When I told my father that I wanted to study abroad in Argentina, he responded “Porque mija, en Argentina no tienen comida mexicana, como vas a comer tacos?” And so we joked about it the entire time that I was getting ready for departure. We joked about how we could mail me tacos and spoke reassuringly about how it would not be difficult to find Mexican food in Buenos Aires. But now that I have been here for 3 weeks, it has actually become an issue. The stores don´t have any Mexican food, Mexican restaurants are few and far between and the quality of the food there is not what I had been hoping for. And aside from that the names of a lot of things are different here than what I learned and used often in Mexican Spanish. I was sitting down to lunch and later on a snack with this guy from my program, and he was so enthusiastic as he told me how much he loved the food here and how it´s such a great quality and everything has just been so fantastic for him. I looked at him and felt a pang of jealousy. He has clearly been enjoying his time here, appreciating everything Buenos Aires has to offer culinarily. I, meanwhile, have been acting like a spoiled brat, missing the spice and bite of Mexican food, or even just any type of spicy food, the food that I live off of back home.
I started to reflect on this. Why am I not enjoying the food here as much as I should be? Why am I so stuck on keeping my own lifestyle when I obviously came to Buenos Aires to experience and appreciate a way of life that is different from my own?
I then thought about how hard the last few years I have worked to resolve to myself who exactly I am. Figuring out my place in the community as a half Mexican half white Chicana in Wisconsin, in the United States. Developing a sense of pride for who I am and the roots that I come from. A sense of pride, that perhaps I am slow to give up. And not even that I SHOULD have to give it up to enjoy another culture, but perhaps I´m not so confident in my own skin, as I thought I was. That my resistance to enjoying myself here, in Buenos Aires, is actually proof that I´m still struggling with my sense of self. Now that I have worked out an idea of who I am in my own community, Wisconsin, and the United States, I must now add another dimension as I work to recognize who I am in the scope of Latin America.
The director of my program sent out an invitation to the students, inviting those who considered themselves minorities to come to a presentation and dinner about what to expect, what it means, to be a minority in Buenos Aires. As I looked at this invitation, I wondered, ¨Am I a minority here?” I´m really not even sure. I KNOW I am part of an ethnic minority in the United States, although I live my life on the cultural borders between US American and Mexican cultures. Now, I find myself in a country full of Latinos, who have been recognizing my differences from the other Norteamericanos, by way of my accent, my appearance, my use of the language. These comments have been welcoming, recognizing a bond as Latinos. Yet, my Spanish is what I have always called Español, not what is called here Castellano. And I´m not exactly sure how I feel about that yet. I am prideful to be a Chicana, but I´m still struggling to find the confidence to open up to adding this new aspect of identity.
I miss Mexican food and just in general, SPICY food, so so so much. And as I have taken every opportunity to tell people that, I now recognize how unthankful it is to feel that way. I am here to open my mind to a new culture, and even though I´m still struggling to get fully reach that point where I can appreciate everything the city is offering me, I hope that before my time here is over, I can report back with confidence on my new sense of self, having learned lessons taught to me my this experience, and while I am sure to always miss spicy food, excited to eat the “higher quality” pizzas, pastas, empanadas and milanesas that dominate the menus.