Mother Tongue

In São Paulo, Brazil, the Museum of the Portuguese Language vividly unites language and cultural identity

"What are the roots of your language?" I ask a group of students waiting to enter the Museum of the Portuguese Language in São Paulo's Estação da Luz (Station of Light). Their friendly, hesitant responses—"Latin?" "Portuguese!" "English," "German?"—are a choral validation of the essential nature of this new museum. These kids are from SENAC São Paulo, part of a national network of vocational trade schools. The language they learn to read and write doesn't reflect the uniquely rich complexity of Brazilian Portuguese. How could they know their language is 20 percent Arabic and forged by rich lineages of African Bantu and indigenous Tupi and Guarani?

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.