We have to break the wall between the Brazilian community and the rest of the community," says Ilma Paixao, president of the Brazilian American Association, which is located downtown. Paixao would like to see longtime Brazilian residents help newcomers engage in civic affairs.
"Learn English!" is a phrase that gets tossed at immigrants like a slur. Ironically, many immigrants concur. They want to learn English. They want more American-born English speakers to patronize their businesses.
I've long felt that making an effort to get more U.S.-born residents to patronize Brazilian-owned businesses downtown would be great for the community all around. It wouldn't only help the businesses by expanding their customer base; it would help longer time town residents feel like newcomers aren't purposely excluding them.
Here are my ideas:
Get some kind of common window logo designed that Framingham businesses could put up indicating that information is available in Portuguese, another one for English, another one for Spanish, one for Russian, and so on. This would be an immediate signal to people not fluent in multiple languages, so they would know where they could feel comfortable when patronizing a shop for the first time. It can feel intimidating and unwelcoming to people if, for example, they walk into a food store and don't know what any of the foods are, and the staff behind the counter doesn't speak their language.
I know that a Brazilian bakery or cafe may not hire counter staff who speak four languages (or even two). But it's certainly possible to print up flyers in each language explaining what the popular pastries are, with pictures and a guide to pronouncing them, so people who don't speak Portuguese and aren't familiar with the products can feel welcome and comfortable walking in for the first time. Same for restaurants and other businesses that logically could expand their customer base beyond a single ethnic group. How hard would that be?
We could even design a walking-tour map of ethnic downtown, giving people a guide to experiencing various restaurants and other shops they'd be likely to enjoy. Maybe there could be a guided walking tour of Brazilian Framingham sometime (perhaps when Carnival in Rio is in the news?). The special Italian flavor brings people to Boston's North End; the Asian flavor attracts outsiders to visit Chinatown. Why not capitalize on something downtown Framingham has that you can't find in every strip mall in America?