COLUMBIA — For those who came out to Stephens Lake Park Monday afternoon, Sept. 7 holds a special value.
The Luso-Brazilian Students Association held its annual barbecue to celebrate Brazilian Independence Day and to promote interaction between students and members of the community.
Brazil gained its independence from Portugal on Sept. 7, 1822.
With both Portuguese and English filling the air, picnic tables lined with food, music playing and Brazilian flags aplenty, the barbecue is a little taste of home for many Brazilians residing in Columbia.
Bruna Guelfi moved to Columbia from Brazil in October to join her husband, who is studying at MU. Educated in Brazil in physical therapy, Guelfi now works at Boone County Hospital Center as a nurse's assistant while she works to get her license here.
Guelfi became involved in the association because of her husband's involvement and appreciates the chance to celebrate the holiday with fellow Brazilians.
"It's really important for us to be in touch with our people, too," Guelfi said. "Of course it's nice to learn about other cultures and to meet Americans, but we all do that in our jobs and school."
The Luso-Brazilian Students Association attempts to help facilitate these connections throughout the year. Christiane Quinn works in the Cambio Center at MU which reaches out to Latinos in Missouri. Quinn has lived in Columbia for 12 years and the United States for 20 years. Since Quinn grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Independence Day has always been a part of her life.
"It's a major holiday with parades on the streets, or you might take the day off and go to the beach, and just enjoy yourself," Quinn said.
According to Quinn, between 20 and 30 Brazilian students attend MU each year and about that many live in Columbia at-large, so this small community attempts to keep in touch with their culture with events like this and Carnivale in the spring.
For her 8-year-old daughter, Francielie, the traditions of Brazilian culture aren't as familiar, but the barbecue is a chance for her to get acquainted with some of them.
"Everybody who wants to come can come," Francielie said, "especially if they like to have food."
Although many of the people at the festival were enjoying the barbecue, Quinn says this is not typical of an independence day celebration in Brazil.