On this Flag Day holiday, local dignitaries will be raising the American flag at city hall in honor of Old Glory and all that she represents. Just below the stars and stripes will be hung another symbol important to many people in East Providence – the flag of Portugal.
In the hallways and classrooms of East Providence High School, it is easy to see the influence of Portuguese culture. Ask a class full of students about their Portuguese heritage and you will likely see an entire room of hands shooting up in the air.
Because of the vibrant Portuguese community in East Providence, study of the Portuguese language has long been a part of the curriculum at EPHS. Today, roughly 400 students are enrolled in a Portuguese classes at the high school level. However, these classes are not exclusively for students of Portuguese background.
"The influence of the Portuguese has grown over the past few decades," said Ana Melo, a Portuguese teacher at EPHS. "We have always had a good number of heritage speakers as our cultural tradition of Portugal is strong, but we are starting to see more kids who are interested in the Portuguese speaking world. They recognize the importance of Portuguese on a global scale."
One Portuguese speaking country that has drawn a lot of attention in recent years is the South American country Brazil – which recently passed England to become the sixth largest economy in the world. As the ninth largest oil producer in the world, Brazil has been creating jobs and its economy is growing at an unprecedented rate. Brazil will help put even more emphasis on the Portuguese language as it will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
While East Providence has known the value of Portuguese for a long time, the rest of the world is seeing a new light shining on the Luso-world because of countries like Brazil and Angola in Africa. Portuguese is ranked sixth in the list of first-languages spoken in the world. It is valuable in many industries and its importance can even be compared to that of learning Spanish.
So just what does this mean for the students of East Providence? It means that our students will be better equipped when searching for careers in the global marketplace of the twenty-first century. It also means that kids of this generation will continue to be connected to the rich cultural heritage that has been such an integral part of East Providence.