At the University of Buenos Aries

An excerpt from my Journal Entry

19 June 2014

After we left La Boca we traveled to San Tamo which was a rich neighborhood in the late 1800’s. As war and sickness hit the neighborhood, the rich moved out and the poor moved in. This gave the immigrants and poor workers a chance to move elsewhere. Tango was created around this time and surprisingly to me, it was a dance between two men and later on women joined the scene.

I also learned the correct phase of the house we stayed in- It’s called a chorizo- casa choriza, which means sausage house. I am not sure exactly why though.

When the tour was done with Simon, we went to the University of Buenos Aries to listen to two more lectures.

The first lecture was by Lea Geler titled: Black Journalism in the White Nation: Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th Century.

Geler studies included looking  through the press of Argentina during the late 19th Century (1880’s). Dr. Anderson told us this was something exceptionally well to do considering how old documents are kept in Argentina, especially Afro-Argentines documents. Geler was able to write her paper surrounding what she found in these documents. I enjoyed her lecture because she gave actual quotes from this time period about what the black of Argentina thought about their social status.  Geler found that the press being the fourth largest press in the world, was linked to progress and used for social change.

Unsurprisingly, the Afro-Argentine press did not spark interest for the outside community and they mostly wrote about themselves. The journalist thought it was their job to bring social change in their community and called for change. The term barbarianism was used as something to rid them of and they blamed social inequalities on individuals within the community.  This mentality that the journalist were carrying reminds me of Marcus Garvey and his attitude toward the black community. He not only wanted all to return back to Africa but he called for a changed in the blacks mien. He wanted them to change their way of life and spoke mainly about their social life. I found it disturbing that they would use a term like barbarianism on themselves. They, like Garvey, blamed themselves for poverty and lack of success. All of this is included in the press!

Finally, (unlike Garvey) they thought new comers, like immigrants, improved the community and all were welcome. This was the thought throughout the entire state of Argentina and they were not keen to the idea of their children going to different schools in the state since schools were free in the first place. Till this day, (from what I’ve been told) their children (Afro-Argentine’s) still receive the short end of the stick within the education system.

The second Lecture was by Nicolas Fernandez Bravo and titled: Race and Ethnicity at the “Interior” of the nation: uses and abuses of the Cabescita Negra in comtemporary Santiago Dell Estero.

Now, the Cabecita Negra is an idea that is being challenged and has been changed. His article was based around social identities within history.

First cabecita negra was a term referring to those who worked in the fields then it became racial slang used by upper and middle class Argentines. Then in the 1940’s, the term became associated with people who were Peronist.

Till this day, the term cabecita negra is a term that casts people out insead of inviting them in. It implies not being enough of something –whether white enough or lacking that true European origin.

Next, we saw some art by Ricardo Santoro …I later saw the same art at the Museum.

This is when the history and all that is going on in Argentina gets really confusing. I never thought a nation would be more caught up in the image of the country more than America! Identify and politics intertwine in a way that becomes confusing that I would not be surprised if the Afro-Argentines are sometimes confused on why the other would or wouldn’t mistreat them. Argentina’s own government is so worried about its image and statistical qualification, that they are putting down their own and destroying themselves in the process. No matter how far she (Argentina) tries to get away from herself, she will always see her true image looking back at her in many colors.

At the end of the lecture, I asked a question about ethnic mixture- Who, really, are the Afro-Argentines? Who are the Blacks? Who’s African and who is Indian? Well, if this doesn’t get any more confusing, not all of them are cabecitas negras but they all are claiming rights to what? I don’t know. Maybe to their county. This shows how race in Argentina is not just white against the negro. There is no race problem alone, it’s always race and class that is the problem.

Capilla De Los Negros

Excerpt from a long Journal Entry

16 June 2014 –Tuesday

Gabriela continued to speak about other buildings. I begin to take fewer notes and more pictures. 

  • We spoke about a house built in 1831 that was the 1st house with high ceilings on both floors. It also had a secret passage, and the doors of the rooms were short so horses could not enter and the doors could be open only from the inside. This house was built for war.
  • Lastly, she told us about the Capilla De Los Negros, the chapel built for slaves in 1872 out of mud.

We went to visit the chapel. It is kept the same way it was years ago. The floor is still made of dirt and the benches were very old. Of course no one worship there now. It is kept by the grandson of the lady who used to take care of it in the beginning. I can’t remember his name. The church is a testament to the struggle of Afro-Argentines. It is the only building the state allowed them  have around 1862, their only place of worship. Currently, it is the only building they still have as a testimony of their history. 

Tina asked Dr. Anderson if they used the church as a form of organizing  the way the black church did and still does in America and Dr. Anderson said something that made it all come together even more, they had no need to organize and they did not really feel the need to organize.  

A short video I took is on youtube

The Boat House

Journal Entry

16 June 2014 –Tuesday

When they went to eat lunch, I got permission from Dr. Anderson to wait outside the restaurant. I was glad because this separated me from my classmates who were still upset at each other. While they were eating I made friends in the near by boat house with a lady named Gaby and her coworker, Albarguen. There was also another older man there. He was funny. He refused to say much in English but wrote the translation in my book. They taught me a math card game called Broom. To be honest, I still don’t know how to play it… but thank God for Google!  I promised I would keep in contact with them. We all exchanged information.

When we got back home, I was tired but we didn’t rest much. We went to eat and eating in Argentina is very different from eating in America.

Volunteering with the Laundry Project

I showed up at the Center for Architecture at 336 La Guardia Place on a Wednesday night. I went there to volunteer instead of going to Wednesday night service.

I paid the taxi driver 45 dollars to drive me from the Bronx to Manhattan…and realized that he could not read in English. So he had a time finding the cross street, Broadway….because he was going to WORK for his 45 dollars!

I entered the building in the all black outfit we were required to wear. My first stop was by the security and they directed me to the main table where I met the one running the show, Ms. Liu.

Your job is to check people in as they enter. We don’t want the lobby area to get too crowed. 

okay.

She gave me a chart and apologized for having to go.

Ask Henry to explain everything.

I never had to ask Henry, it was pretty straight forward. As people enter, ask them their names and check them in.

The party goers showed up:

Pretty ladies with long dresses, handsome men with neat hair cuts, cut out dresses, skin tight dresses, suits, shirts and ties, short stout men, tall women, mother and daughter teams, daughters in jean while mothers in expensive jewelry and heavy make up, couples, blazers, couples of every sort, one man in a beard and dress, women with spring flowery print skirts, sweet perfume and strong cologne, high heels, stilettos, flats, sandals, ugly men, old men with grey and black hair, cute old men who still had it going on…whatever that means…graceful old women who carried themselves as the wise and prudent…

All walking with poise and forgetting that all flesh really is grass. I watched everyone come and everyone go. I worked the coat check and this allowed me to interact with them.

We, the volunteers, were not familiar with each other, so we worked in silence until someone asked the other for his name.

I met Henry, Kylie, Hannah, Babs and Marilee. By the end of the night we were laughing out loud at inside jokes and bonded while sharing  our stories about growing up in America. By the end of the night, we vowed to meet up again.

Meeting Afro-Argentine Activist

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18 June 2014 Wednesday

Today I felt a little sick. I kept coughing and felt self-conscience about it. I think the weather is finally getting to me. It’s cold and sometimes damp. I only brought my faux-fur jacket, a hoodie (that I didn’t want to wear all the time) and some soft sweaters. Hopefully I would get better.

I broke my fast and made myself a full breakfast before I left. I was a little surprised that cayenne pepper was in the cupboard and happily made tea. I was able to say a little prayer in the cold kitchen. Its hard to pray in my room because when I wake up I have to be extra careful not to wake up my roommates who can be grumpy…sometimes throughout the entire day.

Anyway, we went to meet Afro-Argentinos Activists today at a school.  I don’t know why I felt so happy that I was meeting activist. Now however, I think it was not really a big idea but before I met them I had an image of the late 60’s early 70’s and people looking like Angela Davis. This was totally not the case!

The two we met were Maria De Ma Landa and Patrica Gomez.

Maria De Ma Landa was an older lady, 69 years of age…the same age as my father. She looked pretty good for her age.  She started organizing in 1994 when she was just 25 (around my age).  I had a hard time following her ‘success’ story because there seemed to be gaps in her spoken resume  and also things she said did not make sense for an activist to say.

For example, she kept telling us that her days of organizing were over because she was much older now. My idea of an activist is – you believe in something so much that you always have a zeal to make others see the world the way you do, even if this means working in your old age. See, where I am from, activist work on their projects and believe in their topics till death!

Nevertheless, here is her story:

I started teaching my people about their history by going from door to door in 1997. I wanted them to feel comfortable about their history. First I went from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood. I saw when I went from door to door that most afro-argentines knew their history but were not teaching their children. They were also marring out of their race.

During the Memin administration people didn’t have work and got involved with drugs and alcohol.  They were clueless about what they could do concerning education. They did not know they could go to the universities for free.

I created a group of youth who with drug additions in 1998 called the group La Famillia. I used music like drums to bring them together and gave the youth work through grants to create small businesses so they could support themselves.

Here, I asked her if the group was still running but she informed me that the grant ran out…I felt this was also awkward as if your heart is into something, especially like helping your people, you should not depend solely on a grant. And what about those small businesses? Weren’t they making money?! .

It took 4 years for things to get up and kicking and finally afro-argentines are organized- well those who agree with her. See, this is another thing that got me thinking, when you are working towards a cause, the work never ends. The poor is with us always, there is always someone new to teach and someone who needs help. How in the world did her story had an end such as this one??

As I was sitting there trying to put the pieces together, someone asked a question and the topic changed to race.

Question: How do blacks/ Indians identify? I am against using terms like colonial branch because the name is chosen by the white man. (I believe she calls herself Afro-Argentine. I should have asked her about the term indigenous ).

Question: How do people respond to this organization? People who don’t look black and the next generation are embracing it. But they don’t recognize themselves as afro-argentines….it’s a pan-Diaspora movement. They all have the same concerns but now people are separating themselves. Everyone suffered the same. The ‘colonial’ people (those who embrace the term) feel they deserve everything from the government.

When she said this, I could make connections to what goes on in America concerning movements and activism. There is always confusion and a split in doctrines. Some want peace and others want violence.

Question: What’s most challenging with running an organization?  The 2010 censes. Those who went around asking the questions did not ask the “Afro-Argentine” question. So, at the end of the census, there was zero afro- argentines in Argentina. We are currently concerned about the census. 

Dr. Anderson chimed in and told us that there are currently 2 million but only 160 thousand said they were Afro-Argentine. In 2000 the state recorded 5% Afro-Argentine but in 2010 it was only .15. This happened because not only did no one ask the question but the examiners were told not to ask the question and the people did not anticipate the question in any way since it wasn’t asked since the 17th century.

Question: How do you feel after starting an organization, do you feel defeated? I feel very proud thanks to my ancestors. If not for my ancestors, I wouldn’t have came this far. I am the oldest of 32 cousins and while I still have a voice I am going to scold them about speaking from the heart and what they really are.   

After Maria De Ma Landa spoke there was a short intermission and then we met the younger activist, who is my age…Her name is Patrica Gomez. I was able to follow her closely.

She was very light skin with long hair. She looked like a Dominican but classified as Afro-Argentine. She told us that her grandparents were from West Africa. I wonder what she would call herself if she traveled to America. Maybe simply Argentine? Maybe?

She works for the Mutual Aid Society. I think her profession has to do with law. The organization that she works with is important for Afro-Argentines because it helps maintain traditions and social activities. She mentioned another organization called the NGO. I have to find what the acronym stands however, it works towards the human rights. It deals with diversity, and sexual orientation groups. It also tries to provide education and reach young workers and encourage them. Moreover, NGO creates awareness of what Afro-Descendent women have to suffer with sexism and racism. She is involved with both organizations.

I was glad she didn’t talk long but got right to the point as to what she did and what she was trying to do. Not to compare and contrast so much but she was currently working on projects unlike Landa.  One quote I got from this discussion is the following:

Your identity goes back to your history not just physical characteristics.

I learned that the history that she is trying to preserve or make others aware of is a history that is true and not lost, the state of Argentina just refuse to acknowledge it. Thus, children and even college students do not  learn about the Afro- Argentines.  If your parents or family don’t tell you about it, you may never learn about it.

There at the meeting, I met an American professor, Robert Cottrol who teaches Law and History at the George Washington University.

After eating out again at another restaurant, we walked home. Everyone decided to get ice cream but I still was feeling a little under the weather thus I went home. I stayed home by myself which was almost scary at first. I took a hot shower and went to bed.

By the way, we are totally not following this Itinerary that I keep pulling out. Maybe tomorrow I will leave it in my folder.

Meeting with Professor Ezequiel Adamovsky

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Journal Entry:

16 June 2014 Monday

Today we went to a lecture by Professor Ezequiel Adamovsky. (nice name right?)

The place where we went is called La Cazona De Flores and while I don’t understand fully why it’s so significant I do know that a lot of learning takes place there and many educators such as writers and authors give speeches there.

There to welcome us was another anthropologist named Nicolas Fernadez. He sat us down and told us a little history about La Cazona De Flores. It was an upper class house full of paintings owned by a rich family. However,  when the city begin to grow, the neighborhood swallowed up the smaller rich neighborhood.

Now it’s an open space used for studies.  He told us that it is also used a base to connect study courses with employment. I guess that’s the equivalent to an internship. “The house has achieved prestige among the intellectuals, he commented, and the neighborhood of Flores is associated with Afro-Argentine families.”  I think this means a lot, but currently I am not sure why I think this.

Fernadez switched the topic to race in Argentina and I jotted down some of his quotes that I thought were intriguing:

The meaning of race has been a challenged  myth of the country since the beginning

The problem with the stereotypes is not that they are false but incomplete.

Education and violence is what constructed the nation and the false ideas that race doesn’t exist   

If you want to evolve, leave your ethnicities behind

The difference is the resistance of the people and how change comes (his comment in regards to other nations and their response to inequalities)

During the discussion, we spoke about how the government is in control of maintaining the history of Argentina and telling the history of Argentina. He then showed us the 100 peso. There are currently two circulating. One of them, the older one, has the father of the disappearance on it, Julio Argentino Roca (we spoke a little bit about him at the Cemetery) and the other peso has Maria Eva Duarte De Peron’s picture on it.

After his quick discussion, we had lunch and at a popular dish among the indigenous people. ( I am an Indian/ Bolivian dish and it was called Tarte Quino.  I enjoyed it. It did not include meat (surprise!). If I learn how to make one thing on this trip, I would want it to be that!

After lunch the lecture began. Economic, Cultural, Moral and Racial Distinctions in the Making of Class Distinctions in Modern Argentina was filled with complexity for me. I had a hard time following along with the readings because Adamovsty’s voice was monotone and there was a humming in the room. I was just distracted and even dozed off a bit. I am glad he said he would email us the readings.

Nevertheless, I did get something out of the readings. Currently, Argentina is in the middle of social changing and are working to bring about change in relations, schools, newspapers, and even behaviors…The last word makes me think of enculturation all over again. When will governemts learn that certain change is out of their control?

In the 1920’s the middle class and it’s ideologies about society is introduced. Class identity and class separation are not far apart.  

One quote that jumped out at me –which I later asked Adamovsty about – is “ the current president Cristian Fernandez de Kirchner is a defender of ethics”.  Regardless of what Adamovsty meant, how can anyone defend something so vauge and unattainable as ethics? You see why I have to read it myself?

 

Tonight we had a discussion with Dr. Anderson. Apparently I wasn’t the only one trying to grasp the concept of Adamovsty’s paper. She told us how hard it is for Adamovsty who translated his paper into English and also had to read it in English.

Idenity had always been about exclusion in Argentine history. This quote is by Dr. Anderson. Once again we were discussing our favorite topic- race and class. She informed us of a new term: New Poor. The old middle class is slowly becoming new poor and the level of violence has increased. There has never been this many poor people  and it’s becoming a reality for people everywhere. There is also a term to refer to those who are below the poor and it it’s destitute.

One question I now have is- were these terms coined for Argentina or are they social science terms relating to poor and below poor people everywhere? Can we use the term destitute in America to refer to a begger by the wayside?

I am not sure if we are following the Itinerary. I think we are already running out of time.

A visit to Chascomus City

 

16 June 2014 –Tuesday

This morning I woke up really early. I couldn’t go back to sleep and anointed my head to fast. I fasted for the entire day.

I also help my roommate, Tina, make breakfast for everyone. I think Dr. Anderson felt some type of way having me make breakfast but I reassured her and Tina that I was fine cooking. I’ve cooked plenty of times for my family while I was fasting.

Today we traveled to Chascomus City. A city not very close by Buenos Aires. We had to take a van to get there and the van ride was horrible. People already are upset with each other and poor Dr. Anderson had to sit on a broken chair the whole 2 hour ride! I felt sorry for her. Marta got upset with me for singing out loud. All she had to do was ask me kindly to stop. I would have stopped.  I did stop and apologized to everyone. I felt we were all walking on egg shells with one another. The tension in the air was great. I couldn’t wait to get out of the van!

When we finally reached the city, it looked more like a college campus. The first place we went was to the main building the city (I think it’s called the Chascomus Laguna…I think) and used the restroom. This building was my favorite building because it had a dome inside that had fantastic acoustics! I mean, it was better than any church I’ve been in. You could really sing without a microphone and I felt like singing under that dome all day. While I was there testing, a young man came up to me with a camera and another young lady. They asked me if I could talk Spanish or French. Then in broken English asked me if they could interview me.

I turned to ask Dr. Anderson but she was gone with the rest of the group and sent Lauren upstairs to tell me to hurry out. He followed me down stairs and I was glad because Juan ended up doing the Interview which I think came out great. I wish Dr. Anderson would have spoken but she pushed us to do so. I forgot what I said, when the reporter put the camera in my face. I know I was blunt and told them that we were there to study the afro- argentines.  I also remember  my classmates sighing heavily and making snide remarks about being blunt or people there coming after us for what I said.

Finally, the tour of the city begun. Our tour guide name was Gabriela and she only spoke Spanish. She looked like my friend Edna from High school and they even had the same demeanor. I jotted down a few notes such as:

  • City founded in 1779
  • City preserves history of Afro-Argentines
  • 40,000 people live there and all maintain peace
  • The Indians were kicked out and only allowed back in if they were willing to adhere to the immigrants rules
  • 1865 the city begin to grow
  • A group of Indians called Malones (I think) learned how to fight the immigrants using guns and horses

Gabriela also told us about the building I fell in love with

  • It originally had 6 arches attached to the main entrance.
  • San Lamon was the architect

Gabriela continued to speak about other buildings. I begin to take fewer notes and more pictures.