Maria Magdala

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Photo Credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo

7,495 kmfrom home
"It is necessary to recognize the xenophobia that we have in ourselves. Only then will we be able to deconstruct and destroy it."
Maria Magdala
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Country of Origin: 

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"I arrived in Portugal in 2007, after having studied in Spain for a while. I always wanted to leave Brazil because I wanted to get to know other lives, cultures and worlds. I was not exactly sure where to go and I think destiny paved my way to Lisbon. I came because my son’s father was working in Portugal, so we joined him.

The most difficult part is getting homesick and missing my family who stayed in Brazil – the rest is less difficult to be away from. I like popular Brazilian music and I would not be able to live without it; thankfully it is easy to access it here, as well as Brazilian literature. I read Brazilian authors and poets daily. I only miss being close to my family. In Portugal I have my son, but no one else decided to join me in Lisbon.

I was always passionate about colonial architecture and “Little Lisbon” in Brazil; I used to imagine Portugal based on these buildings and the poets such as Fernando Pessoa and Florbela Espanca. I knew very little about social or economic issues before coming.

I feel that I have been privileged since I moved to Lisbon. I live in a very typical Lisbon neighborhood at the heart of the cosmopolitan city. I am close to the post office, public transport lines, schools, markets and shops. It is the Lisbon I always dreamt of, a peaceful Lisbon, in which I can calmly go for a stroll in the city – something I could not do back in Brazil.

Still, it is necessary to recognize the xenophobia that we have in ourselves. Only then will we be able to deconstruct and destroy it. It is important to understand what the xenophobic spirit is and how it is harmful. A xenophobic person won’t treat others equally and in a humane way, but rather as though they belong to a second-class type of citizenship. It is important to look at people as complete citizens, regardless of their nationality, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or social status. It is usually migrants in vulnerable situations who suffer from the discourse that justifies xenophobia as a protective measure for a country. That is where danger and hatred stems from.

Discrimination triggers a common feeling that all people have to include themselves in the same framework: 'I need to study at University otherwise I will be judged as inferior. I need to work twice as much to prove that I deserve the same as others.' Society should accept others as equal. I feel this as the director of an active association. I am a migrant and the champion of a cause and I speak with everyone as an equal.

People look at me, they know my name, and they know I am the president of an association, but when they hear me talk with my Brazilian accent, they say that they never imagined that I would be Brazilian. In people's minds I would look like a Portuguese man, sometimes a Spanish woman. Never a Brazilian woman."

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