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Portuguese cultural class back by popular demand
Mary Del Pino and her students at the first Portuguese Cultural Class, which concluded just last week, share a light moment during a discussion on conversational Portuguese. Two more of the same class, with the evening session twice as long, will start on March 18. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
Two new Portuguese cultural classes are being offered by the Manteca Senior Center and the city Parks and Recreation Department starting this Wednesday.
By popular demand following the success of the recently concluded first class which had more than 40 enrolled, the city has approved scheduling a similar session in the afternoon plus a longer one in the evening.
“It was wonderful, it really was. I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Janice Perry, a retired Manteca Unified School teacher who is half-Portuguese on her father’s side.
“I was just interested to learn more about the country but Mary (Del Pino, the teacher) made it so interesting and so fun. In fact, I just registered for the next class, the two-hour one.”
She was talking about the evening session which is being offered to accommodate those who want to join the class but are hindered by their daytime job. There were a lot more people who wanted to sign up the last time but were unable to do so because of their daytime jobs, Del Pino said.
Both the evening and afternoon classes will meet for nine weeks every Wednesday at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane, located just behind the police station at City Hall.
The afternoon class will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The fee for the entire class is $25 per person. One must be at least 50 years old to take this class, with sign-ups taken at the Senior Center.
The two-hour evening session offered through the Parks and Recreation Department will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. The fee for this longer session is $50 per student. Participants must be 14 years old or older; there is no age limit for adults. Sign-ups for the evening class must be made at the Parks and Rec Office at 252 Magnolia Avenue, in the building behind the City Hall administration office.
The fees will cover the cost of printed materials, the potluck entree which will be held during a discussion on Portuguese cuisine, and other miscellaneous expenses. Five dollars of the class fee for seniors will remain with the Senior Center to help with programs there, Del Pino said. In the evening class, Parks and Rec will get 30 percent of the fee for facility usage.
If you crunch the numbers, “this still equates to $2.77 per session if they break down (the fee). A cup of coffee at any restaurant costs about this much, not to mention the cost of Starbucks,” said Del Pino emphasizing the great deal that residents get out of these city programs.

people with their roots
She said the purpose of the new classes “just like the first class, is to reacquaint those of Portuguese ancestry with their roots” by talking about Portuguese history, immigration to the United States plus a study of Manteca’s own Portuguese community.
There are so many second- and third-generation Americans of Portuguese descent today whose immigrant parents have passed away and would like to reconnect with the culture, traditions and beliefs that their parents and/or grandparents brought with them to their new country, said Del Pino, a special ed teacher with the Manteca Unified School District who is, herself, a second-generation Portuguese.
Her basic class syllabus covers the gamut of Portuguese history, traditions and beliefs which will be discussed in an informal setting with lots of interactive sessions. Discussions will focus on “who we are, where did we come from?” and on to the “glory years — Henry the Navigator and Exploration” and “our specialties — dairy/farming/deep-sea fishing (whaling and tuna),” as well as the history of the FESM and MRPS Porguese festas in Manteca, Del Pino explained.
Like the first class, she will also spice up her students’ experience with talks about Portuguese food and cuisine — Portuguese eat more than sopas, she said with a laugh — plus the Portuguese folk dance called “Chamarita” which was a big hit among her first students who actually had to learn the steps. The potluck was equally popular, with each student asked to bring a dish — preferably something Portuguese — with Del Pino bringing the main Portuguese entree.
“My dad made the best Portuguese beans you ever tasted in your life, and he left me the recipe. But I brought green salad (to the potluck) because I can’t cook like those people can; I wasn’t even going to try!” Perry said with a chuckle.
Another topic that proved popular among the students was the lesson on conversational Portuguese “to help you communicate when you take your trip to the Azores!” Del Pino.
In line with that lesson, she said, “I am thinking about the possibility of coordinating a trip to the Azores with a local travel agency so that my class could have the opportunity to go — maybe, the more we go, the better the deal we will get!”
Additional topics she has scheduled for the longer evening class include Portuguese bullfighting, Portuguese fraternal organizations in California, “more folk dances, more cultural traditions, in-depth study of each Azorean island, all with an Azorean influence,” she said.
Perry said that even though the class focuses on the Portuguese experience, “I’d recommend it highly to anybody that’s interested in history. It’s just so interesting. Even if you’re not Portuguese, if  you like history and how our country was settled, you’ll like this class.”
She was not the only one hooked on this new offering at the Senior Center and Parks and Recreation. Classmate Rosemary Lewis was equally enamored with all the discussions.
“It was a very interesting class, very informative. And Mary is an exciting teacher. I really enjoyed the class,” Lewis said.