Portuguese department hosts Carnavalentine celebration for students


Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern

Portuguese language students celebrated Carnival and Valentine’s Day together, and danced to music with homemade shakers.

Kaavya Butaney, Assistant Campus Editor

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese on Monday night hosted its first Carnavalentine, a combination of Carnival and Valentine’s Day where students ate Brazilian snacks, danced and made shakers from recycled cans.

The department often hosts events like these that focus on Brazilian or Portuguese culture.

The Portuguese department focuses on Brazilian culture because the faculty members are primarily Brazilian, according to Portuguese language Prof. Ana Thomé Williams, but the department also engages with topics on Portugal and Portuguese-speaking African countries.

According to Williams, the events typically draw around 25 student attendees. Former students and Brazilian students also often participate.

Woman holding a homemade shaker.
Portuguese Prof. Ana Thomé Williams said she enjoys these events because they offer students a chance to learn while relaxed. (Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern)

“Outside of the classroom, the students will have a relaxed time to practice the language, to get to know the culture, enjoy the culture on a different level, get to know other students,” Thomé Williams said.

Although Carnavalentine was partially a Valentine’s Day celebration, Brazil does not observe the holiday. Instead, it celebrates Dia dos Namorados in June, which has a different origin and backstory. The event’s timing was primarily based on Carnival, which will happen next week.

According to lecturer Mirella Gomes da Silva, the department hosts at least four or five events each quarter.

“There are plenty of opportunities for students to practice,” she said. “They’re not always able to come because they’re busy too, but we want to make sure we have something for them.”

These events balance intellectual and fun offerings, according to Spanish language first-year graduate student Roberto Katrandjiyski, who previously attended a Brazilian hot dog party and a speaker event about the Brazilian empire.

Every year, the department also hosts a collaboration with different universities in the area. Last quarter, it partnered with the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for a get-together with Brazilian food. Communication junior Autumn Rose said that was her favorite event.

 Paper heart pressed against the window.
As a part of the event, students taped up paper hearts across the room, some with Portuguese poems on them. (Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern)

“When you learn a language, you’re kind of opening the door to new culture, new opportunities in general,” Rose said.

For Williams, the best part of teaching Portuguese is the real-life opportunities she can give students.

She said students will often visit other countries, and some have sent her mail or postcards sharing their experiences.

“The language made a difference in their lives,” Williams said. “And when it happens, I feel so happy and excited because I was instrumental. I’m very excited. I see most of them excited about learning the language. I hope to see them reach (higher) levels of Portuguese and feel really accomplished.”

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