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Inquiries from afar about Portuguese class

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POSTED January 19, 2009 1:01 a.m.
Mary Del Pino’s weekly Portuguese Cultural Class at the Manteca Senior Center started two weeks ago. But the overwhelming response was such that an evening session to accommodate those who have indicated their interest to attend but are hampered by their daytime jobs may be forthcoming.
“We are increasing in numbers,” Del Pino said after Wednesday’s meeting.
“And attendance is still growing,” she said, with 10 more students signing up Wednesday which boosted the attendance to almost 50.
“And there’s more coming because everyone says to me, ‘oh, next week my friend’s coming’ or ‘my sister’s coming.’ It’s been pretty well received and people are having a good time. They are not only reacquainting with their roots but with each other,” Del Pino said of her afternoon class offered through the Manteca Unified School District.
Expecting just a normal-sized group of maybe a dozen or 15, the class was originally scheduled to be held in the small room of the Senior Center. But so many people turned out the first day it was standing room only, so the class had to be moved into the “big auditorium” part of the building, Del Pino said.
And then on Wednesday, “they even gave me an amplifier so everyone can hear me,” said a pleasantly surprised Del Pino who was inspired to offer the cultural class at the urging of older Portuguese residents in the area who were concerned about the younger generations becoming out of touch with their rich cultural heritage.
The overwhelming response to her class “surprised me a little because we really didn’t have that much publicity out except for the article that came out in the Manteca Bulletin the day before (the first class),” Del Pino said.
“Everybody that has talked to me said they learned about it from the story. I put flyers on the city’s web site, too, and some people saw it on that web site. Some people saw the article on the Bulletin web site too, and the rest of it from word of mouth,” she said.
The Bulletin’s web site story even generated response and interest from people from as far as San Diego and Providence, Rhode Island, on the East Coast. An e-mail forwarded to the Bulletin by grandmatwo10 who apparently forwarded the story to someone on the East Coast, contained the following message: “I read your information on the Portuguese class with great interest. For those of us who are on the other side of America, it would be great if there were a series of videos available on this subject.”
Peter Proud-Madruga, founder and board president of the Portuguese Research and Education, Inc. of San Diego called the Bulletin asking to be connected with Del Pino to talk about the class. The nonprofit organization’s corporate office is located in La Mesa, Calif., according to information in the group’s web site www.presd.org.
While the evening session is still a strong possibility at this point, one thing that’s already certain is a repeat of the same class after this current session is over. That next session will begin on March 18 with the class also meeting from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Senior Center.
Topics for the class include the history of Portuguese immigration, Who’s Who in Portuguese history, Portuguese cuisine (this session will include a potluck), the colorful festas and its spiritual roots, the folk dance “chamarita” which will give the students an opportunity to actually learn the dance, and conversational Portuguese for those who plan to visit the old country and would like to navigate the language barrier starting with the very basic phrases.
Sign up fee for each student is $25 which will cover materials for the class with $5 going to the Senior Center to help with programs.
Del Pino, who holds a degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, and is currently a teacher with the Manteca Unified School District, is herself a second-generation Portuguese-American. Because of her “unique” upbringing — her parents were born in America but grew up in the Azores, then came back to the U.S. as Portuguese-speaking adults — Del Pino grew up speaking only Portuguese at home and is still very fluent in the language.
For more information about the class, e-mail Del Pino at mdelpino@mantecausd.net or mdelpino03@comcast.net.
The Manteca Senior Center is located at 295 Cherry Lane just behind the Police Department, telephone 825-2301.
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