17 Apr 2023

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents | Season 3 | Episode 3: (I Need To) Put More Water in My Beans

From Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, 6:00 am on 17 April 2023

In Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, Mara and Beto learn how their son Jamil found out about the birds and the bees in Brazil, while their kids talk about growing up black in Gisborne and having DJs for parents.

This episode contains reference to sexual content.

The Weiss dos Santos whānau have lived for many years in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Parents Mara and Beto are DJs. They perform under the name BrazilBeat Sound System and have toured Aotearoa many times, playing in festivals and night clubs. Daughter Jazz works in film production in Tāmaki Makaurau, and younger son Jamil has recently arrived there for university.

Beto was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Mara grew up in San Diego in the United States. Mara went to Brazil as part of an environmental conference, and ended up meeting Beto there. They lived together in Brazil for four years before Mara’s parents (who had immigrated earlier to Aotearoa) asked them to come to Gisborne to have their first child. The family continued to move between Brazil and the US, but eventually moved permanently to Tūranganui-a-Kiwa in 2001.

Their arrival back to Gisborne was under the worst of circumstances. Sadly, they were called to leave the U.S. by the untimely death of Mara’s brother Damon, and decided to stay on to help Mara’s parents.

(L-R) Beto, Jamil, and Mara looking at old photo albums while being filmed

(L-R) Beto, Jamil, and Mara looking at old photo albums while being filmed Photo: Saraid de Silva & Julie Zhu

“We came back and had his funeral and everything, and then we returned to the U.S., but we just felt we couldn’t stay there anymore, that we just had to come back and be with my parents and support them through this and be together as a family,” Mara says.

Gisborne was a far smaller city than either Mara and Beto were used to. The move also came with a choice that Beto felt was necessary to make, prioritising fatherhood over his career as a musician, especially given his own relationship with his father. “For me, it was my kids was a priority more than my music.”

Jazz and Jamil share on the podcast about how they feel they grew up being treated quite differently by their parents. In many ways, Jazz feels she broke ground for Jamil, “I took the brunt of the strict parents, and you were able to go out and drink when you were 15 and 16.”

Despite what their peers believed, their parents' profession as DJs didn’t mean they got to live a parentless, party lifestyle.

The family share some common ground when discussing their memories around being a new immigrant family to Gisborne. “We kind of kept to ourselves in the neighbourhood because we were different, like, we were the only family that was an immigrant family, and we didn’t reach out very much to the neighbours.”

Looking back as a grown-up, this was an approach Jazz says she doesn’t agree with. After living and working in Tāmaki for years, her perspective is that community is one of the most important and precious things we have.

This conversation takes unexpected turns, including the recounting of a life-changing moment for Jamil in Brazil.

[click here for more episodes]

Julie Zhu and Saraid de Silva

Julie Zhu and Saraid de Silva Photo: UHZ Ltd

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents is a podcast and video series hosted, produced, and directed by Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.

Saraid de Silva is a Sri Lankan/Pākehā actor and writer. Her work deals with contemporary feminism and the realities of being a first-generation South Asian New Zealander.

Born in China, Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller focused on championing the stories and voices of marginalised identities.

| Twitter: @saraiddesilva@juliezhuu | Instagram: @convoswithmy | Facebook: whereareyoufromreally |

NZ On Air

NZ On Air Photo: NZOA