On Race in BA
I’m a little behind(haha) in my blogging
I didn’t really want to write this article, but I think as a First Generation Scholar/Minority blogger, I have an obligation to let people like me know what they’re getting into when deciding to come to Buenos Aires.
I’d like to preface by saying that I am absolutely loving my time in Argentina and dreading that, day after day, my program approaches its end. However, there are certain things that an ethnic minority needs to take into account before coming to the Whitest City in South America. Here we go.
- You’re not going to fit in. If you have delusions of Buenos Aires swallowing you up like a Latin American NYC, please leave them at the airport. Blacks and Asians are stared at the most, but I think you’d also feel like a foreigner if you are a slightly brown Latino. (This is only true in Buenos Aires. The rest of the country is pretty Mestizo from what I’ve seen)
- Argentines are not going to be Politically- Correct. Get over it, or you will have a very bad time. I think this is the best advice to give to an ethnic minority that wants to come to Argentina and have a fun time. If you’re black, they are going to ask you if you’re from Brazil. Children have pointed and laughed at some of my Asian friends while calling them “Chinos”. Some other people wanted to take pictures of my friend (darker-skinned than I am) just because she is black. Literally, this behavior says nothing about you (the ethnic minority) and everything about the culture you are in. It’s not my country so I am going to refrain from brandishing my Hot Irons of Judgement, so I’ll just leave it at that. Since Argentina is a country I’m more or less passing through, it really doesn’t bother me that I’ve taken a time-machine to a less malicious 1960’s America(Or a middle of nowhere present-day United States). I am sad because I have some friends that have been pretty negatively impacted by their treatment here. I understand that it’s hard when there are so many white foreigners that express a sentiment of “belonging”/”fitting in” in Buenos Aires, and realizing that you won’t have that if you are a person of color. I don’t think I had any of that desire in the first-place, so it’s been really easy for me when compared to others.
- Rant to your FOC(friends of color). Sometimes what you experience in Argentina will pass the point of “painfully ignorant” into the realm of “willfully malicious”. When that time comes, talk about it with your friends of color for your emotional/mental well-being. I recently read an Argentine book for class that really cemented my opinion of having been thrust into some nightmare realm/1960s alternate universe. A character was described as “black like a cockroach” and my mouth just dropped open. Like, where am I? In another instance, someone was described as “black like petroleum”. Not like the night sky? What’s with Argentines and needing to use gross similes to describe black skin? Who knows? Anyway, talking with your friends of color/ woke allies will make you feel better.
I don’t really know what else to say on this point. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Argentina, but it can be startling to realize just how uneducated people can be about different races. I would 100% still choose to study abroad in Buenos Aires knowing what I know now, but I don’t think some of my other friends would have made the same decision. Everyone is different. The above text is just something to keep in mind.
Note: Being a “lighter-skinned” black person means that I definitely experience privilege here. I at times pass for a Latino and am not stared at as much as my darker skinned black friends or my Asian friends because I am less of a “novelty”.