Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies honours student for academic achievement

York University’s Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program is pleased to announce that Natasha Ferreira is this year’s recipient of the Dark Stones: The Azorean Spirit Award.

fereirraFerreira, a recent graduate, majored in humanities, with an honours minor in Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian studies. This award, sponsored by Banco Santander Totta (Toronto Rep. office), recognizes and celebrates Ferreira as the program’s most accomplished student in the 2015-16 academic year.

The Dark Stones: The Azorean Spirit award, established in 2014, recognizes the academic achievements of students enrolled in the Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program at York University. This award is open to full-time students enrolled in the program who have completed at least 12 credits in Portuguese courses, and who have obtained an overall grade point average of at least 7.0. The award also recognizes students’ co-curricular and extra-curricular involvement.

Ferreira made sure that her time spent at York University was meaningful. She was very active in the Student Intramural Athletic Council and the Student Council. She is of Portuguese descent, and took courses in Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Studies. These courses gave her the opportunity to not only meet other Portuguese-Canadian students, but also get a more complete picture of the many facets of Portugueseness or Lusofonia.

“These courses and amazing professors helped me learn so much more,” she said. “It wasn’t about what was written in the books, but the experience in the classrooms that taught me how to read and write in Portuguese, as well as the complex and interesting history of the small country at the edge of Europe. These courses, and what was taught, brought me closer to my roots and forever changed my experience of visiting Portugal. The courses about Portuguese history and literature give students a new perspective of the individuals who helped connect the world, their politics and linguistic aspects of the language, which widen my views on being Portuguese.”

This award honours José Dias de Melo, author of the seminal novel Dark Stones (1964), an important Portuguese writer from the Azores. He is popularly known as the writer of the whales due to his extensive work regarding the whaling industry and the saga of the Azorean people. A staunch defender of equality, dignity, social justice and freedom, Dias de Melo’s works have emphasized the plight of poverty, injustice and systemic exploitation inflicted on the Azorean people. His many works, which include some available in translation, are especially poignant to Azoreans, including a large community in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, due to York University’s commitment to social justice, diversity and the global community, this award also speaks to the University’s mission and priorities.

In Ferreira’s words: “He wrote from the eyes of the average citizen, like a farmer, giving the readers a more realistic grasp of life during that time. Dias de Melo helped me comprehend the feelings and difficulties my immigrant parents had, and just how exciting this new world of North America seemed to them, but also how hard it must have been for them to start a new life in a foreign land. He holds onto a reality and struggle of the Portuguese people that is still very evident today.”

Banco Santander Totta is a leading Portuguese banking institution and one of the largest banks in Portugal. With representation worldwide, Banco Santander Totta is also a prominent contributor to community, cultural and educational development and support.

Ferreira will receive the award on Nov. 14 at 7:30pm at Casa dos Açores of Ontario, at 1136 College St., Toronto.