CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY'S HISTORY PROJECT: Josť Freitas
Celebrating Culture & Community is putting together interviews of 25
El Cerrito residents, a project aimed at showing the diverse communities that
have contributed to the city's history.
The interviews have been made possible largely through support from the
California Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment
for the Humanities.
For more information about Celebrating Culture & Community , contact
Eve Ma at 236-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Following is one of those interviews:
INTERVIEW with Josť Freitas††††††††† ††††††††††††††† Interviewer:† Eve
A. Ma (Dr. L. Eve Armentrout Ma, Esq.)
DATE:† April† 21 2000†††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††† Location:†
at his home in El Cerrito
Question:† How long have you been in El Cerrito?
Answer:† About 10 years.† Before that, I was in New York for two years.†
El Cerrito is much betteróthe weather, the [lack of] filthiness and crowds,
the location, everything.† I was in Brazil before that, in Minas Gerais.
Question:† How do you feel about the city of El Cerrito?
Answer:† I like El Cerrito very much.† Itís quiet, mostly residential,
very safe.† Itís a good city of live in. †Itís central to Oakland, Concord,
San Francisco, Pinole.
Question:† How did you come to move here?
Answer:† By chance.† In New York City, I met someone who knew someone
who lived in Richmond.† I went to Richmond, but didnít like it and so I chose
Question:† Do you work in El Cerrito? Answer:† I work in San
Question:† When you go out, do you go for amusement to places in El†
Answer:† Thereís no place for amusement.† To make El† Cerrito even better,
you need more entertainment.† This would generate revenue and attract more people;†
nothing wild, but something for your people to go to and have fun.† Most things
are in Oakland and San Francisco.† I used to go to Porto Brazil when it was
open in Kensington.
Question: Do you go to church in El Cerrito, or do your shopping in
Answer:† Yes, I go to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in El Cerrito.†
I do some shopping in El Cerrito, at Kragenís, Target, supermarkets, but there
are not many options so mostly I shop in Richmond (at Hilltop Mall) or San Francisco
for things like clothing.
Question:† Tell me about the Brazilian community in this area.† When
did Brazilians first start settling here?†
Answer:† I donít know the exact size of the Brazilian community.† People
are coming and going.† Before we started the community in the church, there
was not much unity.† Not even the consulate knew how many Brazilians were living
here, but in fact, there are Brazilians everywhere.† When I got here in 1990,
there was already quite a few Brazilians already here.† We started the community
in St. Johnís Church in 1998.† We have weekly masses in Portuguese every Sunday
at 5:00pm.† We also hold English classes, catechisms for children and adults,
and have several ministries within the church (communications, festivals, choir,
Question:† What attracted Brazilians to this area?
Answer:† Other Brazilians living here.† Most of the people have been
coming from the same region in Brazil.† In El Cerrito, most of the Brazilians
come from Goias but in New York, itís mostly people from Minas;† but there are
also Brazilians in El Cerrito from other regions [not just Goias].
Question:† Are there many Brazilian-owned businesses in the area?
Answer:† In Berkeley, thereís Ninos Pizza, and Rosana Brito [who used
to own Porto Brazil in Kensington] has opened S.F. Pizza in Richmond on MacDonald
near FoodsCo.† And thereís another pizza place, Mr. Pizza Man, off MacDonald
on 24th St.†† Brazil Today [the newspaper] is still in existence,
but it's not too popular.† Itís the only local Brazilian paper.† Itís expensive,
and the ads are too expensive;† thatís why itís not so popular.† There are also
two travel agencies owned by† Braziliansó1 is Santini Tours in Berkeley, and
one is Tropical Travel in Oakland
Question:† Do Brazilians feel comfortable here?
Answer:† Yes, we feel comfortable, but most live in Richmond because
its cheaper.† St. Johnís is the only church in this area that has a Brazilian
Portuguese mass other than in San Jose.† The Brazilians who live in Richmond
also mostly come from Goias.
Question:† Are there any special Brazilian celebrations that you celebrate
here?† What are the most important family celebrations?
Answer:† For special celebrations, we have the June festival, the Festa
Junina (which celebrates the saints St. Anthony and St. Peter).† The actual
day is June 24 but this year, we will celebrate it on June 10 so we donít conflict
with the big St. Johnís celebration;† they are celebrating their 75th
anniversary on June 24.† For the celebration, we have country dance and music,
food and [traditional] clothing.† In Brazil, it [this event] is mostly celebrated
in the countryside.† For other celebrations, there is Our Lady of Aparecida,
our patron saint, whose celebration is on October 12.† In these two celebrations,
we will involve all the church community.† We also have celebrations within
the community, within the Brazilian congregation, almost every week.
Another Brazilian-owned business is Santini Tours.† The owner was thinking
of bringing carnaval to the East Bay.† He hasnít yet, but may some time in the
As for family celebrations, the most important are anniversaries, motherís
day, fatherís day, childrenís day (which is the same day as Our Ladyís day,
October 12), grandmotherís day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving day (which we donít
celebrate in Brazil but do in the United States;†† itís a North American celebration),
and Valentineís Day (which is on a different day in Brazil, but in the U.S.,
we celebrate it on the North American day).
Question:† If you had a magic wand, what would you change about El Cerrito?
Answer:† Iíd like there to be more to doómore entertainment.† And also,
Iíd like it if the police were more friendly, not so rude.† In a quiet community
like this, they shouldnít be rude.† Also, Iíd like more restaurants.† This is
a diverse community, but you donít have a lot of different kinds of restaurants.
Question:† What do you like best about El Cerrito?
Answer:† Itís quiet, safe, clean, centrally located, near the freeway
(but the traffic on the freeway is bad), accessible to shopping and to BART.
Question:† Is there any question I should have asked that I didnít?
Answer: YesóWhy did we start the Brazilian community in the church?†
Two of us started, are involved in running, it:† me and Magda Gomes.† We started
it because there were so many Brazilians around.† Most are Catholics, but many
who arrived became Protestants because a lot of the Brazilians donít speak English
and there is a church next door to St. Johnís, a Protestant church, which has
a Brazilian pastoróso people were going there.† SoóI arranged for St. Johnís
to have a mass in Portuguese.† We met with a Brazilian priest, who was then
in San Pablo.† He was saying the mass in San Pablo for the Portuguese.† We [Magda
Gomes and Josť Freitas] brought him to St. Johnís.
The priest thought weekly masses for the Brazilians might be too much, but
we said no, and Father Maxwell [the presiding priest at St. Johnís] made the
arrangements.† We started with only 20 people, but now, with word of mouth and
advertisements to let people know, we have an average of 80 people each week.†
We order our mass bulletines directly from Brazil.† We have hymnals from Brazil.†
We have had some baptisms and weddings.† We are becoming better known;† even
the consulate has recognized us.† Some of the people who come donít even speak
Portuguese, but they like the spirit of the mass and so they come.† We are friendly,
and we are very lively.† [And some people have started coming to the mass who
were going to the Protestant church next door.]
CELEBRATNG CULTURE & COMMUNITY (CC&C)
1900 International MarketPlace, San
Pablo, CA., 94806
(510) 236-3255;† fax (510) 236-3068
Run dates: 2000-06-05 - 2000-06-23