Work Abroad but earn in USD

Monday, April 21, 2008

2008 Update to 'Blacks in Buenos Aires' Post

We wanted to let everyone know about a great discussion that is going on in the comments of a 2005 blog post about Blacks in Buenos Aires. Initially the comments were focused on Black History in Argentina, but lately the comments have been a discussion on how receptive Argentina is to a Black person today.

People from all over the world, including several African Americans, have added great comments lately and I wanted to share some of those with the group. After that I want to ask some questions to the readers of this blog, especially the Argentine nationals. Let's keep the discussion going, this topic is important for some people who are thinking about either visiting or relocating in Argentina.

An Anonymous Reader contributed the following which seems to sum up many of the comments on the Black experience in Argentina.

"...I'm a black woman from London. I have desires to visit lots of countries in the world where it is perceived black people aren't welcomed. This didn't stop me because I have a right to travel, educate myself to people's customs, and let them see a very proud black woman. Even better if they get to speak to me and find out that their stereotypes don't exist in me. Anyway, the fact is since being here two days, I am the walking attraction and haven't had anyone say anything to me negative or positive."

Blacks in Argentina seem to notice that they are being noticed quite a bit more than normal. But most report that they feel they are curious glances, and not loaded with bad intent.

Another reader cited this National Geographic article, Skin Deep, by Elliot Neal Hester in the comments. I read this article and think it's great, and exactly on point with the issues raised in our blog post and comments so worth sharing with anyone interested in the topic. Hester's experience in BA included lots of being noticed. But when he had a rare interaction with one of the Argentines staring at him, it turned out sweet and innocent.

Argentina is such a great place to see that I hope no one feels so unwelcome that they cannot experience it for themselves. I think the comments in our earlier blog post and Hester's article generally support the notion that Argentina is a welcome place for Black skinned people, but also very inexperienced with seeing Black people which explains why many Argentines will stare.

For those of you who are expats in Argentina, or those who are Argentine nationals, what do you think about this? Do you think Argentina welcomes Black tourists, Students, and Expats? Do you agree the stares that many Blacks report getting in Argentina are based in curiosity of something rare, and not based on negative stereotypes?

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Smoke on the Horizon in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Ahumado

As I’m sure many of you faithful readers already know, Buenos Aires has been enshrouded in smoke for the last week making breathing easy over the weekend all but a fantasy. Visibility just yesterday was about 200 meters from my balcony and we did everything we could do to keep the smoke out and avoid going outside. We even avoided doing laundry as long as possible as we knew that hanging the clothes out to dry would only make them absorb more smoke—great if you want some salmon ahumado or panceta ahumada (smoked salmon and smoked bacon), but not if you want to breathe. Yesterday, I was even suffering preliminary respiratory symptoms caused by smoke inhalation and exposure like burning eyes, nose and throat, congestion and coughing.

I had heard a lot on the news about how the farmers to the north of Buenos Aires had decided to burn their fields all at the same time (as opposed to their normal sequential burnings) as a sign of protest to the government’s proposed hike on beef exports. Then I heard the fires were out of control and that the firefighting teams had been prevented from doing their jobs by some sort of government bureaucracy. Then I heard that the government was simply outlawing field burning and that the farmers wanted to get in under the wire so that they could avoid buying expensive (cough, cough) land tillers to keep their soil healthy. Then I heard that the government may turn to criminal prosecution of these farmers. Then I heard some fellow expats talking about their disgust with the BBC’s Argentine correspondent for having gotten the story wrong….

So who knows the reality of the why… All I know is that I have never actually been in a city where I could imagine a scenario for massive rioting in the street. Today looks clear, and I don’t imagine we will get to that point. But only last night, a few blocks from my house, I could see massive explosions and fireworks being launched in protest. I have never looked out the window of my home to see what I had only before ever seen as footage of the abominable pollution of Beijing or some sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. It was disgusting, appalling, stomach-churning. Even INSIDE my own apartment, looking at my fiancée, sitting there at her desk, only about 5 meters from where I was standing, the haze was apparent.

So what are we supposed to make of all this? With no clear sign as to who is taking what action for what reason me pongo nervioso (I get uneasy). And I do not get uneasy very easily. I have been imagining airports overrun with people trying to flee the country. Am I crazy? Quite possibly. In my defense, however, all the bus terminals and most of the major roads in and out of Buenos Aires were shut down because people were dying in traffic accidents due to the low visibility. What is next if this is to continue?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Gifts for Weddings in Argentina

Cash is King

It seemed odd to me, that for the several weddings I have been to in Argentina people asked for cash as their wedding gift. I have always been taught that cash—while extremely useful and certainly an appropriate gift from an uncle or grandparent—constitutes a quite tacky gift between peers. Yet every couple whose wedding I have attended in Argentina has asked for money. So this led to several heated discussions between my girlfriend and I over whether money is an appropriate wedding gift to ASK FOR.…

Times are changing, Lourdes (my girlfriend) would argue. People don’t get married then go to live together, they go to live together and then they get married. Thus the old adage of newlyweds “building a house” together doesn’t really apply, because most newlyweds will have already done most of that. So blenders and dishes and furniture are no longer gifts of preference because many couples already have that. This I understand.

What I have trouble wrapping my brain around, though, is the idea that the wedding costs a lot of money and that therefore I should, in essence, make a donation to the cause. This has been an argument used to justify cash gifts. The problem, though, is that I didn’t decide to put on the wedding in the first place. Many couples elope and decide to do things on their own or with small groups of more intimate friends and family at a very low cost. Cost, therefore, is all up to the people putting on the wedding and if they cannot afford it, they shouldn’t do it (although many a politician might disagree with that). Also, I didn’t decide what to spend the money on for the wedding. I don’t even know if I’m going to like the food (which I didn’t at any of them save one) let alone the ceremony. So what I feel basically is that I’m being asked to attend a ceremony by a friend (or acquaintance) of mine, that will be catered to their tastes and that I should give them money to use for their honeymoon or bill paying or for the wedding and reception itself.

I have thrown many a party in my life and I have never asked for people to pay to come in the door. There might have been a couple of parties I attended in college where some drunken guy with a baseball hat on backwards was asking for 5 bucks for a plastic cup at the keg but besides that I have not heard of asking for cash as a wedding gift. But maybe I’m in the dark. Maybe this phenomenon is all too common and I just haven’t paid enough attention. I wonder, though, is it common in both the US and Argentina? What about other countries in the world?

I await your feedback…

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