By Carina Hennessy, Contributing Writer
Think of how many people you know on campus who have Portuguese last names, or who speak Portuguese.
A lot, right? Maybe you speak it yourself!
The Southcoast area of Massachusetts has been a gathering place over the last two centuries for Portuguese-speaking immigrants, including people of mainland Portugal, the Azores, Brazil, and some African countries including Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Equatorial Guinea.
The impact of this concentration of Lusophones (people who speak Portuguese) is apparent even on our own campus: we house the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese American Archives in our library, and the Portuguese department is its own department in the College of Arts and Sciences, unlike the rest of the language programs which are collected into the Foreign Literature and Languages department.
You may already know how big our Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture is, but did you know that they have a small publishing arm called Tagus Press that is a partner of the University Press of New England?
Located upstairs in the North Atrium of LARTs, across from the Foreign Language Lab and Media Center, tiny Tagus Press is a testament to labors of love.
The cozy Portuguese lounge features great seating overlooking campus, colorful artwork from places like Mozambique, and sample copies of Tagus publications for students and faculty to flip through splayed out on the round ottomans.
Walking into the Tagus office itself, you’re greeted by shelves upon shelves of neat rows of Tagus books.
The volumes include books of poetry, memoirs, novels, and more academic publications such as the Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies (PLCS) journal, new editions of which are now available online.
Signed posters from prominent visitors, including soccer player António Simões and author Lídia Jorge, are displayed around the room along with quirky art and mementos.
Tagus and the Portuguese Center have also hosted important dignitaries such as Vasco Cordeiro, the president of the regional government of the Azores.
As Tagus considers itself “an academic press with a community purpose,” it aims to build bridges not only between UMass Dartmouth’s students and Portuguese culture, but also between the local Portuguese-American communities and the international Lusophone community.
To accomplish this, the Center collaborates with groups such as universities in the Portuguese-speaking world, with the Portuguese Consulate in New Bedford, with foreign and domestic dignitaries, and with various artists and authors to create community-centered events.
One of the best parts? The Center feels a strong obligation to keep entrance to their events free of charge to encourage inclusiveness and a sense of welcome, so you can expect to attend quality events for free.
This sense of community obligation doesn’t just extend to Lusophone peoples. Tagus Press’s faculty director and Portuguese-language Professor Christopher Larkosh emphasizes Tagus’s vision to foster an “alternate kind of globalization,” one where places such as Africa’s Lusophone countries, created by Portuguese imperialism, can connect with and grow alongside their former colonizers.
He hopes to see this idea “extend to other cultures,” such as in the interaction between the United States and Native American groups such as the local Wampanoags.
Culture everywhere is rapidly globalizing and changing in dynamic, and “there’s still room for the new,” Larkosh says.
The diverse books of Tagus reflect this as well; not all of them are strictly centered on Portuguese culture. For example, the novel The Only Happy Ending for a Love Story is an Accident by Brazilian author J.P. Cuenca takes place in a near-future Japan.
One opportunity that the Portuguese Center has seized in order to assist UMass Dartmouth students in creating global links is through a grant from the Luso-American Development Foundation to bring a small group of students with a defined interest in Portuguese literature, language, culture, and/or business to the Azores for a short educational trip.
Applications for this opportunity will be available through the Portuguese Department soon.
Another upcoming event hosted by the Center include a lecture from Angolan author and Visiting Endowed Chair Professor in Portuguese Ndalu de Almeida, aka “Ondjaki.”
The lecture, which will be given in Portuguese, will take place on November 16 at 5 p.m. in room 314 of the Claire T. Carney library.
Yet another event, held in English this time, will be a visit from prominent Portuguese-American author Frank X. Gaspar on November 17 at 11 a.m. in room 101 in LARTs.
Although the event is being hosted by Christopher Larkosh’s Portuguese literature class, the event is open to everyone.
The Center and Tagus Press is also working on bringing in student involvement. If any students are interested in carving out a niche for themselves in blogging, editing, reviewing, social media and other services the Center would benefit from, students are encouraged by Tagus’ managing editor Mario Pereira to “bring their own expertise.”
Take it from me, a non-Portuguese student who is interning at the Press now: you don’t need to be part of a culture to appreciate the progress and art it is making.