Paulo Martins has mastered the art of multi-tasking. The 43-year-old Portuguese immigrant works full-time as a consular officer at the Portuguese Consulate in Boston, answering questions, resolving constituent issues and providing a variety of support to the consul. He's also a part-time student at Boston University's Metropolitan College, where he's studying business administration and management. He coaches soccer, volunteers at a local Portuguese school and, last but not least, he's a husband and father of two, responsible for most domestic affairs in his own home.
Although Martins and his wife, Cambridge Health Alliance physician Helena Santos Martins, have the added help of a nanny for young Catarina and Philip, Martins' guiding role on the home front separates him from many Portuguese men.
"In a traditional Portuguese family, the man is the main breadwinner and childcare and house chores are handled by the woman," said Martins, one of 13 featured speakers at a June 6 community conference about Portuguese-speaking men at UMass. Boston. "I give my wife full support so she can do her work and advance her career. I try to spend quality time with the children, help them with their homework, with the Internet and TV supervision, I like to cook - and they like my meals. And at bedtimes, I tell them a story."
The recent full-day conference, entitled "homem: achievements and challenges across Portuguese-speaking cultures," explored men's changing roles not only in the family but also at work, within the realm of physical and mental health, and in society as a whole. Sponsored by the Boston Portuguese Festival, CPCU Credit Union, the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) and UMass. Boston's Applied Linguistics Department, "homem" (men) panels touched on topics ranging from immigrant career building to fatherhood, interpersonal violence, the mind-body health connection, and HIV. Speakers and organizers included educators and scholars, businessmen, physicians, psychologists, social workers and others from the nonprofit world.
"It was an excellent conference that brought out many issues important not only for men but for everyone in the community and the professionals who work with us," said conference director Ana Nava. "I want to especially thank all of the presenters, organizers, sponsors and supporters, as well as Frank Baptista, host of Radio Voz do Emigrante/WHTB 1400AM, who broadcasted live interviews with speakers throughout the day so that thousands of other community members could share the experience."
Panelists shared a variety of interesting facts and ideas throughout the day. For example, Portuguese in the U.S., traditionally less likely than other groups to become self-employed entrepreneurs, have begun reversing that trend in recent years, according to Gloria de Sá, an assistant professor of sociology at UMass. Dartmouth.
"The disappearance of factory jobs may have forced the group to find alternative sources of income including self-employment," she said.
Civil engineer Alberto Gala talked about adjusting to the very different professional development standards between the U.S. and Portugal. He also highlighted a lack of unity among Portuguese immigrants that he believes has sometimes kept them back as a group in the U.S.
"We are all immigrants in this country and we have to work together to benefit the country," he said.
Other speakers highlighted more personal struggles on national and ethnic identity and other issues related to being an American immigrant, especially one from a linguistic, cultural and/or racial minority.
"As an immigrant from Cape Verde, you always have that turmoil in your life," said Silvestre Fontes, an attorney for the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and a former MAPS board member. "To what extent are you Cape Verdean and to what extent are you an American?"
Standing out as an immigrant with an accent and from a racial minority also has its challenges, as Fontes, and later speaker Ambrizeth Lima, said. Lima, also from Cape Verde, works for the Boston Public Schools and has done scholarly research on the experience of young Cape Verdean men in this area. She talked about harassment of these young men by police because of their appearance.
The conference also addressed issues of gay, bisexual and transgender men, ranging from discrimination to HIV prevention. Adir Baldelim and Washington Ramos, who provide HIV/AIDS services at MAPS, described a variety of creative methods they use to reach out to this community, which faces not only barriers of language and culture but also of discrimination in some of the Portuguese-speaking cultures, and the stigma of discussions about AIDS. But the MAPS program has educated and assisted many thousands of men over more than 20 years to reduce HIV in the community.
Members of MAPS' Family Based Services team joined José Ornelas, an associate professor of psychology in Portugal, and Percy Andreazi, director of the Wayside Men Against Violence Program in the metrowest area, for a panel on ending interpersonal violence.
The MAPS program, which works with families of abused, neglected and at-risk children and teens referred by the state Department of Children and Families to improve family functioning, counsels many fathers who want to be good parents but don't know how in the American context, according to team members.
"Our men come from a culture where we hear that to be a man, you need to be in control," said Alirio Pereira, one of the team's three child social workers. "As soon as they arrive in this country, they are going to find some challenges."
Joining Pereira on the panel were Soledade Dinis, who leads the MAPS team, and Jackson Santana, a former team member who recently joined the staff at Boston Medical Center.
Andreazi, a psychoanalyst and mental health counselor with a medical degree, said his group program at Wayside, aimed at teaching Brazilian men to recognize and avoid violence against women, had reached 2,000 people in the past three years.
"We need to tell them they can be macho without being machista, without being abusive," he said.
Ornelas called for an expanded worldwide campaign challenging old patriarchal attitudes and behaviors that have fostered violence against women, with men involved as key partners.
"Men's problems in terms of interpersonal violence are not individual problems, it's a societal problem," he said. "It is a sociopolitical problem and a human rights issue."
Caetano Serpa, a professor of Portuguese at UMass. Boston, went even further and championed a crusade to remove sexist words from the Portuguese language, which like other Romance languages often uses the masculine form to include both genders.
Other presenters included Francisco Fagundes, a professor of Portuguese at UMass. Amherst, speaking about the difficult experience of coping with his son's brain tumor; and psychologist Ricardo Bianco and Pieter Cohen, both from the Cambridge Health Alliance, who spoke respectively about using spirituality to cope with stress and the dangers of increasing obesity among immigrants. Panel moderators included Rui Domingos, CEO of the CPCU Credit Union, on the "Professional and Financial Enrichment" panel; Craig Norberg-Bohm, coordinator of the Men's Initiative at Jane Doe Inc., on "Ending Interpersonal Violence;" Maria Carvalho, a clinical social work coordinator at Children's Hospital, for the "Connection: The Mind/Body" panel; Elsa Gomes, a former MAPS staff member now at Tufts University, who moderated the lunch panel; and Graça Cordeiro, an anthropology professor in Lisbon, for the panel "Transformation: Fathers and Sons."
"Homem" was the fourth in a series of conferences about the Portuguese-speaking community sponsored by MAPS and other community organizations.
MAPS has provided health and social services to the Portuguese-speaking community since 1970. The agency has six offices throughout Greater Boston, Framingham and Lowell. For more information and more information about the conference, visit www.maps-inc.org.
Wicked Local Sommervillhe, aqui, acedido em 22 de Junho de 2009.