When people think of Brazil, they may think of the Amazon, Carnival, coffee, soccer and samba. Very few people outside of Brazil and Japan are aware that, as a result of Japanese government policy in the years immediately following WWI, there are now over 1,500,000 Japanese immigrants and succeeding generations living in Brazil. Glendale Community College student Patricia Konno is a Japanese Brazilian. She recounts a fascinating story of her then-14 year old grandfather and his younger brother being placed on boats bound for Brazil. An agreement between overpopulated Japan and labor-hungry Brazil was misrepresented to thousands of Japanese parents as a wonderful opportunity for their children to receive an education while being raised by Brazilian families. The reality that awaited the children was hard and demeaning work on Brazilian farms. To compensate for their unrealized potential, the second generation of Japanese Brazilians worked very hard to put their younger siblings through college. Patricia notes that third generation Japanese Brazilians place equally great importance on education.Patricia is a global student having studied Drafting at a Technical College in Brazil and Tourism in England. Since she speaks Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and English, she was able to get a job as an English instructor in Japan, a country she has grown to love as much as her beloved Brazil. She enjoyed teaching children immensely and wanted to get a degree in Elementary Education. “I felt very bad when I was living in Japan that I did not complete college. I wanted to go back to school but didn’t know when or how I could.” In 2006, Patricia and her husband, Wellington, came to Arizona to visit a minister for whom she had interpreted in Japan. The couple fell in love with our desert landscape and friendly people. They decided to apply for student visas and haven’t looked back. She loves studying at Glendale Community College and says…”without scholarships I could not continue my higher education…they are imperative to me.” Patricia is an Honors student and works three jobs, one as an ESL Tutor at GCC, while her husband of three years is working toward becoming a physician. Both would like to become permanent residents of the United States. And what happened to her grandfather after being taken from his home at the age of 14? Initially bitter at Japan for what he considered a betrayal and after much prodding from his family in Brazil, he returned to his homeland. He had been totally disconnected from the family he left behind for 50 years. During his weeks in Japan, he visited with his surviving siblings and their families and saw the prosperous Japan of today. Patricia reports that he returned to Brazil happy and at peace with both his native country and his adopted one. Patricia hopes to realize her grandfather’s educational dream of long ago by earning a university degree herself.
"Without scholarships I could not continue my higher education…they are imperative to me."