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Portuguese women hit back at Swiss stereotyping

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Portuguese women hit back at Swiss stereotyping
File photo: Andrea Pravettoni
10:42 CET+01:00
A photography exhibition will open in Fribourg on Thursday aimed at debunking common stereotypes about Portuguese people.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Beyond clichés: portraits of Portuguese women in Nyon', comprises 165 photos of Portuguese women from a diverse array of professions, including an architect, a police officer, and a psychologist.

It was co-created by Mariana Mendes, a Portuguese international relations graduate living in Nyon, in an attempt to counter the stereotyped perception of Portuguese women that she herself has encountered in Switzerland.

“Hearing my nationality, a man who didn't know me asked if I'd be his cleaner. That pushed me to create this exhibition,” Mendes said in a press release announcing the Fribourg exhibition.

There are around 263,000 Portuguese in Switzerland, according to 2015 figures from the Swiss statistics office, the third largest foreign population after Italians (306,000) and Germans (298,000).

In Fribourg, the Portuguese community comprises 10.9 percent of the population, the biggest foreign population in the city.

But unflattering clichés about the Portuguese are hindering their progress in Switzerland, according to Antonio Da Cunha, president of the Federation of Portuguese Associations in Switzerland (FAPS), which is supporting the exhibition.

“They are good immigrants,” he told Le Matin. “They behave well, work hard, are discreet. But in terms of economic and social integration, we're not yet there.”

Speaking to the paper, Mendes said it was particularly difficult for second generation Portuguese immigrants who were born in Switzerland but are prejudiced against by stereotypical views.

“We have gathered quite a lot of statements from women... who have, for example, been discouraged by teachers from pursuing medical or law studies because their mother was a cleaner,” she said.

The exhibition runs from November 3rd to 20th at the Ancienne Gare, Fribourg.

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