The Beauty of Diversity

October 19, 2015


Firstly, allow me to introduce my beautiful cousin – Gabriela.

Gabby was my partner in crime when were kids, growing up in Brazil, eating mangoes off the mango tree, strutting around in our cousins’, aunts’, and mothers’ shoes, and dreaming up big dreams.

Oh, how I have missed this girl!

I left Brazil when I was seven and hadn’t been back to visit my family until late last year. But it was amazing how little things had changed. We all just picked up right where we’d left off. My cousins and I were kids again, best friends, giddy with joy at our reunion – eating out, sleeping late, and sharing secrets.

So I was ecstatic when I found out she was coming to visit me in America this past August.

While she was here we discussed the differences between the American and Brazilian cultures – each one with its own set of merits and challenges. Our discussions about culture got me thinking about culture, ethnicity, diversity, and identity.


Until this day I still get asked about my nationality.

I’ve grown accustomed to surprised or even skeptical looks when I tell people that I am Brazilian – as if they know what a Brazilian is supposed to look like and I do not fit the description.

Thinking about it, I can’t really blame people being for being uneducated about the immense diversity of my home country. A mix of African, European, and native people  Brazil is very much a melting pot. There are blonde haired blue eyed Brazilians, olive skinned brunettes, blacks, Asians, and everything in between.

We all have origins extending far beyond Brazil but the majority strongly identify as Brazilians. Interracial relationships are more prevalent and race and ethnicity are blurred. Among a continent of mostly Spanish speaking countries we are the only Portuguese speakers, alienating us from traditionally defined “hispanics.”

Needless to say, I often struggle to fill out those forms describing race and ethnicity.

When people meet my cousin or see pictures they always seem surprised that we are first cousins – after all our complexions and our features are so different. People also tell me that I don’t look much like my mother, who is the same caramel complexion as my cousin. I guess I inherited my dad’s third generation Italian traits.

But family, friendship, love – the ties that bind us – really shouldn’t be based on appearances. Rather, it’s our shared experiences which makes us cousins, siblings, lovers, friends, family.

I used to feel insecure about my identity, a Brazilian transplant living an American life who didn’t fit people’s definition of a Jennifer Lopez like Brazilian goddess (even though JLO isn’t even Brazilian).

I have come to realize that identifying with a group of people is not about fitting a mold, in fact, all of us identify with various groups of people on various levels. But for some reason, we still feel this enormous pressure to meet societal expectations, constructs, and definitions of beauty.

We just want to fit. To fit a stereotype. To fit a mold. To just fit in.


But I don’t think we realize the true consequences of just fitting in.

Be careful what you wish for because a world full of look a likes is just plan ol’ boring. If we wanted things to be boring we wouldn’t make a box of crayons full of different colors, now would we?

There’s a Muslim saying that goes, “A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.”

So go ahead sunflowers, roses, peonies, marigolds, tulips…and bloom.

“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” – Max de Pree


Top: Banana Republic (Patricia)
Forever 21 (Gaby)

Skirt: Diesel (Patricia)
Sly Wear (Gaby) Brazilian brand

Gaby’s Loafers:  Santa Lolla Brazilian brand

Free Spirit Bracelet (Patricia):
c/0 of Alicia Kentworthy  (Handcraft jewelry artisan extraordinaire)

Photography by the lovely Nina Medard.
For more behind the lens check out her post.

Blog Signature Patricia


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