By Belle Vang, COSS Communications Student Assistant

Dr. Maria-Aparecida Lopes, History and Chicano and Latin American Studies Professor, says growing up in Brazil and living in México for several years, opened her eyes to the difference in both cultures and the appreciation and pride of being Hispanic.

One-year-old Dr. Lopes with her parents in front of barrio in São Paulo, Brazil

Dr. Lopes was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil but in 1993 she moved to México to conduct doctoral studies in Mexican history at El Colegio de México.  There, she enjoyed the incredible opportunities she had as a full-time student and learned about the importance of welcoming different cultures.

“‘Adonde fueras haz lo que vieres’ [‘Wherever you go, do as you see.’] I learned this when I lived in Mexico.”

For Lopes, the saying summarizes the attitude that she believes everyone should have when they encounter different cultures and people. To try to understand them in their context and learn from both.  

Lopes considers Brazil, México and the U.S. her home countries but has a particular affection for México because of the opportunities she had there. She was a full-time student living in the city, a fascinating urban center.

After four years of living in México, Lopes moved to Austin, Texas where her husband was working on his doctoral degree in physics.

In 2007, Lopes came to Fresno State. She is a faculty member in the Chicano and Latin American Studies and History Departments where she teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on Latin American history.  Her career in education began as a high school teacher in the São Paulo, Brazil public school system. After finishing her Ph.D. in México, Lopes taught U.S. and Latin American history at the State University of São Paulo for five years.  She also taught a graduate course on Brazilian Historiography at Metropolitan Autonomous University, México.

With her diverse Hispanic background from living in Brazil and México, Lopes appreciates the way National Hispanic Heritage Month speaks to the U.S.’s diversity through the mix of English and Spanish traditions.

“For instance, the Spanish founded the first settlement in the U.S. at St. Augustine, Florida.”

São Paulo, Brazil today

Although the home she once had in São Paulo, Brazil is not what it once was, Lopes continues to convey the incredibly great potentials that reside in Latin America. She keeps traditions alive by educating her students about the Hispanic impact in history’s diversity and learning to appreciate the untold stories of the vibrant sub-continent of Latin America.