UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Man of the World comes to UMass: Marcilio Farias Turns the Page

One of the outstanding qualities of UMass Boston is its rich diversity. We work and learn on a campus that houses representatives of almost every nationality, race and creed you could care to name. Students and professors alike crowd its corridors from every corner of globe, and everybody has a story to tell. Once in a while, one of those stories stands out.

A new addition to UMass Boston, Marcilio Farias teaches Portuguese. Doubtless every professor has a few stories, as all us students know, having been regaled from time to time by some of the more flamboyant faculty here at UMass. Scion of a powerful Brazilian family, a poet, scholar and ex-diplomat, Farias had wandered far and wide before alighting at UMass Boston. “I was invited to submit my Curriculum Vitae [resume]. I was leaving my government job; I was desperate to get out of that place,” Farias said with a wry smile. Farias was the representative of the Consulate General of Brazil here in Boston for nine years. A scholar from a young age, he occupies a niche of intellectual tradition that calls for a broad-minded individual.

“When you were born into certain families, you were brought up to be a Renaissance man. I had preceptors [tutors] come to my house to teach philosophy from a young age.” Calling himself “very traditional” about learning, Farias rejects much of the new information overload, “We have the experience, but we have lost the meaning,” he laments. “People think that 40 years ago, education was more conservative. But it’s the opposite; [students] had more freedom.”

Farias was a teacher at the University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro before he became the wandering scholar that he is now. With a twist right out of James Bond, Farias explains how he owes his life as a free man to an American diplomat. “In those days, there was a military dictatorship, and everything [at the University of Brazil] was highly political, as it is.” Farias taught Brazilian culture and folklore. “I was neither left nor right, you see, and I spoke my mind. I made enemies I have to this day.

“One day I received a warning that they were going to arrest me. The next morning, the U.S. Consul in Brazil sent a car and a man and took me to the Consulate. He was my friend, you see, and I am always grateful to him.” Brazil’s strong-arm military government was well known in those days for a very slight tolerance for dissent and worked to brutally repress academic freedoms. Farias might well have been just one more of a string of notorious “disappearances” if not for the daring rescue.

After his narrow escape leaving Brazil, Farias traveled the globe, stopping at Woodstock, for instance, the seminal orgy of music and free spirits in 1969. As Farias puts it, “Watching Jimi Hendrix play was Paradise, my friend. If there is such a thing, it was then,” and working for the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the American government as a cultural advisor. Brazil has since become a stable and democratic country, but Farias still found it hard to escape his past when he returned to work for the Brazilian government in 1991, “You must understand it was very hard for me. Many people considered me a traitor to Brazil, because of what happened back then.”

Farias holds several Master’s degrees. “When they looked at my curriculum [resume], they said, why all the Masters? I explained that I like to be accomplished in several things. Change is necessary to life.”

He made two short films as an undergraduate, received his education in Brazilian folklore, and then moved on to painting and writing. A born philosopher, Farias is prompt to rhapsodize about his favorite pursuit, semiotics, the study of how language relates to culture. “Language, as William Burroughs said, is a virus from outer space. And it is the first weapon that man has. It is endlessly fascinating to me.”

Farias has a poetry collection, Visual Fields, published in 1996, that he drolly calls “the most pretentious thing anyone ever wrote. But I’m learning.” He also explains that his inspiration to write comes from another UMB standout, Lloyd Schwartz, whom Farias calls the “greatest American poet. He should be mandatory. He is what made me want to write in English.” Professor Farias is working on another collection to come out later this year entitled Crazy Buick. Because, as he relates with a wink, “That was my first contact with America, a Buick, black, huge like a ship, my father’s. I lost all my virginities in that car.”

On whether he would like to return to Brazil someday, Farias is adamant. “I am an outcast. And, I will never leave America – it has saved me.”

About the Contributor
Carl Brooks served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2003-2004