By Yesenia Valasquez, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the UW Bothell Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Brazil: Afro-Cultures of Brazil Exploration Seminar during Early Fall Start 2017. Yesenia was a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.
Brazil has always been a dream of mine: the soccer, the beautiful beaches, and the uplifting samba music. Fortunately, this summer I was able to live my dream and go study abroad in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil where my program focused on Afro-Brazilian culture. Salvador is a city full of history and culture.
I was so glad that my program focused on learning different art forms of Afro-Brazilian culture. We learned how to dance samba and participate in a traditional capoeira ritual. I’m a pro at dancing samba now! To me, these art forms were extremely inspiring because they were forms of resistance towards the Portuguese colonizers.
During my time in Salvador, we also learned about religious syncretism. It was very common for Brazilians to practice two different religions, Candomblé and Catholicism. This is something I had never seen before. I saw so much beauty in that because this was another form slaves were able to preserve their culture, even though they were forced to be Catholic. Many of the Orixas, Gods of the Candomblé religion, were masked as Catholic saints that way the slaves wouldn’t be punished for practicing another religion.
Lastly, we got to visit different NGO’s that were making a big difference in their communities. One of the NGO’s we visited, Escola Aberta, worked with students of color from a low-income community. These children were taught self-empowerment: that their skin color is beautiful and that they will be able to go far in life. Another NGO we visited, Steve Biko, worked with older students of color, typically first-generation high school graduates, who are trying to go to college. I was able to resonate with these students because I am also a first generation college student from a low-income community.
I am so thankful that I had the privilege to study abroad and learn more about a different culture, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Global Business Center Scholarship. Thank you for making this amazing experience possible!