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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Discovering UMB’s Cultural Diversity Mini-Series: Against All Odds: Despite life full of adversity, UMB student an everyday hero

For 23-year-old University of Massachusetts Boston junior Viriato Monteiro, moving to Massachusetts from his native Cape Verde in September 2001 was simultaneously the hardest and best decision of his life.

Monteiro, who moved to Brockton from his African island-nation two weeks after 9/11, said he and his family traveled across the Atlantic in search of the American dream-despite its tarnished reputation.

“Cape Verdean people still look at America as a great society,” Monteiro said. “A lot of relatives came here and left with great wealth, so we look at it [America] as a better way of life.”

The College of Management student, now in his second semester at UMB, admitted that although actually living in the U.S. is different than perceived from abroad, the country-and it’s worker morale-still represents a beacon of success.

“When you are outside of this country you have a different vision of what reality [in the U.S.] is,” Monteiro said. “It’s still the greatest country in the world, but its less beautiful than I thought.”

As if moving to a different country, assimilating to a different culture, and learning a different language weren’t enough to adapt to, Monteiro had another challenge to confront two years after moving to the U.S.: a disability.

“I have a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which is a hereditary disease that destroys the capacity of the retinas to react to light,” Monteiro said. “The more time that passes, my vision gets weaker and I react slower to the light; in the long run, you could go blind.”

The dictionary defines retinitis pigmentosa as a condition that causes degeneration of the retina manifested by night blindness and gradual loss of peripheral vision, eventually resulting in tunnel vision or total blindness.

Although Monteiro said research for a cure is currently only being done on mice and clinical trials on humans have yet to begin, he remained optimistic about the future.

“A cure is within reach,” said Monteiro. “They want to start clinical trials on humans soon to create some kind of vaccine or medicine to insert into your retina to stop the progression of the disease, but it has proved difficult because of the nature of the human body.”

Another promising avenue of research is a study being conducted at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston that utilizes Vitamin A supplements to slow and hopefully stop retinal deterioration. While early results are positive, the study is still ongoing and no conclusive answer has been reached.

Although Monteiro still has sight, he said it’s deteriorated considerably since he was diagnosed five years ago at 18.

“Today I can still read and watch CCTV-closed circuit television,” he said. “It’s [retinitis pigmentosa] a slow process that could take a person 15 to 20 years to develop blindness after being diagnosed.”

Despite his disability-which requires him to walk with a walking stick-Monteiro has continued to live an ordinary life with extraordinary dreams, strength, and perseverance.

“I’m positive about it [his disability]; it happens, and life goes on,” he said. “I take life by the everyday-get up and do what I got to do and live life.”

His will to see beauty in adversity is a product of the Cape Verdean environment he grew up in, Monteiro said.

“Even though many of the [Cape Verdean] people live poor, what most amazes me is that they don’t show it; they live their everyday life hoping tomorrow will get better,” he said. “I guess I am like the Cape Verdean people because I always live my life like tomorrow is better than today and I don’t get discouraged-that’s what helps me get through life.”

Among the influences that have shaped Monteiro’s thinking was his grade 12 chemistry teacher, who persuaded a then apathetic Monteiro to pursue post-secondary education.

“He planted the ‘what if’ idea [in my head] and said that if we don’t pursue education, life is going to be hard,” Monteiro said. “You find people like that once in a lifetime and he’s the reason why I got inspired; he opened up my mind to understanding other people and made me understand that you’ll never make it in life if you think this world is only yours.”

After he graduates from UMB with a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, Monteiro said he’ll work hard to reach his long-term goal of getting a PhD from Harvard.

“I know that everything is possible in America, because no matter what and who you are, as long as you put in hard work, success will come, doors will open, and I think education opens up a lot of doors,” Monteiro said. “I mean I never thought I’d get a bachelor’s degree and here I am today almost graduating.”

Just when you think Monteiro is superhuman, he comes back down to earth-offering inspiration in the words of his favorite musician.

“There are days when I wake up and think, man, is this it for me?” He continued, “but then I realize I am here for a reason and there will be better days, just like Tupac said.”