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Finding Community in Buenos Aires

Charles Hamer
August 29, 2018

After the end of my program, I look back on a piece I wrote during my 3rd week in Argentina. (8-15-18)

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Latino friends and family at home: "You know they're pretty racist in Argentina". 

That's a pretty big burden to deal with. Historically, amongst the Latin American communities that I am apart of, Argentinians had rightfully earned the reputation of being the most racist amongst Latinos.  I couldn't refute or support this because I did not know much about Argentine history nor had I ever met an Argentine before arriving in Buenos Aires. However, I did know that I wanted to travel the world and perfect my Spanish. Given that the world is historically Anti-Black, I tried my best to brush off these comments because I had already accepted the stigma that surrounded my identity as an Afro-Latino, and am determined to break down the barriers that I face becuase of it. 

Time rolls on and here I am in Buenos Aires. It's orientation week. This week can be explained best by three key interactions.

1. We're all meeting for the first day of orientation. I begin speaking in Spanish (having already garnered enough knowledge of the language growing up Puerto Rican) to my classmates. One of my white classmates calls me a showoff. I laugh the comment off but the idea of adapting/respecting the culture of a place is a value that not everyone from the U.S. has nor is interested in gaining. 

2. During a conversation about race and its impact on ones experience here in Buenos Aires, an England-born/American Raised student raises her hand and shares her fears about having a English Accent because of a England/Argentinian war over a set of islands. She equated the experience to those of students of color which illustrated a lack of awareness about other's experience.

3. After the first meeting of a production class at the local university, I go home to my homestay mother and discuss the topic of the documentary that I will be producing: The Presence of Afro-Argentenians in Buenos Aires. She looks me in the eye and then proceeds to ask me what an Afro-Argentinian is.

These three types of experiences are not out of the norm for POC students. My obligation to educate people after these types of experiences sometimes feel like a burden but one that most POC students understand. That is why I must stress the importance of finding community. 

Since I've came here I've actively sought out community amongst the people here. I'm lucky enough to be a part of a more diverse (than usual) study abroad group, so I was extremely lucky in that sense. After doing some research for restaraunts, I found a Black-American owned spot in one my favorite neighborhoods here. I was able to meet the owner who in turn put me in connection with a group of other Black-Americans living here. They were all very welcoming and the ability to connect with a group of people over shared experiences was refreshing. On top of that, I was able to connect with a Costa-Rican language partner, who I am able to talk and laugh with for hours about the many differences about our Latino identities and how they conflict with ones seen here, amongst many other topics. Finally, my friends that I've sought out here are socially engaged and are able to have some of these deep conversations outside of just having a great time. These communities help make my experience abroad even greater. 

In a city that prides itself for its European influence, I thought it would be impossible to find community. However, I was able to. My greatest advice for other POC students is to keep actively searching for community. There will be discouraging moments where you feel like an outsider, but as always, keep pushing and you can make this experience a great one. 

Stick around for my second post where I dive deeper and catch you up on the unforgettable community I made here. 

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Charles Hamer

<p>I love coffee, friends, and exploring new places. I would love to write and publish a book where I learn more about some of the most unheard voices in places around the world. Hearing new stories and visiting new places are two of my favorite experiences.</p>

Home University:
St. Olaf College
Hometown:
Chicago, IL
Major:
Business Administration
Sociology
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