Tuesday, July 20, 2010

To Buenos Aires

Leaving tomorrow for Montevideo and Buenos Aires, my first time back to Argentina since I visited with my brother in 2005. I’m really excited to be going back, as a lot has changed in the years since.

Clearly it will be significant to get to see all of my friends again in one of the great cities of the world, and my Spanish is light years above and beyond where it was the last time I went. But more than anything, the added perspective five years has given me, during which I’ve had a considerable amount of additional experience travelling and living abroad, graduated from university, more fully developed my own political worldview, and have gained a much deeper and richer understanding and knowledge of Latin American history and society, in particular with its relationship with the United States, ensures that this trip will be much different than the last.

Argentina was the first country outside the United States and Canada that I ever visited, and going there for a month after my high school graduation left a mark on me. Certainly, though I wasn’t completely aware of it at the time, the trip itself and the relationships forged with my friends down there had an impact on me insofar as stoking my interest in Latin America today. It was also one of my first real experiences truly seeing not just stark poverty up close, but also the severe gap between the haves and have-nots that is so endemic in Latin America and the global south. Witnessing not merely the meager material conditions that so many Argentineans endure, but also the contrast of their experience against that of the wealthier class, who often even share the same neighborhood block, was truly a jarring experience for this rather naïve 18-year-old at the time.

I wasn’t fully able to appreciate it at the time, but that experience had a lasting effect on me. And now that I will be going back amidst all of the changes going on not just in my own life but indeed in the world, I am at once looking backwards towards how Argentina became what it is today--towards the role that powerful economic and political forces from my own nation have played in Argentina’s demise, from support for the violent right-wing military dictatorship during the 70s to the economic devastation wrought by neoliberal economic institutions at the turn of the 21st Century--as well as looking forward to what the United States may well become (if it is not already there in many ways)—a powerful and proud nation weakened by its own arrogance and wrought with deleterious social and economic inequality and turbulence.

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