A Blunt Conversation with an Argentine
I picked the brain an Argentine friend the other day about this country and concept that is Argentina. I liked what he had to say, so I took notes, and now I’ve expanded them for your reading pleasure. If some grammatical structures seem askew, try reading it with an Argentine accent.
Here is the transcribed interview. My questions are marked in italics.
Argentina possesses a very strong national culture, sometimes I find it to be overbearing. Argentines have a strong national identity, but what makes a person Argentinian?
Who is more ‘Argentinian’; someone who came here in the eighteenth century, or someone who was born here in the twentieth century? You could compare the immigration here to the USA. In both countries arise this issue of combining foreign identities with ‘new world’ identity.
I suppose we consider the most ‘Argentinean’ to be the Aristocracy, the people who came here two hundred years ago, with a little money, from Europe and built this country. They started buying up land and killing off the indigenous people to take their land. These aristocrats are memorialized with streets named after the first doctors, lawyers and architects. All of them were Spanish.
There is no real tangible thing that makes someone an Argentinian. This is a land of Indians, populated by the grandchildren of European immigrants. The relationship between the natives and migrants is bad one. Both are Argentineans. Theres a feeling in the air that nothing could really define what it means to be Argentinean except maybe the personality. A little bit of ego and arrogance because of poor education. People have been taught that they are the best, that God is Argentinian. But it is not really like that. In reality Argentina has a population of impoverished people, who really should be rich.
So what do you think of the current government?
A strong state does not exist today in Argentina. Our state recycles different transitional governments. A ‘State as an Institution’ does not exist to step up and solve the problems. If you have a problem in Argentina no one will help you, you can only rely on the charity of your friends and family, or people with good hearts. If you are out of job, the system doesn’t give you some money or something to help you get back on your feet, or something to help you thrive again in the system.
Two hundred twenty years ago Argentina was in the same situation as it is today.* Only four honest people were in power, and the rest of the people in power only wanted to get benefits for themselves. They were selfish and power hungry. They discovered that it is so hard to build a country if you don’t give anything to the people, like justice.
* Argentina declared their independence two hundred years ago. This year is the bicentennial.
What are Argentina’s biggest problems?
Education is a huge problem. Here in argentina, the country of the cows, people die of hunger. Thirty thousand people per year die in this country with lots of food – beef and vegetables, soy crops. Children die. And none of the governments do anything about it. The only way to stop the hunger, is to start to build more schools and try to put back into the society all those people which are with out jobs and possibilities.
There are so many poor people. Years ago the poor people were great. They were poor and they didn’t bother anyone. But now, not all of them, but some poor people are every violent. And because they do not have any opportunity to enter society, they steal, they kill, they don’t care a shit about anything. And because they do not have job, or an education, it is like a vicious cycle. Their children will be the same. The little kids don’t know another reality. They don’t go to school, they cant work. You have to restructure the system. The people who have the power to do it just want to be rich, they don’t care about the people. They just do a little bit, the bare minimum. So then they feel ok.
What do you think about the huge income gap?
Its not fair that the salary of a teacher or any worker. I don’t want to sound naïve, but there are many people, politicians, etc who earn so much money for not doing anything. And there are people who work eighteen hours a day with a salary so low that they are unable to feed their family. Its crazy.
Do you think things will ever get better?
I think Argentina is so young, and it will take awhile to grow up. It is like a teenage country, if you use that metaphor. It has to grow up. Maybe it will take another two hundred years to make it a safe place with justice and equality. To be a serious place. Right now Argentina is not a serious county, I love it, but it is not serious.
Its not serious because our president and her husband, the Ex President both own a lot of property. They actually own part of the federal state, which they bought ilegally and now they sell it to private investors. That is so illegal. Selling lands of our country, part of our patrimonio, its crazy.
Inflation is another reason that Argentina is not a serious country. One day at the store you can buy for a kilo of sugar for three pesos, the next week it costs six. That is not serious. The police corruption and the imbalance of justice; Argentina should not be like this.
We really have to start to build this country right away. Nothing is sold now. How is it possible that people die of hunger in a country with more cows than people. We do bad business. We should export much more.
Like the recent passing of the gay marriage law, they should just simply deal with it and move on. Try to stop hunger or deal with real problems. Working on inserting people into the society, to build more work for everyone, to take care of the economy. Everything should be more organized, with more justice.
Why do Argentines hold onto the culture of their ancestors so fiercely?
Why do people hold onto their past ancenterial identity? Why don’t they only call themselves Argentinean? They are still proud, but they are always looking back and abroad. Always criticizing the system here and romanticizing everything outside of our doors, like Italy.
We are like Italy because many of us came from Italian descent. If Italy was not in Europe it would be messed up like here, because the politicians are similar. Italy is protected because it is part of the European community, but if it was in Latin America, it would be the same. The institutions don’t function there. The airport? The public transportation? Everything is so third world. Its very similar to this.