As my last post mentioned, I was going to make use of this long weekend (celebrating the creation of the national flag) to think about my conversation with my friend Pablo on Friday night. To recap, Pablo was telling me what is wrong with this country and the reasons for certain things being the way they are. I’m not going to get into it all over again, but rather write about what I feel on the matter, and how it relates to me. Since I’m now officially an Argentinian and would be legally obligated to vote during the next elections, I now more than ever need to take an interest in this kind of thing.
I started last night during my Sunday night Skype call to my parents. I asked my mom why her family left Argentina in 1959, and she told me what she always says, that they were poor and were looking for a better life in the United States. I’ve never asked what their thoughts were on Juan Perón, however, and it made sense to me that they would be supporters if they left after he was ousted. However, my mom told me that my grandfather hated Perón with a passion, despite Perón support of the working class and his social welfare programs. Yet there has to be a contradiction in that hatred as well, because Perón’s economic policies were turned around when he looked for support and acceptance with the United States. So if my grandfather hated that Perón did business with the U.S., why would he move there?
Perón had already been ousted years before my family left Argentina, which to me is interesting that they would leave once their foe was taken down. But I suppose that goes to show that they were not happy here. And so that goes into my being here now. Where do I fit in to the complaints of the people around me? For better or worse, and regardless of what the law says, I’ll always be a foreigner here. I was born and bred in the United States, and though I love Latin America and have adapted my way of life to it, I still think as an American. So even when things amaze or annoy me, I think to myself, “that’s Latin America for you” rather than “that’s life for you.”
Next year I’ll be studying United States Foreign Policy at American University, looking to focus my strengths on Latin America, and economic policy will obviously play a big role in that course of study. Even though I took no economic classes in college, and just one introductory class in high school, life experience has been the most of what I can use to base my understanding of this world. I elected to defer a year of grad school and stay in Argentina, and I’m really glad that I did. Simply studying economics would never give the big picture. But reading the paper every day, talking with friends and coworkers, and seeing how the country changes month by month tells me more than a book could.
To understand how Latin American policies work and whether or not international agreements or deals will ever work here requires more than studying and visiting the region. To even gain enough trust in someone for them to tell you how they really feel, you have to be here long enough to prove that you aren’t just another backpacker or a typical American (insert Briton, etc). What I’m trying to say is that it’s incredibly difficult to get a grasp on this region unless you have lived it. It might sound like a cop out, but the complexities which dominate the area extend beyond recent history and therefore do not follow modern day logic. A handshake and signature between an American corporation and Latin American government does not mean that business will run smoothly.
I’m going to continue thinking about these issues over the next year, and hopefully reading more economic books and books on Argentine culture if I can acquire them here. It’s my pre-homework homework.