Gustavo Fonseca: Uprooted and Homesick at SRHS


Killian Brait, Contributor

In less than a week, Gustavo Fonseca went from being the smart, athletic, popular kid to the unknown “Brazilian” kid at SRHS, with nothing but a small family and an overwhelming desire to go home.

Fonseca’s story is not the “typical immigrant story” that makes the news. His family didn’t struggle to get across the border; Fonseca’s current step-father lived in Vegas at the time and knew people in Marin, and in Rio, Gustavo attended a top school.

In many ways, Fonseca’s story illustrates a much more personal, and ever-present struggle that immigrants face. A struggle that is often ignored in the current political climate. The challenge of leaving behind everything you know, and everyone you know for an often uncertain future.

Fonseca’s father passed away in 2015, an event that shook his family and set in motion the events that lead to leaving Rio. As a single parent, it was very difficult for his mother to provide for both her children in an increasingly dangerous city. So, in January of 2018 Fonseca’s mother told him that his sister and she were leaving Rio to live in the US, but if Gustavo wanted to stay, he could live with his aunt.

It must have been tempting for Gustavo to stay in Rio, but from what he told me he could never have left his mother and sister. Ever since 2015, it was “us three against the world” for the three of them…no matter what.

Yet, this motto didn’t make things easier. When his friends accompanied him to the airport on July 5th, their faces quickly became wet with tears and for the first five hours of the flight, Fonseca couldn’t stop crying.

Arriving in the US in early July wasn’t ideal for Fonseca either because it was still a month until school officially began, and he felt entirely alone for that time. Sure, he had a mother, sister, step-father, and new home to get used to, but he could forget about playing soccer and basketball with friends, getting açai, or hitting up the beach with his classmates because none of them were here.

When it finally came time for school to start, Fonseca said he was excited for the chance to finally meet some new people his age, but now there are only two things that he recalls from that first day of school; no one said anything to him in any of his classes, and what happened after school.

After that first day of school, Brett Mitchell invited Gustavo to work out with the basketball team as they were preparing for the upcoming season. He recalled the day fondly, saying, “Everyone seemed really excited to meet me.”

Gustavo continued going to and looking forward to basketball practices with the team, but school remained a drag. Gustavo was removed from multiple ELD classes soon after the year started because he was simply too proficient in English. In his other classes, Gustavo easily excelled, having already taken more advanced coursework in Brazil.

Despite the friends he had made on the basketball team, the lack of difficulty he faced in school left Gustavo with plenty of time to obsess over the friendships he had left behind in Rio. With his home life not going as expected either, he had a hard time adjusting.

It was during this time that I met Gustavo for the first time. It was the first football game of the season, and the 6’5” Brazilian kid wasn’t exactly easy to miss. I remember talking about Brazilian soccer and Neymar, as well as Messi and Ronaldo. I also remember him being a very likable guy, although maybe that was just because he had similar opinions about soccer.

Whatever it was, I found myself rooting for Gustavo to find his place at SR and in the US, and slowly it seemed like that was happening.

Mr. Allan, Gustavo’s English and Broadcast teacher, said Gustavo has made immigrating “look easy.”

His other teachers added that he does well in class and is an intelligent and nice guy despite the challenges he had to overcome at the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately, Gustavo was about to suffer another setback in his life as the MCAL Basketball season came to a start. The combination of a dislocated shoulder and hospital bureaucracy surrounding a set of x-rays in Brazil led Gustavo to miss every important basketball game of the season when he should have been out for little more than a month.

When I met up with Gustavo for this story he was meeting with the SR sports trainer, making sure he would be ready for next season. His current struggle is trying to get his green card so he’ll be able to travel back to Brazil for his friend’s graduation.

He’s also struggling with the fact that many of his friends at SR will be graduating this year, and is very unsure what his future holds. Yet, despite everything, he’s been through in just the past seven months, Gustavo is ready to fight to make his dreams and hopes come true.