Saudade:News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Brazilian Faces: Paulo DeOliveira

Paulo Deoliveira being sworn in as the first Brazilian elected register of Deeds. — Courtesy Juliana Germani

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This month’s Brazilian Face is Paulo DeOliveira. Paulo is the first Brazilian-American politician elected to office on the Island. In 2016, Paulo DeOliveira became the first Brazilian to be elected to be registrar of deeds. Paulo is also a member of the Edgartown financial advisory committee, and one of the first Brazilian firemen/EMTs on the Island. Since moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 2006, Paulo has become one of the Brazilian-American individuals who continually works towards bridging any gaps between the Brazilian and American communities. He is also a mentor for many Brazilian-American young men in the Brazilian community, whether it be with his work as a fireman or as a public servant.


Where are you from in Brazil?

I am from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais.


How did you end up in the U.S.?

In 1998, I visited the U.S. for the first time during Christmastime. Brazilians grow up watching all of these American movies that I believe make all of us when visiting the U.S. for the first time feel as if we are living in a film set. I saw snow for the first time, and got to spend Christmas with my father, who had been living in the U.S. for a while. I was used to living in a big city. However, Boston had a very different urban pulse, and I remember how clean Boston looked in comparison with Belo Horizonte. I came back two years later to attend high school and become proficient in English. I enrolled in school at the Madison Park Vocational High School in Roxbury. At that time, there weren’t a lot of Brazilians in Roxbury, but a lot of Cape Verdeans. I attended high school during the time that Mitt Romney was the governor, and he had made the end of bilingual education one of the planks of his campaign. My high school was one of the very few schools that were offering a bilingual education. I had math, history, and science classes in Portuguese.


How was your experience with the education in the U.S.?

It was definitely different. I saw that the opportunities given to students in the public system in the U.S. were opportunities that only students with a wealthy background in Brazil who attended specific private schools had access to. In Brazil, the private schools are predominantly attended by the white and privileged population in Brazil. I had had the opportunity to go to a private institution during my first high school year in Brazil. I remember being mesmerized by the options we had at the Madison Park Vocational High School regarding classes, activities, and opportunities. I don’t believe that even in the private system in Brazil, I would have had the chances I had in the U.S. One of the first lessons I learned in the U.S. is that if you work hard and embrace the opportunities available to you, you will likely succeed in whatever goal you are trying to achieve. After graduating high school, I completed an internship at Bain Capital through ‘Year Up.’ Shortly after graduation, my mother got ill, and I returned to Brazil to be with her, and completed a two-year college program in Information Systems/Computer Science at PUC Minas Brazil.


How did you end up on the Island?

Since first visiting the U.S. I had visited the Island, as my older sister lives here. In 2006 I returned to the States. I came to Martha’s Vineyard to visit family and meet my newborn nephew. I was offered a job at the Mansion House, and soon after that I met my wife Justine, and knew that the Island was where I wanted to start a family.


How does it feel to be the first Brazilian elected to hold your position? What motivated you to become a fireman/EMT?

It has felt surreal and magical. I am so appreciative of the support I received during the campaign, especially from my family. My work at the Registry of Deeds has allowed me to become part of the Island community. I have met a variety of new people and learned a lot about the history of the Island. I had a great mentor, Dianne Powers, I learned so much with her. Through my work as a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Edgartown, I feel like I can give back to the community and contribute positively. The close-knit Island community is something that I enjoy being a part of. It is such a privilege to get to build a life here, to raise my children on this Island.


What’s next for you?

I love my job as a registrar of deeds. We have accomplished so much in the office from digitizing records to creating a more user-friendly experience, and quick access to the website. This past year, we got a $26,000 grant that will continue to help us preserve such public records. We have records that go back to the 1600s, and it is our job to make sure they will be available forever.