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Study Abroad Diaries: An American in Argentina

An Argentinian and a New Yorker enter a bar. An Italian and a Jew leave.

Sounds like the worst bar joke, right? But, this is how Argentines and New Yorkers can come across. Now, of course I’m a Los Angeles native, but I consider myself more at home in the Big Apple. Being in Argentina, I’ve been considered Mexican. Whether it’s in the simple linguistic changes between the Argentine spanish, and the spanglish back in my Cali-Mex house; or the way I don’t have an American accent; or possibly how I can get away with saying I’m 1/4 Japanese (I’m not), no one can tell what I am; which is fine, because I’m not a what.

I was told by a director of an Argentine Oscar-winning movie/ Tisch alum that every Argentine becomes a bit Italian after a while, like New Yorkers get a bit Jewish. I guess I’m not a New Yorker. As for the Argentines…

This curly-haired woman sat next to me. The second she asked if the bus went to La Boca, I picked up her accent. She was Italian, but lived in San Luis Obispo, CA. I told her I was there during the summer; she asked if I had ever been to Europe. Not yet. Then, she went full Argentine on me. She touched my bag, grabbed my arm (strong for such a tiny woman), and was in my face asking about places to visit. Now, don’t be alarmed. She was being extremely friendly, as the Argentines/Italians are, according to her. She wanted to know if La Boca was all-that and a bag of chips. It had colorful buildings because of the Italian immigrants who used to live there. She complained how there was nothing really special about this city; it reminded her of Paris, Rome, just another European city. Words escaped me, just in time for my stop. Just another European city? Funny, it’s the reason why I’ve fallen in love with Buenos Aires…

She’s right about one thing: the people are very friendly. But as far as the city? I’ve learned in my Intro to Latin American Studies class, Argentina became the Paris of Latin America. This city was a melting pot of indigenous cultures and European influences.

You walk down the street, you admire the French architecture. You look at La Boca, you see the Italian history. You eat the food, you taste the Argentine. You speak English, you hear the Spanish. But if you look at the people, you see people. She may have said this is just another European city, but I claimed to be a New Yorker once. We can be wrong sometimes.

For now, I eat my cupcake, and I see people. People who go to the grocery store because they want Dulce de Leche, or people who drink more coffee than any New Yorker I’ve met. This city is its people; its people make the city. And I, well I’m just eating my cupcake.

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