Summer 2010

Europe May 16- June 2

Destination Map

Destination Map
Where we are going


With Tyler

With Ben
Lake Como
Cinque Terre

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Disappearance of Race

Race was one issue in Argentina initially caught my attention in the difficult explanation of the disappearance of blacks. From the first reading the puzzle of the vanishing of the afro-argentines fascinated me. It caused me to evaluate the theories and consider what I think really happened. Through evaluation of the proposed theories based on figures, culture and history, I developed thoughts of my own.
Initially I had a hard time understanding how 30% of the population at the turn of the 19th century. (Independence 41). As seen through the population growth charts in class, there was a sharp incline in population but then a sharp declined followed as well. The explanations for this decline either fall in the dying off theories or the integration theories. These include suggestions of Afro-Argentines suffering poor living conditions, suffering terminal diseases such as yellow fever, or being soldiers in the Triple Alliance War in 1865 (Independence 41). The discrepancy I have with these theories is the assumption of the superiority of whites to with stand the same circumstances. In 1900 90% of the population was living in the worst imaginable circumstances. This proportion of the population living in utter poverty included many more than just Afro-Argentines. Also, the immunity against the Yellow Fever in the 1871 epidemic would have effected the whites as well as the blacks. There may have been a higher proportion of Afro- Argentine soldiers due to incentives, or a military structure designed to place them in the most dangerous places of battle casualties in war would not be limited to afro-argentines, but rather hurt the male population across races.
This prompted a hypothesis further supporting the theory of integration. WIth the afro-argentine women left widowed, there is cause to believe the Argentine men took advantage of the ratio. Additionally, since the agricultural base of cattle required less manual labor than the agricultural economies north of Argentina, slaves were often domestic. The closer encounters with the slaves, more favorable treatment of domestic slaves, as well as the more education of the domestic slaves, all could have contributed to the integration of the afro-argentines. The gradual integration to the population is also furthered by the diverse and huge influx of immigrants that occurred in Argentina. With more immigration, came greater ease to become part of the general population (Independence 41). All of these factors seek to more realistically explain the continual presence of afro-argentine blood with out the visual reminder. It is the theory of integration coupled with the white dominance that leads to the decreased diversity over time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fourth of July

The similarities to the Fourth of July in the US to the Boca Juniors game revealed the stark contrast to our primary sense of nationalism compared to their identity to their team. The game servedd as the illustrsation of the "the epicentre of national sporting ulture and served to shape identities and meanging for Argentines" found in Soccer & Society (Gaffney 164). The community of the game, eating asado/dinner before hand, the decorations on cars or throughout the neighborhood, as well as the friendly exchanges between fans headed to the stadium, whether they were friends or not, all reminded me of the community that takes place surrounding the Fourth. There was even their version of hot dogs being sold! There are meals shared between family and friends, decorations, and greetings to strangers recognizing the holiday in the US. The variety of sizes, versions, and constant display of the Boca club flag reminded me of the inundation of flags in the US, wherever you are, on the Fourth. The distinct blue and gold was on necklaces, faces, clothes, hats, and accessories. Red, white and blue on cookies, hats, crazy sunglasses, sparklers, and beads cannot be escaped for almost the whole week leading up to the Fourth. The songs of the Boca Juniors can be compared to the various patriotic anthems heard on boats, decks, and radios in the US on the Fourth. The most obvious connection between the two forms of identity was in the incredible display of fire works before the game began. It most closely resembles the most notorious past time of the Fourth, watching the fire works. All of these factors I observed at the game kept bringing the fourth of July to the forefront of my mind because of the similarities. The exhuberance and vibrant experience (Gaffney 160) described to be found at a soccer game can also be found in the United States on the fourth of July. Though there are differences in magnitude of many factors, including the celebration through colors, accessories, song, and cheers in support of central institution, people express their identity more universally than I initially understood. It is only what they identify themselves most closely with that changes.

Team Affiliation

Here in Argentina you are born into a soccer team, you are a fan because your parents or grandparents support that team. Your favorite colors as a kid are formed through your exposure to “your” team. You grow up in the club participating in a variety of activities, meeting friends, and discussing the team. Form a very young age you develop loyalty, to the point that you are more of a proud sworn enemy of the rival team than you are a fan of your own. This has become so much the trend that there are people willing for their team to lose if it would prevent the success of their rival.
In the US you are devoted to two sets of teams, professional and collegiate. This extends also to individual sports and creates factions among fans many times over. There is a lost sense of community because the priority of their devotion varies for each fan. The primary influence of choosing allegiance to a team is the geographic location. You choose a team based on the city you live in, near, or have lived in the longest time. For me, both of my parents were born and grew up in the New England area. They are both Red Sox fans, but my brothers and I are Braves fans. We choose our city over the city and team of our parents. Though the soccer teams in Argentina were originally divided by neighborhood, there is much less emphasis on the location today. The intense generation pressure is seen more as a tradition and not a result of location.
As people move around the US, it is not uncommon for them to adopt a new team in a new location. This would be unheard of in Argentina. Argentines do not change affiliations based on winning seasons, player changes, coaching changes or player behavior. You are a part of that club. This reflects the entertainment aspect of sports in the US versus the community found in the soccer clubs in South America. Most people are driven to support a team because they have access to seeing them live, in the company of friends, and as social entertainment. For Argentina, it is a community in serious support of their soccer team that binds them together.


In his closing statements, Professor Taylor advised us to be the people in the institutions we want to believe in. Contrastingly, one of the speakers at the council of Foreign Relations said that if given the choice to believe in institution or people choose the institution. I began to evaluate how this applied to Argentina as well as what I believe is most successful.
Latin America has a history of "uneven enforcement" (Democracy 269) of law to say the least. Argentina has a history strewn with corruption and selfish leaders and there is still reason for distrust with the corruption even up through the elections today. Their history in the most recent century included fourteen military presidents in the years 1930-1983 (Argentine Democracy 3) and the removal of multiple presidents, legislators, and judges. For Argentina, the the inability to trust institutions is based on the institutional weakness of the country as a whole. As explained in Argentine Democracy, the lack of compliance with law and recourse for those exploited by violations are the stems to this lack of trust in the government. Though there is a formal constitution, the lack of stability and adherence, coupled with frequent changes, remove the strength it could hold with formality. State officials were notorious for acting out of self-interest and disregard for the people ranging from ruthless abuse of human rights, shuffling of money to specific people, or announcing to run for a position with no intention of accepting. The people of Argentina have been unable to trust that the positions of authority would be held to the obligatory standard due to the effort by the government to manuever its way around inconventient rules. After being taken advantage of, killed, kidnapped, or exploited who could blame them. An added cause to the lack of trust comes from the lack of recourse taken to combat the corruption. This is one of the central reasons why this lack of trust has not changed and will continue to have a hard time changing. As the US Embassy representatives explained, the bright young people looking to change the country do not want to go into politics because they will be assumed immoral by profession. The judicial system is set up to formally model our system but it is rarely implemented in the way it was intended with massive delays in hearings, slow proogression in trials, and corrupt rulings. Argentines are forced to resort to the press to punish leaders instead of the court system. This does not change the institutions but forces them to be more subtle or sneaky. Argentina is constantly looking for someone to trust. This can be seen in the rapid rise and fall in popularity for any politician, coach, or player. They want someone to meet their expectations.
I personally believe there must be a combination of trust in both the individual and the institution. A person by themselves doesn’t have the credibility or power to bring change. Contrastingly a position is a shell and doesn’t have the charisma and personality to gain trust either. I believe that Argentina needs to elevate someone who can restore trust in the positions so long doubted. Just as Kirchner attempted to accomplish his political goals while strictly following the appropriate process (Democracy 44) leaders to follow can do the same and gradually elevate confidence for the institutions. There needs to be continual encouragement of the people to use the courts to uphold justice and perform according to its responsibilities. Greater national stability in all facets comes when there is some trust restored in the institution. As a politician there is now way everyone will be happy all the time, but having restored the lost respect for a position will allow the people to trust that they are not being used and decisions are made to benefit the nation as a whole. The respect for an institution combined with a leader people can believe will allow Argentina to be successful in accomplishing greater stability long term.

Why Soccer is not popular in the US

Money speaks. Ultimately I believe that the US cannot compete in the world in soccer because there is not enough money pumped into it. People in the US are motivated by the reward of fame and fortune, so in order to really get people to support and live in the soccer mindset there needs to be money there. Soccer is known to be a poor sport. All you need is some kind of ball and you have a game. Part of what kids grow up thinking about it how to prove to others that they can “make it”. They want to look back one day and be able to say, “I told you so”. Soccer does not provide the opportunity to do that in the US. We are not lacking skill, physical build, or athleticism. We are lacking someone to follow. Just as Argentina had Hugo Porta to elevate rugby and make it popular, we need someone from the US to do the same. They just have to be good enough for the country to take pride in their play, even if that play is somewhere else. We are a country full of bandwagon fans. We can cheer for the team with the handsome quarter back, retiring coach, or all-star breaking records. Loyalty can be won by creating something to get behind. This is even greater when there is a story of the “American Dream”. People are not given the chance for reward from soccer here on US soil so it has to be abroad.
FIFA and Nike, Adidas, or another soccer supplying company would have to help bring the fanaticism of the sport to the US by providing the capital. There are ways to try to raise interest but it is uncertain whether not the momentum would be sustainable. One would be to host the World Cup, which would bring recognition and a first hand view of the world’s passion for the sport. The other would be endorsement to the American players to get them in the US media and public eye as a celebrity, even if they are playing for a European or South American team. Even with all of this I do not think soccer will ever have the hold in the US that it has in other parts of the world. It does that the potential to make money in the US. And it is all about the money in the US.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy

The positive potential for US foreign relations is undeniably substantially improved as of January 2009. It was not that most people understood and were against Bush’s policies. Rather they thought he was ignorant and arrogant American chauvinist. In the words of a cabdriver, the world saw him as “a crazy drunk”. International disgust stemmed from the attitude communicated in the way relations were managed and policy was carried out. There was arrogance that we were above treaties and did not need a consensus from our allies to go forward with our agenda. Obama has a chance to reverse the attitude from superiority to camaraderie and respect. Part of this is just because he is different. At the Council of Foreign Relations I spoke with a representative about the potential in the Obama administration. My question was not whether Obama was well received here, but whether he felt like the potential to improve foreign relations would be realized. He responded that he believed it would happen and that it can start with pressure from constituents to act. I spoke again with a cab driver here in Argentina. He explained that he felt like Obama is sincere, genuine, and it one of the people. He said that he does not believe he is a liar. I was interested to find that he was not excited because the war would end, but just that he felt that there would be more honesty. This is an image that Obama has successfully projected. I have learned foreign policy is focused on people feeling valued and respected instead of ignored or manipulated. I look forward to seeing if Obama does channel the positive energy to improve the US image world wide in his time in office. People are looking for someone who they can identify with. Obama has aligned himself with the idea that he is one of the people and not superior. For Argentines this idea of trust is compounded by the lack of trust in their government. His style of facebook, town halls, weekly podcasts, many prime time addresses, has created an approachable and recognized figure. People ultimately want to know that they are important. By reaching out, not only to the American public, but to the international community, he has the opportunity to really build the global community.

The Value of Time

I was about to pull out my cell phone and briefly call my mom the other day on my way to class when I realized I would be the only one doing so. Argentines are never walking while talking or texting on a cell phone. I have yet to see someone in conversation or company of someone else, and pull out their phone. There is no expectation to be able to be reached at all times. As individuals they are in the moment and not constantly concerned with their efficiency.

I believe this thought system is a trait the culture has inherited through the easy and blessed agriculture base they have traditionally experiences. The "curse" of the Argentines that allows them abundant success with little work has created an attitude of almost idleness. Their history has set them up to be more relaxed and less likely to pursue hard work in the future. I believe this attitude can be seen throughout culture and expanding into economics as well. There is no pressure to diversify production or investments; no voice preparing the country for a down turn or unpredictable economic turmoil. Instead, the country remains focused on cash crops. Their past indicates resilience and a rapid rate of return. This can be seen trough the crisis of 2001 and the return to stability in less than 10 years, when predictions were much longer.

The incredible natural resources of their nation have created a historical European attitude and continue to spread that today. Part of the European heritage they so desperately want to exemplify, is a priority of personal relationships. There is more time in the cafes and less time in the office because there is no pressure to truly perform. This was made clear through testimonies of workers who confessed to close their door and nap at the office! In the US relationships, even among family, has been reduced to short hand email and text messages because of the pressure to succeed. As I observe Argentine businessmen exchanging notes, families spending uninterrupted quality time together, and friends laughing over café con leche, I am slightly jealous. They are able to prioritize relationships above multitasking. The pressure of time is absent and the focus is more on depth. Even at night when grabbing a glass of wine at a bar, there is no sentiment of leaving in a hurry to get to the next place. The only people clamoring for a bill are the Americans. Argentines accept time as fluid and less of a mandate. The expectations is to truly spend time with the people you are with instead of moving on to the next item on your to-do list while you are still with someone else. At first I fought this idea of not valuing time was anti-efficient and illogical. I have now come to understand that the way they look at time is a matter of different priorities. The history and influence of the economy on culture leads to the continuation of the characteristics of Argentina in the past into the future. The "tranquilo" lifestyle may not be the American business lifestyle, but appreciating a difference in cultural value as placed on time, can provide an opportunity for questioning why we function the way we do as well.

Tango as an Identity

On a taxi ride I asked the taxi driver if he was a native Argentine and porteno,(city resident of Buenos Aires). He responded that he was, and that of course he knew tango. His answer was affirmative and supported in his mind by the ability to dance the tango. This raised an interesting thought in the importance of tango in the minds of citizen or the global importance they believe it holds. Tango is what Argentina is known for around the world, and therefore feels that in order to legitimize their claim they must be able to dance it. Tango is not the foundation for identity because everyone goes tangoing all the time, or that they are all amazing dancers. Argentines want to have pride in their country in what the world sees them as contributing. They want to be a part of what others recognize them for. Tango is a chance for anyone, regardless of political views, social status, profession, or even football affiliation, to be able to be Argentine and be a part of that pride. It is the element across all other divisions for the whole to belong. This uniting factor was evident in Monte Video, Uruguay at the Buddy Bears Exhibit. This is the UN project where each of the 144 countries who are members of the UN have painted a bear about 6 feet tall. Argentina’s bear has a cameo of Gardel in the front center. Of the things Argentina could have communicated with the bear, it chose to fortify their claim to tango. Pride and identity is determined by what the world sees them worth. For Argentina, being able to tango is a way for a citizen to be sure they are Argentine. The dance doesn’t care about beliefs, social status, profession, neighborhood, football team or political ideas. Argentina’s tango, just like the attitude of the people, is often nostalgic, sultry, and longing for something more as a country and on the dance floor.

Summer 2009: Argentina & Brazil