Samuel Cavalheiro is a sophomore from Leominster, MA. Pursuing a double major in Portuguese and Political Science got him an internship with Senator John Cronin in Boston. As one of the few staff members who speaks Portuguese, Samuel enjoys interacting with constituents. Upon graduation, he plans to continue his work in the legislature and eventually become an immigration attorney and continue to advocate for immigrant rights.

At UMass, not only he improved his appreciation for Portuguese, but he also developed an awareness of Lusophone cultures in Brazil, Angola or Portugal. “When I speak Portuguese, it turns into a melody of a song.” He confesses that he discovered his love for Brazilian music when he started studying in our program. “Now it’s what plays in my room most of the time!” he says. “I’ve introduced Brazilian music to my friends. A friend and I are obsessed with Brazilian jazz. I think ‘Clube da esquina’ is one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s a collaboration between Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges.”    

The Portuguese Program was determinant when he decided to attend UMass. While he grew up bilingual, he did not have many opportunities to improve his reading and writing skills. Last Fall, he took a History of Brazil class with Professor Amaral that prompted him to learn more about his heritage culture. During winter break, he visited family in Curitiba and borrowed a book from his cousin that Professor Amaral recommended in class. The book is titled 1889, by Laurentino Gomez, and explains how Brazil turned into a republic.

One of the most valuable aspects of Samuel’s experience in majoring in Portuguese is the size of the program. “It’s almost a family! You get close to your professors and graduate instructors. They become mentors in a way.” While UMass is a large school, Samuel finds the Portuguese program “is a great way to find my own little community.”

“My advice to future students is come with a desire to learn Portuguese. You will get from the program so much more than you will ever expect.”

Samuel’s interest in politics began in high school. He became president of his hometown politics club. He registered voters of the senior class and organized a town hall debate with two major candidates. This summer he will be an intern again in Senator Cronin’s office. His understanding of the intersection of politics and immigration has expanded.

“I feel like we’re beginning to see Brazilian Americans become represented as a group.” He mentions the recent election of Danilo Sena as the first Brazilian immigrant in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the fact that many more Brazilian Americans are working with local and state offices. Samuel is one of them. He gets to meet Portuguese-speaking constituents in senior centers and in new affordable housing openings.