Monday, December 14, 2009

class issues

Inequality of income distribution is a huge problem in Latin America.

Up until this semester, that idea for me was completely academic. Income distribution has to do with social equality, economic stability, political stability and development...but none of that really meant a whole lot to me beyond a political science measurement. 

Now I am facing the ways in which what I've seen in BA has affected me when we talking about income distribution. 
First, some things to be taken into consideration. 

While there is definitely poverty in Argentina, Buenos Aires is the richest province. What I see daily is nothing compared to other parts of the country, nor other parts of the world. 

And, my relationship and experience with poverty is extremely limited. I see the Cartoneros (people who got totally swallowed by the crisis of 2001 and now make money sorting trash to sell to the recycling companies) and little kids drugged up in the train station, but I am so far from truly understanding its depth. 

More than becoming more intimate with poverty issues, I've gotten really confused by the attitudes of the advantaged. 

It is interesting how much class issues have become a part of my thinking here. It has a lot to do with understanding where I am in this whole upper class thing. I am a white girl. Rosy cheeks, blue eyes, fancy glasses. This is a standard look of a person with money in this country. It has to do with this history of immigration in Argentina--German or English descent is pretty common. You can usually assume that more European looking a person is, the further up they are in the social spectrum. So, the Argentines that take interest in me, whether romantically or as a peer generally come from some money. I'm talking about "polo families," people with a lot of property in the countryside, people who live in the zona norte (where the president lives), and drive nice cars. I don't have any friends that live in shitty fact, they all live in the nicest neighborhoods around with bomb apartments. Certainly not everyone I hang out with is of this breed, but enough to give me a strange impression of Argentina and the extent of its wealth. And being surrounded by this and certainly affected me.

It all started when Inés explained her family's role in the history of the oligarchy. Once upon a time, Argentina was completely dominated by about 200 landowning families who had immigrated early on. They were ousted in a coup d'etat that led to the first attempt at democracy. (tangent: the current democratic regime holds the record for longest uninterrupted period of democratic rule--2009 marked it at 25 years..). But many symbols still exist. Ines jokes because at one point her family did have a lot of money and property but the only thing left is her Dad's Jockey Club pin that he put on his jacket--and now she lives in Once..what shame!! Her family felt a lot of turbulence during the Peron years when "old families" were targeted again in search of a more popular movement. But Ines still can tell me about which last names are "important" and she knows how to distinguish the cheto accent lexicon and we laugh about it. Much more than symbols however is the pervasive attitude among Argentines that perpetuates the sense of inequality. Alejandro explained that the Old family types are constantly bitch about "new money," who seem to completely resent those fools in the middle class, who of course hate on the lower class...and the lower class..well they despise immigrants--namely Bolivians, Peruvians, and Paraguayans. (Nobody hates on the asian immigrants because apparently everyone thinks they are a big ninja mafia...or so one taxi driver explained to us). But everybody is constantly thinking about where they stand, wishing they belonged to a different group, or trying to pass of as a different group. It's messed up and a completely self-fulfilling social definition. 

Being constantly surrounded with issues of class and money has confused me. Living in Boulder is weird because it's a bubble of people who are more or less of the same economic background, and relative deprivation is minimal. Or so, I've always felt. I've never felt like I have sooo much less than everyone I know nor have I felt weird about having waaay more. Class bullshit was just not on my radar, except as an academic concept. 

Not to say some of these issues don't exist in the states. I hear the East Coast is kinda messed up...and the whole investment banking industry probably has a lot of the daddy's money-politics involved. But whatever. 
The point is, coming here has made me a lot more aware of it--but not in an "omg poverty exists!" kind of way. I talk a lot of shit about "rich" people and afterward always feel like a dumbass because I have a lot more in common with the chetos I make fun of than I realize. Or do I? And if I do...what do I do with my advantage?

Amy and I talked about the poor kids that wander up to cafes and through subway stations trying to sell little trinkets or just begging. I mean, should I give 50 cents to every kid who asks? And then there's that whole thing about the pimp-like guy who runs these gangs of grade-school kids through the city...where exactly does that 50 cents go? Straight to the belly of that hungry 8 year old with dirty clothes? I have no clue, but I kind of doubt it. And in Brazil, income inequality is an even bigger problem, so Amy has dealt with this stuff a lot as well. 

Hanging out with righty rich latin kids has fucked with me.

When I took my oral final at UCA (the private catholic university...), my professor was trying to help me out on a question I was stumped on and he tried to use an example with yanqui politics..he asks if I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I just make an "eeiiieeuuu" sound because while technically I'm a registered Democrat, I'm not really big into either party and I don't like putting myself inside the box. The other assistant professor smiles and says in a stating the obvious tone of voice, "ella es republicana." I started laughing. Do I really come across as Republican, and if so, does that mean anything? And what does it mean coming from a Latin American political science professor who teaches at a right-leaning private school? And what the hell is right-leaning in this country anyway? NOT socialist? Cuz that leaves a whole lot of room. 

What I'm starting to wrestle with now, more than identifying something that is probably not necessary is getting my priorities in order. I've liked being exposed to a little latin luxury, and sometimes I start know, I sould just get my shit together, find a nice paying job and live like this. It's lovely. Maybe I'll buy a horse. 

But the bubble those fuckers create is so out of touch with so many problems in the world that I care about. So then when I have a reality check...I think, well the last think I need to focus on is living a fancy lifestyle and get moving on solving some of these problems. Buuuuut, there is a reason people want to make a lot of's really nice to not be limited financially....
sooo here is where priorities are in need of some serious investigation because it's going to matter when i start making legitimate decisions for the direction my life is going to go..

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some updates/the wrap-up :(

Here is Jess and I messing around by the river in Vicente Lopez. We went out there for a picnic on Alejandro's birthday. He and Jess prepared an awesome picnic of gourmet salad and finger food (hummus, sun dried tomatoes). It ended with the whole crew drinking whiskey on the rocks and singing everything from chacarera to beatles to cumbia to johnny cash. I also ripped my pants trying to yoga in jeans. 

This is at the Argentine Polo open. It's a tournament in Palermo and it is some of the best polo in the entire world.  I know nothing about polo, but I had a great time. I'm really, really interested in riding some horses before I go, and thankfully Ine has invited me to the campo to do it!!

I LOVE VENEZUELANS!!!!! This night started out chatting about Chavez-related horror stories and red wine, followed by a round of drinks from around the world (jager, pisco sour, tequila) and dancing in Crobar for the graduation party of my classmates at UCA. This is Victor and Adriana, both from Caracas. 

This is after a little blues-and-beef dinner we had at the house. Jammed out and drank a lot of wine. Highlight: inventing a chorus backline to an improv song based on a bad joke my dad told. ("osoooo, conejooooo, mierdaaaaa..."). That's Ines on my left and kati on my right, a recent CU grad who lived with Ines a couple years ago. She's awesome! 

Dad playing music at Alejandro's birthday picnic. 

So anyway. 
It's been about two months since I've written. I apologize for that, but it's been a pretty nutty couple of months! Dad came to visit for three weeks. It was a good opportunity to reconnect with some the music opportunities. We got a "job" hosting an internet radio show dedicated to tango. check it out!!

Dad had befriended Enrique, the owner of a 'tangueria' (basically an intimate bar with live shows, mostly dedicated to tango) and Enrique had recently launched this project. He wants to have one hour of the show be in English, so he asked my Dad to be the host. Unfortunately, since Dad doesn't speak much spanish and Enqrique doesn't speak much English, in order to get the logistics all sorted out, I needed to help out with some translating. I sort of inserted myself in the host role too because I thought it sounded fun. Haha.

They have a "peña de tango" where the pueblo sings. It's basically an open mic night of classic tango music, but the talent is extraordinary. A lot of passion. Dad decided to play a few country tunes one week, and I got up and did a few more the next. It was a lot of fun, though borderline inappropriate. The people at the bar got a kick out of us, though. 

It's also been a crazy time emotionally. Not so much for me, but for the people around me and I have been trying to provide support for those who have been facing some challenges......

School has been nuts but it is winding down and I'm realizing that I've really learned a lot. I don't feel as much as a fraud when I say I study politics now. Even though there is still a lot I don't know, when it comes to Latin America I am beginning to feel more competent in terms of my knowledge about what the hell is going on on this continent. My last big school projects to knock out are next week, so until then, I can't really put my frame of mind into reflective mode. But I am FREAKING out that I'm leaving in less than 3 weeks. I'm more ready than I was in July, but still not ready. In July, I wasn't completely satisfied with my spanish nor what I had achieved in cultivating my relationship with Argentina. Now my spanish has improved by leagues and I do feel like Argentina and I have a less superficial relationship. But...I'm freaking out about leaving my friends and leaving an environment and lifestyle that has become so normal and enjoyable. I have to start focusing on the things about the states that I really miss so that leaving doesn't feel so sad. And we'll start with....thanksgiving!!

Tomorrow we are having a thanksgiving potluck with some of the american kids from the program here at Ine's house. I'm bringing the rolls, wine, and cutlery (because I can't/won't cook). Mary is preparing a turkey and then there are random assignments involving desserts, green beans, potatoes, etc. It should be interesting given our limitations in the average Buenos Aires supermercado (you can forget cranberry sauce), but it will definitely be fun. There may even be hand-turkeys made of construction paper for decoration.....

But anyway, once my finals and papers are all done with, I'm gonna enter a pretty freaky transition zone...we'll see how it goes...

argentine folkloric music--cool video pablo sent

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Here is a wonderful beer commercial that's currently running in Argentina.

This song has been stuck in my head for like a month straight. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

video bar

Check out the cool video thing I added to the side of the page. It shows randomly generated youtube videos of stuff that is relevant to what I'm doing out here (music, futbol, dance) !! cooooooooool. 


So, I've been exposed to a few different styles of music out here. Between the Brazil trip, my friends from La Peña, and the nights at the Boliches, it's been diverse. So here are just a few highlights what I've heard out here that will stick with me. 

Sergio Mendes, Magdalehna

Argentine National Rock
Bersuit Vergarabat, Argentinidad al Palo

Reggaeton/Boliche music
Makano, Te Amo
Daddy Yankee, Llamado de Emergencia

Folkloric Music
(this is the Chacarera, a gaucho dance)

Argentine Reggae
Los Pericos, Parate y Mira

Chill music I listen to at home
Jorge Drexler, Sea
Emmanuel Horvilleur, Llamame

(the young people love the electronic stuff)
Orquestra Típica Afronte, Chique (A local live act that plays every week)

Transcends language/country/genre
Manu Chau, Me Gustas Tu



Classes are finally in full swing for the "spring" semester. I'm taking Latin American in International Politics, International Security Theory, History and Literature of 20th Century Argentina, and a couple spanish classes.

I feel a lot more confident this semester than last semester, but some of my classes are still fairly difficult to follow (damn Santiago, he speaks so effing fast). Right now I'm pretty unmotivated. I'm still doing most of my work and going to all my classes, but I'm not really enjoying school. I do like talking to the kids and making new friends, but something is not clicking....I think I'm losing interest in politics. 

Everything always sounds interesting in theory, but once I get into the classroom, I feel like I what I'm learning about is irrelevant. I'm starting to see the world from a different perspective. It's like a battle between the political science major and the biology major. What's important to understand about the way the world works: how we humans manipulate it into our own system or how it naturally functions (photosynthesis, eating small rodents...)? I never liked studying biology, so I'm not about to do a 180 on my major, but I am thinking a lot about how little I want to go into politics. Yesterday during class, I got a coffee and medialuna during the break, and with my sugar/caffeine buzz, something came to me. 

I might be happy as a waitress the rest of my life. 

...Hear me out! 
I want to affect this world positively by the time I leave it, but I think I might be destined for a more simple life than I'm preparing myself for. I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that I like living  modestly and I really like being relaxed.  But one of the things that gives me the most joy, is meeting new people. I feel like I would be a more valuable asset to society just providing kindness and decency in an every-day situation. I could inspire people to pay it forward because I served them up magical kindness and joy! So, I would get to meet new people all day, every day  and flash that million dollar smile (well, stock went down a little after the Brazil accident, but you catch my drift), and have enough money to buy mandolin strings and sing on Tuesdays. I honestly think I would be satisfied doing that. 

No? Am I destined for something bigger? What does that even mean..bigger? More important? More consequential? 
I mean, eating is pretty important, and when you get a waiter who is just AWESOME, you leave feeling better about life. Right? I'd love to evoke that in people. 

I don't know. Probably shouldn't waste the thousands of dollars being spent on this education. But this education has given me the opportunity to explore and figure out what really makes my heart beat in this world....
Hey! One thing Buenos Aires has ignited in me is a deep, deep love for the cafe culture. Okay, granted I don't know jack about coffee (ines and I drink instant nescafe every day), and even though Dad has explained how to use the espresso machine a trillion times, I can never remember how to make a latte; nonetheless, every time I walk into a nice (or ratty) cafe, I feel  like all the problems in the world will be juuuuuust fine. SO maybe I open one!  I don't know much about business, but I do know the market is a tad bit inundated with coffee shops, but whatever, that's okay. Where there's passion, there's success. Just need to find me a business partner from Leed's who knows a little sumthin about taxes or whatever. 

Or, I go to law school and become an attorney like I've imagined since I was in grade school. 

Or I drop out of school and pursue a singer/songwriter's career. 

Or, better yet, go to NYC and try my luck on the stage!

Or I stop procrastinating and do my International Security homework.