My experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina thus far has been nothing short of amazing. The people, food, and the culture have already been life-changing. I made the conscious decision before arriving in Buenos Aires, that I would fight the urge to compare the United States to Argentina. I made this decision because I knew that it would be very different experience and it was important to take each experience and each breath as is. Often times as African Americans we take an ethnocentric approach consistently comparing and through doings so we miss the beauty that is truly the experience that is provided each day spent in a foreign country.
By far the most transformative day that I have had in Buenos Aires was our visit to the Xango Cultural Diversity Group Center. The purpose of this center is to provide more awareness of the Afro-Argentine culture and provide a space where they can dialogue about the challenges in the Afro-Argentine community. One of the main goals of this center is to empower Afro-Argentine youth as they are met with so much negativity that is never truly noticed in their society. In Argentine society, the belief is such that race and racism do not exist. One of the main social issues that plague their society is the lack of socioeconomic equality, which allows the wealthy to become wealthier, and the impoverished to become more impoverished. Simultaneously, the middle class is disappearing rapidly. The socioeconomic inequities cover up the unspoken race problem that exists in this society.
This race problem was brought to the forefront during our discussion at the cultural diversity center when one of the young women discussed her experience with race in Buenos Aires. She discussed with the group that she did not truly know that she was of African descent until she was around twelve years old, and now twenty-two years old she still struggles with issues of body image. Her problems with body image come from the pervading whiteness and European culture that exists in her society. She stated that she has had issues with her body due to the comments that she would hear about her hair, hips, and lips. All of these comments consequently made her believe that she was less beautiful than her European descendent Argentine counterparts. The reality is her struggle with self-image is nothing new in her society and continuously happens in American society. Women of African descent struggle with body image all over the world because they are indeed unique and different, but this uniqueness is what makes them beautiful. While listening to her Afro-Argentine narrative, I was shocked to hear this is what she experiences and was more hopeful that her narrative would be different.
After the conversation, I began to look at Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires, with a different lens. My previous lens blinded me of the true Afro-Argentine experience. I find myself yearning to interact with this often forgotten demographic of people so much more. I have fallen in love with their culture and the way they view life. Simultaneously, the attachment to this particular group grows stronger and stronger, because they are now my brothers and sisters. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, but its beauty is in the strength of my brothers and sisters. They are the backbone of Argentina.