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2 posts from May 2014

05/30/2014

"Expectations and Reality of May 25" by Jinyoung Lee, Georgetown University

Jinyoung Lee

 

 

 

 

Jinyoung Lee, Georgetown University

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I arrived in Plaza de Mayo on the morning of May 25, looking forward to a day of celebration for the national holiday commemorating the May Revolution of 1810. This date marks the anniversary of the removal of the Spanish viceroy from the Rio de la Plata colony (present-day Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia) and the establishment of a self-governing administration in Buenos Aires—the beginning of a revolution that ultimately led to the country’s independence from Spain.

Each year, thousands of people gather in Plaza de Mayo to show their patriotic spirit, proudly waving the national flag and chanting in harmony “iViva la Patria, Viva la Patria!” Government officials, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, give speeches from the presidential mansion Casa Rosada while street vendors arrive from all over the city to sell homemade empanadas and churros to the hungry and excited crowd. The celebrations, filled with live music and drumming, continue until late evening when fireworks are finally put on to conclude the festivities of the day.

Little did I know, that is only half the story.

The reality is that gathering in Plaza de Mayo on May 25 has a deeper political significance in today’s Argentina. Instead of spending a Fourth-of-July-like day of friendly family picnics and fireworks, I was met with a crowd of fervent Kirchneristas and Peronistas rallying and waving flags of not Argentina, but rather of their political parties. Buildings around Avenida de Mayo were decorated with banners of red, green, and purple that displayed images of Che Guevara, the hammer and sickle, Evita, and the Kirchners. It was an absolute quilombo, meaning “chaos.”

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To make things even more political, May 25 also marks the beginning of Néstor Kirchner’s presidency in 2003, a Peronist leadership that has been continued by his wife, Cristina. Therefore, supporters of the Justicialist Party (the political party founded by Juan Domingo Perón and Eva Perón in 1947) have more the reason to celebrate this day. President Cristina de Kirchner, while unpopular among the middle and upper class Argentines living in Buenos Aires, derives her main political support from provinces like Mendoza and San Luis, where her popularity continues to stay strong among the poor working class. As I could see from the enthusiasm demonstrated by her followers this past Sunday, a significant part of Argentina still idolizes and compares Cristina to the late national heroine, Evita.

In order to fully understand today’s highly polarized political atmosphere of Argentina, you must review the nation’s history of Peronism, military dictatorship, and the presidencies of Menem, Alfonsín, and the Kirchners. This ideological rift between Peronistas and Anti-Peronistas has been at the core of Argentine politics since the 1940s, greatly destabilizing the country at various points of history. It will be fascinating to see how the country will come to resolve its deep political cleavage during the upcoming presidential election in 2015. During my three months in Buenos Aires so far, I have met many university students who hope for a reconciliatory change and an end to the fight for and against Peronism. As my host mother personally wishes, Argentina will hopefully be more united in future May Revolution celebrations, as a country celebrating its national independence should rightly be.

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05/20/2014

Internships in Buenos Aires

Since 2012, Students in the Liberal Arts and URGD Programs that show a strong interest, meet the required Spanish level and demonstrate the required academic skills, have the opportunity to apply for internship positions (unpaid, non credit) that give them exposure to professional practice in public and private organizations.

This semester, CIEE Buenos Aires has offered a number of prestigious and interesting internships to students, including Assistant in Literary Magazines, Research Assistant at the Argentina Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Assistant at the Foundation for Studies and Research on the Woman (FEIM), Assistant in Film Magazines, Research Assistant at the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI), and Assistant at Lluvía: Management of an Art Exposition.

Read on for highlights from students about their experiences!

Literary Magazines

Isaac Walker, Grinnell College: Spanish Major

“It doesn’t matter which stories we tell, the novel argues, only that we never stop telling stories.”

This is the last line of the review that I wrote of Toque de queda (The Curfew) for my internship. Every week I work on a new draft of a book review, and these reviews will eventually be published in Argentine literary magazines. It’s not as easy as it might sound, but the challenge is worth it. It has taught me new ways to use and appreciate the Spanish language, and refined my writing skills in any language. Like the author of Toque de queda, I believe that society needs stories, and my internship is giving me the opportunity to learn about and participate in the stories that Argentina tells.

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Isaac with Toque de queda

Argentina Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Nick Richard, Tufts University: Psychology Major

This semester Zack, Lochard and I are interning as Research Assistants in the Cancillería (equivalent to the U.S. Department of State). The internship entails meetings with Diego Filmus and Secretary Daniel Filmus, weekly research and bi-weekly reports regarding the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) along with keeping up to date with news from the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, and studying cases of former and current British colonies and their unique processes of decolonization and relationship to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. We have learned a ton so far, become more fluent in the debate surrounding this very present and controversial topic in the Argentine national consciousness, and recently had the luck to meet with Secretary Filmus in the Cancillería, which was a very impressive experience. We look forward to all the future challenging and rewarding experiences that this internship may present, including the 10 kilometer race in July to raise awareness for the Malvinas. Wish us luck!  

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Zach, Nick and Lochard with Secretary Daniel Filmus, former Senator of Buenos Aires and Minister of Education, Science and Technology

Lochard Philozin, Grinnell College: Economics Major

Without any doubt, one of my best experiences thus far in Argentina is working for the Cancillería. Although I was born and raised in the Caribbean, it was not until I started this internship with the Cancillería that I realized there were countries in the Caribbean that I did not know exist.  Thus, the internship gives me the opportunity to learn about the socioeconomic and political history of two of those countries, Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis. Moreover, I have been acquiring new knowledge on how the UN Special Committee on Decolonization works. Most of all, the internship gives me the opportunity to contribute to a diplomatic fight whose aim is to achieve something that is right and fair. That is, pursue Britain to return the Malvinas Islands to the Argentinian people.

Zachary Lubelfeld, Indiana University: Political Science Major

My internship position is researching current and former British colonies for the Foreign Ministry's Committee on the Issue of the Malvinas. We do the majority of our work from our own computers, so it's up to us to figure out for ourselves what information to write about in our reports. Fortunately, after submitting a report, we'll get them back with suggestions for revisions, which definitely helps me understand what to focus on. The issue of the Malvinas is one of the core aspects of Argentine culture: no matter how they feel about it, everyone has a strong opinion. These reports allow me to see the issue from an Argentine perspective, which is important if you want to understand why the Malvinas are such a big deal in Argentina.

Foundation for the Study and Research of the Woman (FEIM)

FEIM

Maisie Dolan, Grinnell College: Women’s Studies Major

A month ago I began my internship with FEIM (Foundation for the Study and Research of the Woman), where I am working closely with a handful of inspiring women on a project to engage the youth of Buenos Aires in dialogue and action surrounding sexual and reproductive rights, services, and education in Argentina. Investigating these social issues in Argentina within the current global context of population and development is fascinating and provides a great opportunity to practice and improve my Spanish, especially within the specific vocabulary of a human rights non-profit. But the most rewarding thing so far has been connecting with the local community and individuals in a meaningful, tangible way around an issue that is important, relevant, and interesting.      

Film Magazines

Reuben Unrau, University of Oregon: Journalism Major

When the opportunity arose to write reviews of Argentine cinema through the CIEE internship, I viewed it as a new adventure in my path to become a writer. My previous writing experience had almost only been through journalism, so changing my focus to the lens of a critic presented a unique challenge.  Working for the past two months has opened my eyes to the beauty and details of independent films. I had to do in-depth research of the director and his aesthetic vision, while also drawing comparisons to a novel to which the film was based. It was challenging at first to develop the voice of a critic but with the guidance of Hernán Sassi, I can admit that I am proud with my work and enjoyed the new experience.

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Reuben and Hernan Sassi

National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism

Sharon Zavala, Allegheny College: Environmental Science Major

When I applied to be an intern at INADI (National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism) I was very nervous because I’ve never worked with such a large institute but luckily INADI has been there every step of the way to help me with everything. I’ve been an intern there for only month but within that month I’ve learned so much already, not only about the institute itself but also about Argentina and their gypsy population which is the group I’m focusing on for this project. My task is to draft a thematic dossier regarding the gypsy population in Argentina. The gypsy population is important to analyze because it’s the society that suffers the most from discrimination, even more than Jews or Muslims. So for the past few weeks I have been gathering a lot of historic and present information about gypsies. In the next few weeks I will have the opportunity to interview a few gypsies and have a discussion with them about their experiences in regards to this topic. Overall, this has been a great experience thus far and I will only be learning a lot more in the weeks to come.

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Dora, Maera Lucio and Sharon at INADI

Theodora Saclarides, Vanderbilt University: Spanish Major

My internship with INADI is invaluable because it has nuanced my understanding of Argentina. Previously, I assumed that Buenos Aires truly was the “Paris of South America”. In reality, Argentina has a more complex sociocultural identity. Through collaborating with INADI, I have learned more about the marginalization of populations that do not comply with this Eurocentric vision of Argentina.

For my internship, I complete weekly assigned readings that focus on racism, discrimination and xenophobia in Argentina in addition to my own investigation about gypsy populations. We meet at the headquarters of INADI every week to discuss and evaluate our progress with the readings. Our final research project consists of producing an academic text about gypsies in Argentina that INADI can use as a reference material.

Now, I know a different Argentina that does not match my previous misconceptions, and my study abroad experience has been richer because of this learning process.

Management of an Art Exhibition: Fernando Goin, Lluvia Office

Lluvia

Photo of Paseantes, a painting by Fernando Goin

Karlyn Gehring, Oberlin College: Psychology Major

A highlight of each week is working with the coordinator of the Lluvia office in curating and managing work with contemporary artists. As an intern, I’ve been helping on a project with artist Fernando Goin. So far, I’ve researched information for a more cohesive website and for paying opportunities to house his work. One challenge, of course, is the language, but equal to that is being in a city where I am not already connected to resources. However, this grants me the opportunity to build such resources and connect with an art community I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.  Apart from working, I’ve attended art gallery openings, art management workshops, and have learned much about Argentine culture through Goin’s work.