Biography – Marlyse Baptista


Like most Cabo Verdeans who live in the diaspora, I am a language and culture juggler and fully embrace my various identities. I was raised in France with Cabo Verdean Creole as my home language and French as my school language. My parents are from the island of Brava in Cabo Verde, my mother was born in Nova Cintra and my father in Cachaço. They immigrated to France when I was six years old. I carried on the family tradition and ‘immigrated’ myself as an exchange student to the United-States (Massachusetts) upon graduating from the University of Bordeaux. I speak four languages with different degrees of proficiency (French, English, Cabo Verdean Creole and Portuguese) and learned four languages in school (Spanish, Italian, German and Russian), I was doomed to become a linguist.

There are about 400.000 Cabo Verdeans living in Cabo Verde but there are more than one million of us worldwide. The majority of the population lives in the diaspora, many of us having been pushed away from the islands by dire economic conditions and regular cycles of drought. Large communities of Cabo Verdeans have settled in Portugal, Senegal, the Netherlands, France, Italy and the New England area in the United-States. Our long tradition of exodus makes us a nation of immigrants; however, in spite of the geographic diversity, the Cabo Verdean language, our common ancestry, food and music unite us and allow us to connect with each other across oceans and continents.

A number of my relatives still live in Cabo Verde, primarily on the islands of Brava, Fogo and Santiago. Other family members in the diaspora have mostly congregated in Portugal and France for Europe and in Massachussetts for the United-States.

After I completed a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Harvard University and spent one year at MIT as a visiting scholar, I left Massachussetts in 1998 and moved to Athens, Georgia where I held my first academic position at the University of Georgia. In 2007, I accepted a new position at the University of Michigan.

My husband Roger is a biologist who looks at life almost exclusively through a scientific and logical lens. He is an erudite and is one of the most interesting people I know. In the course of his career, he has worked at the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta, the Pathology Department at the University of Michigan Medical School and is now working in a start-up company doing research on COVID 19. Roger and I have two sons named Zolan Callisto (now at the University of Michigan School of Engineering) and Anton Hamilcar (now in 10th grade). Our sons have brought much joy, purpose and meaning to our lives.

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