Culture is a way of life for an entire society. Melissa and Kelly met in Kindergarten 30 years ago. Our culture is from the Azores - a remote group of Portuguese islands. But we don't live there. We live in America as part of the millennial generational culture. This podcast is our experience at the intersection of these cultures.
In this episode, Mel & Kel discuss their heritage as Portuguese-American children of immigrants from the Azorean island of São Miguel (or "Hawaii of the Atlantic" as they describe it). Their families immigrated as late as the 1980s to Fall River, Massachusetts, a city now known for having a dramatic Portuguese influence and population. The distinctive and religious Portuguese island culture was wholly preserved in this new land.
Mel & Kel grew up completely immersed in their cultural customs, beliefs, and traditions while also attempting to navigate life as an American millennial in the 1990s and beyond. After Mel moved away as an adult, she wanted a way to reconnect with the culture and share that culture with her own daughter and thus created the company Folk and Fad. Her first order of business was to launch the It's Called Culture podcast and recruit her lifelong friend Kelly to co-host.
Below, Kelly showcases Melissa's 8th birthday gifts.
Listen to It's Called Culture (ICC) Episode 1 (trailer) here.
What makes us qualified to host this show?
We are bilingual, first-generation Portuguese-Americans. We attended the oldest Portuguese Catholic school in America. We grew up in the city with the nation's highest percentage of people of Portuguese descent (nearly 50%). We didn't meet a non-Portuguese person until we were in high school! Mel's DNA test results came back. Turns out, she's 100% that bitch. Just kidding. That's Lizzo. But Mel's DNA results did (somewhat surprisingly) come back at 100% Portuguese. Kel has been a hold out in the DNA world. Maybe because she's watched too much true crime. Or maybe because she would be devastated if it came back anything other than 100% Portuguese. So we don't "know" her results, but, I mean, we know...
Nobody's Ancestry DNA Kit comes back 100% anything. There's always at the very least a few random ethnicities sprinkled in for the last few percent. Mel had always thought of herself as 100% Portuguese only because both sides of her family came from The Azores. However, there WAS an adopted grandfather on one side of the family that subsequently had offspring with features that were not traditionally Portuguese (e.g. red hair). So, doubt did creep in about what the results would show.
At the end of the day, the results did come back 100% Portuguese and the Ancestry app even drew a dotted circle around the easternmost tip of São Miguel encompassing the villages where both sides of her family were from. When Mel posted about this on her TikTok account (@melanncoley), a commenter pointed her to a clip of Conan O'Brien as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Conan took a DNA test that revealed he was 100% Irish which shocked his doctor. When Conan asked his doctor how rare it was and what it meant, he replied "it means you're inbred!". Well, shit...
Not all Tik Tok comments are created equal, so when another commenter expressed to Mel that he "could have gone his whole life without hearing your voice", we realized an accent disclaimer may be necessary. Our unique voices are the result of a combination of several factors. We are first generation Americans. We are directly descended from non-English speaking families. We grew up learning two languages at once. Kel grew up in a Portuguese-speaking household and had to learn English through the school system. At best, we grew up around an informal English-Portuguese hybrid. And our Portuguese was not even the proper European kind. It was a brute, slang-y version spoken in the most remote parts of the island of São Miguel. Pair all of that with being raised less than 60 miles from Boston and you've got yourself a real recipe for disastahhh.
We hope you find our voices and our show endearing, or you keep it to yourself if you don't!
This post contains affiliate links as part of the Amazon Associate Program.