank goodness for technology! I usually go to Brazil once every other year. Unfortunately with the borders shutting down due to COVID, I haven’t been back since December 2019. Social media is also a powerful ally in helping me keep in touch with friends and family!
Thereza's family loves to enjoy Sao Paulo's art, murals, museums, street art: