Raul Freitas

Another Giant Step


We, the Portuguese, are a subdued people.  We’re humble, and even somewhat conservative in many ways.  So, when someone among us rises above the rest, it’s a big deal.  There aren’t that many of us, relatively speaking, and when one of our own reaches greater heights, that means they beat the odds.  Not being ones to pat ourselves on the back very much, when one of our own is outstanding in a culture outside of Portugal, that adds to the impact.  And it’s not just to actors and athletes that I’m referring.  There are thousands of Portuguese people all over the planet, that are well known in their fields.  I firmly believe that if we researched the matter, the numbers would be astounding.  We just don’t know, especially outside of Portugal.  

Having grown up in the GTA, over the years I was privy to the rise of some of my countrymen and women.  Back then, just being a business owner was admired.  The bars have risen since, and we’ve made it into the government and higher learning.  The latest to have received recognition was Maria João Maciel Jorge.  She’s an associate professor and chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at York University; a remarkable achievement unto itself.  To achieve such a feat, M. J. Maciel Jorge not only has to be great in her field, but also has to be great of character.  Traits such as these are gifts that keep on giving, and recently Maciel Jorge became associate dean, Global and Community Engagement, at York U.  Seen as an authority on subjects like diversity and inclusion, important topics in today’s society.   Maciel Jorge holds a position of great interest, and influence, on the path these subjects will take.

All this, from someone who emigrated from Açores in 1989.  That’s what’s special.  She went to Toronto and blended, adding her own flavour in the process.   That’s what I call the evolution of Luso-Canadian culture, the ultimate goal.  Any imigrant will eventually become a blend of his or her heritage with the one they’ve emigrated to, even if the ultimate goal is to return home one day.  For most, their children and grandchildren will be ever-increasingly a blend of two or more cultures.  The downside is that the percentage of the original culture in the mix might tend to diminish over time, and that’s where the Luso-Canadian community in Toronto will have an advantage; M.J. Maciel Jorge is assistant professor of Portuguese studies, at York, specializing in early modern Spanish and Portuguese literature.  Although she won’t pushing any kind of Portuguese agenda, she is who she is, so Portuguese will always be on her mind.  She is a very important piece to the puzzle of keeping the Portuguese language alive in an ever-diluting community.  She’s at the helm of the vehicle that teaches culture, and how to study it.  This is more important to the community than an elected official.

In these times where focus tends to be on the more destructive and divisive, it’s nice to shine a light on a true role model.

Fiquem bem.

Raul Freitas/MS

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