Lisa Maria Montano Ortiz (Pictured on the right)
I have to start this post with Lisa because with her, it all began. After two weeks of investigation, I still didn’t find adequate information about the Afro-Latino or Argentine community. As you can remember from one of my last blog posts, one Argentine didn’t even know what an “Afro-Argentine” was. Fed-up and almost at the point of giving up, I finally found an article by Lisa who’s a Colombian journalist who specializes in Afro-Latino culture and history. I sent her an email in the middle of class and she responded within an hour. That same night she agreed to meet for coffee. Instantly we became such good friends. Lisa has this magical personality. As soon as you meet her, you feel like you’ve known her your whole life. She listened to me vent for a solid hour about my experiences with culture shock, feeling like an outsider, and everything in between. I met with her for the first time expecting to get some more info about the Afro-community but what I left with was a sister who I’m forever thankful for. One who gave me the greatest gift of connections to an incredibly special community of Afro-Latinos. A group who made my experience so wonderful.
Fredda & Alba
Fredda (pictured on Lisa's left, in my first picture) and Alba (pictured above on my right) are the heart of soul of Rincon Ecuatoriano. My favorite place and my figurative home in Buenos Aires. Both were born in Ecuador, and they work hard to preserve their Afro-Ecuadorian culture and traditions. Be it through their food or their performances in their larger Ecuadorian Ensemble, they embrace cultural expression and identity so much. They were always so willing to talk about the black experience here in Argentina and always offered a warm plate of food. I’m forever grateful for all the jugo de tamarindo and meaningful conversation that we shared.
Born in Uruguay, but having lived in Argentina for over 40 years, Miguel was rich with stories and incredible insight. A social psychologist, with a heart for activism, Miguel was always willing to talk about social justice and was an active part of the Afro-Latino community and actively fights for acknowledgement and integration within mainstream Argentine culture. I’ve had countless conversations about life, South America, and the psychology/mental health of those who are oppressed that I always walked away from a conversation with Miguel knowing I learned something.
I don’t have a photo of Miriam but she’s an inspiration, to say the least. On top of being a professor at a local Argentine University, Miriam spends countless hours leading a community center for other Afro-Argentines of Cape-Verdean descent as well as fighting for the rights of countless other Afro-Latinos/citizens in the city. I admire her because she does all this with grace, and I never once heard her complain. Miriam was always willing to help. Her and Miguel helped me feel a part of the community and always invited me to events ranging from political activism to cultural expression
I’m forever grateful for my Argentine family and as I get ready to leave I realize that out of everything I’ve experienced in the past four months, it is them that I’ll miss the most.
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<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>