Day 11 (Pt. 2) – Farewell Dinner
Well, the day we never thought would come has arrived. Tonight was our last dinner in Argentina. Of course we enjoyed amazing steak, salad, and desserts as usual. I can not even put into words how amazing the meal was. But truthfully what hit me the most while enjoying this dinner was that it was probably the last time our study abroad group would all be together. These people have become my support system through this crazy adventure. They have laughed as I butchered Spanish trying to order a meal, encouraged me when the culture shock began to set in, picked me up when I fell in the streets of Buenos Aires (literally), and held my hand as we all adapted to the new culture together. This entire trip has been a learning experience for all of us and I think that we have all realized we are capable of so much more than we ever thought. For example, not only did we survive Buenos Aires public transportation for two weeks – and let me tell you, at one point of the trip I was not sure I was going to – but we learned to embrace the whole experience. This study abroad experience has truly opened up my eyes to the possibilities that exist outside of the United States. As tacky as it sounds, there is truly a whole world out there to explore.
I just want to give a quick shout out to the best study abroad faculty advisor in the world. It takes a certain type of professor to put up with 14 undergrads for two weeks in a foreign country. Dr. Earnest planned this amazing trip, making sure we learned something but also had a blast during it. It would not have been the same without him. Also, a shoutout to ISA, who were always willing to answer any questions or doubts we had. They constantly made me feel as though I was in good hands.
Tomorrow we will start our long trek back to the US. We all are excited to see our friends, families, and pets! I think we will all miss Argentina but who knows, maybe one day we will be back.
Day 11 (Pt. 1) – ESMA
Desaparecidos. The word used to describe the thousands of innocent Argentine people who were tortured and killed because they were activists, unionists, and students. The Dirty War, as many people may know it, occurred between 1976-1983. During this time, the Argentine Dictatorship and Navy began using the grounds of the Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada (ESMA) to detain people. The ESMA was the largest clandestine detention center during this time and within its walls around 5,000 desaparecidos were tortured and/or murdered. Because evidence regarding the desaparecidos has either been destroyed or kept secret by the repressors, many of the actual numbers of held in ESMA are only estimates.
During our tour of ESMA, we were taken to the officers quarters where the desaparecidos were held captive were processed, detained, and tortured. Walking around the dark cold basement and attic like third floor, one could only imagine what the desaparecidos went through and the amount of slave labor they were forced to do including falsifying documents so their oppressors could kidnap other civilians. Once taken persons were handcuffed, shackled, and hooded in silence for their time at ESMA which could range from days to years.
Although progress has been made to help create a sense of remembrance, it is still a hard and sad topic in Argentina. Through ESMA’s motto “Memory, truth, and justice” they allow others to learn and share in the history of what happened to their people. Hopefully what we have seen today will open our eyes to the crimes and atrocities that can occur when power is misused.
Day 10 (Pt. 2) – Wine Tasting
As a part of our cultural integration into the Argentine lifestyle we attended a wine tasting at ANUVA wines in Palermo, Buenos Aires. This event was extraordinary in that we were able to try a total of five fantastic, local wines. These wines were unique in that they represented the eclectic state of the wine industry in the region. Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and presents a plethora of micro-climates for various grape varieties. Our introduction included not only the famous Malbec variety of grape but also more region specific varieties such as the Bonoroa.
In Argentina, wine is not only a recreational drink; it is a symbol of community spirit. In the U.S, we live as individuals in a fast paced society. True community experiences are few and far between in our hectic lives. In Argentina, wine is a quintessential symbol of a polychronic lifestyle. To truly enjoy wine one must sit back and dedicate themselves to a period of relaxation and socialization. Having wine with a meal is a typical practice in this region of the world. This cultural practice encourages communal recreational experiences. In the U.S we don’t dedicate our time to such practices as it impinges on our productivity. We don’t have to necessarily consume wine on a regular basis to experience what it symbolizes. However, in Argentina wine represents what community should be. And hey, it can act as a social catalyst as well. Either way the U.S can learn a thing or two about what wine truly means to Argentine culture.
Day 10 (Pt. 1) – IAE
IAE, Argentina’s best business school, is absolutely gorgeous. The campus is small, with four main buildings including one for the professors, two executive buildings, and the auditorium building. Interestingly, Argentinean schools do not have frats or sororities because typically students do not have time for much of a social life as they are busy with school and work. CONFyE, a resaerch group we met with at IAE, focuses on two lines of research including work and family balance and woman leadership. Two important subjects for the people of Argentina, their goal being to compare Argentina with other cultures and promote active change in Argentina. Different than in the United States, Argentinean students are not required to take classes outside of their degrees making it possible for them to graduate college with a PhD in only 5 years! It is not even an option for most students here to get anything below a Master’s degree level.
I actually found the whole experience of college here in Argentina to be quite interesting. I wish that I could go to a college back at home that is similar to how it is here. I can see from their perspective why it is so important simply to get to the point, get the degree, and get out there to find the right job! In my opinion, if we could do things that way in America, not only would more people be successful in finishing their degrees, but they could start searching for jobs sooner. Realistically, looking for a job with only a Bachelor’s degree is a dead end for a lot of majors… psychology in particular. The length in time in which it takes to get their degree deters many students because they know that they will not find their dream job afterwards. So I say let’s bring a new style of learning back to the U.S. and speed things up for Psychology students!
Day 8 – Dia de Campo
Today for Day 8 of our adventures through Argentina, we enjoy an wonderful array of Argentinian history at Dia de Campo and the cathedral of Lujan.
On our way to Dia de Campo we visited the Cathedral of Lujan. It was an amazing site to behold. The entire structure of the building was breathtaking. Inside the Cathedral there were many people in attendance for a service. The building itself is very artistic in every way from the statue of Jesus to the multiple statues of the Virgin of Lujan. As I was walking around I noticed smaller rooms with people inside praying illustrating the importance of personal prayer time to Argentina’s catholic believers. The Argentine people take their religion very seriously and it showed by all the examples that I walked past. It was impressive to see the devotion people had to their religious beliefs and the gorgeous cathedral in which they came to pray.
After Lujan we traveled to Dia de Campo. Dia de Campo was the wonderful event in which visitors experience the wonders of rural farm based culture of Argentina, on the outskirts of the major city of Buenos Aires. Dia de Campo is one of the most peaceful places. We were exposed to many aspects of traditional Argentinian culture such as an Estancia (traditional Argentinian Farm), Asado (Argentinian cuisine), and traditional dance. Our day was full of cute animals, delicious food, and upbeat music and tango. We had the chance to explore the farm and several of us took advantage of the horseback rides and horse-drawn carriage. After interacting with the animals, we had the great pleasure of eating a wonderful four course lunch which included salad, chorizo and blood sausage, chicken, and steak. After our glorious meal, the staff entertained us with a tango show and some of us even participated. It is great to watch tango, but it is so much more fun to dance tango
After our lunch and show, we watched as the staff competed in a sport that is, how I would best describe, similar to jousting. They did not charge at each other on horseback, but they would ride their horses as they attempted to aim a pole into a small ring on the end of a stick as they rode by. The winner would then give the ring to a woman of their choice, who would then give them a kiss on the cheek. After the sporting event, we had afternoon mate, a traditional Argentine tea, and a pastry similar to baklava.
In reflection, our group was pleasantly delighted with the experience of the Argentinian Estancia ranch life, and specifically the dancing. For me, the dance symbolized not only a form of entertainment, but an appreciation of culture. In observing the dancers perform the various dances with style and poise, it was evident they respected the history of their Argentinian heritage. Even as they acted out the dances with us students, they enjoyed the interactions and worked with our skill level. It was a great event and interested me to look up dances from other cultures as well.
Dia de Campo is definitely an experience visitors to Argentina should be apart of!! I am very grateful to have been able to visit Dio de Campo. It is a beautiful, peaceful place that serves as a small reminder that living things are able to coexist in a world that seems to lack such solidarity.
Day 7 (Pt. 3) – Guest Lecture: Argentina History and Economics
I will be honest. I did very little research about Argentina before I arrived. I bought a Lonely Planet book about Buenos Aires and aside from flipping through it a few times, I didn’t really absorb any of the information. I was too excited about being in the country that I didn’t think the rest mattered. This was very ignorant of me, something I try to avoid as an American who travels.
Aside from some very basic background information from articles I’d read for this class and what little information I learned in high school about Argentina’s dictatorships, I came in blind. Our second guest speaker today was a professor of history at a university in Buenos Aires. He gave us very detailed information about the history of Buenos Aires and Argentina starting from the discovery of Latin American by Colón (or as we know him, Columbus) in 1492 and went all the way to the present.
I learned more about Argentinian politics in two hours than I know about the politics of the United States (just kidding, but it was A LOT of information).
What I thought was the most interesting was that although there were coups in Argentina against the government, they were strictly about political parties not religion. Argentina is a very Catholic country. 80% of the population is Catholic, although they are not all practicing Catholics, it the the dominant religion. No one questions the fact that their political leaders must be Catholic and that there is a no separation of church and state. Though that does not mean that the city is constantly preaching Catholicism.
The history lesson was a nice change of pace from the other speakers we’ve had so far. Instead of Sebastian prompting us with question after question, I felt like I actually got a lot out of those two hours.
Day 7 (Pt. 2) – Gender and Family relations
In Argentina, families interact differently than they do in the States. For example, in Argentina, it is normal for children to live at home well into their late twenties. In Argentina it is also common for many generations to live in the same household. These two cultural differences can be explained by the fact that it is easier to stay at home longer after the teenage years due to the economy. It is very expensive to live on your own. Also many generations live in one household because nursing homes do not exist.
Gender differences in Argentina are changing overtime. Gender equality is increasing due to evolved ways of thinking more and more women are attending college and getting jobs that were once dominated by men. These evolving gender relations are presented by the fact that in 2010 gay marriage was passed in Argentina.
As gay rights and women’s rights are increasing in Argentina, it is important to note that like everywhere in the world, stigma related to being a part of the LGBT community, or being an independent working woman, still exists. Though this stigma is decreasing through generational differences and education it still exists.
Our guest speaker today prompted us to think about the gender roles we ourselves hold, and question the way we experience these opinions. We also discussed social situations in which gender effects the way we perceive events. The cultural differences between the United States and Argentina contribute to family and gender roles. Belief systems, values, leisure, behavior, job selection, and expectations create the gender differences that we perceive as a normal part of life.
Day 7 (Pt. 1) – Mercado de Liniers
Our visit to Mercado de Liniers was an opportunity to see a side of the food industry we would not have otherwise known. This was not a farm, it was a meat market where cows came from neighboring farms and were sold in preparation for the slaughter house. Different restaurants and grocers came and bid on the animals.
The cows are brought throughout the night and early into the morning. When they arrive they are weighed and sorted according to their weigth. Each weight category was put into different pens and in the area corresponding to the broker in charge of selling them. It is important to note that these animals are not pets, they are products. They are hearded to and from different areas of the market as needed and that consist of a man on horseback with a whip or belt. The market is not a glamorous place, it is dirty and muddy as you would expect animal pens to be. The cows come from the farms, to the market, and then on to the slaughter houses; however, it is safe to be a horse at Mercados de Liniers.
In reflection, I saw the market for what it was, it is a place of business where cows are the products. It did not matter that I thought of the cows as farm animals or pets because that was simply not the case here. We were able to observe the market from highrise walkway above the market where we walked throughtout the vast market. This experience allowed me to see that cattle as a busniess and way of life or livelihood for many people of Argentina.
Day 6 (Pt. 3) – Tango Show
Tonight we paid a visit to Cafe Tortoni to see a tango show. Tango dance originated in Buenos Aires, and if there were anything that could capture the spirit and culture of this vibrant city, it would be tango.
The people of Buenos Aires are very emotional and affectionate, and I saw their dance in the exact same manner. Tango dance is not just the synchronized movement of a pair of dancers, it is emotion manifested into physical connection.
When you think of tango, what are the first words that pop into your head? Sultry? Seductive? Indeed, tango is both, but it is so much more. Seeing tango in person makes the emotion so much more tangible than in any other platform (this post will not do it justice).
Tango dance displays the appreciation of body and soul. The body language used between the dancers are immensely intimate. The eye contact, the slow strides, the delicate placement of hands… It is raw, passionate and aggressive. There is a competition for dominance between the man and woman and in the end, both show complete submission. It is incredibly emotional and intimate and as I said, this post will not do tango justice.
Along with seeing tango dance, there were also other performances throughout the show. The MC would come out and sing in between dances, and several dancers performed amazing dance solos with the accompaniment of a single drummer. The movement of the dancers’ feet were incredible, as they were both fluid and rigid. Most of the time, their legs were nothing but a blur. Seeing tango in person definitely gave me a new appreciation for the art. The performers were not only dancers, they were actors and story tellers as well. Tango perfectly exemplifies the passion and resilience of the Argentine people, and I have gained more admiration for the art now than I ever have before.
Day 6 (Pt. 2) – IBM in Buenos Aires
Today we had the fortunate opportunity to visit IBM’s Buenos Aires office. The recruitment manager and diversity consultant took time out of their day to meet with us and discuss some of their individual roles in promoting the goals of IBM.
The recruitment manager works in the off Argentina, but manages several companies in various Spanish-speaking South American offices. After walking us through the basic of the recruitment process and his interactions with other recruitment team members, he spoke to how technology, such as LinkedIn, has opened a multitude of doors to find and recruitment applicants across South America.
The manager, who graduated with a degree in Psychology from a local university, also talked about how, counter to tradition in Argentina, IBM does not use Psychological (projective) tests but instead uses logical (intelligence and personality) test just as we do in the U.S. Also much like in the U.S., many psychology majors go to work in HR and recruitment areas as these positions allow psychology students to use their expertise on human behavior.
The diversity consultant then discussed the various structures in place to promote a safe and diverse IBM. IBM tries to stay one step ahead of the diversity curve as IBM brands itself as “diversity is in our DNA”. Examples of this can be seen in their hiring process with their first woman and African American employees being hired in the 1800s, their first disabled employee being hired in 1914, and their first LGBT individuals being hired in 1984.
Despite sexual orientation being considered taboo and not openly discussed in business, IBM has included sexual discrimination in their non-discriminatory act, and given domestic partner benefits before same sex marriage was even legalized in Argentina in 2011. Through participation in diversity awareness workshops, IBM continues to encourage an inclusive environment.
Day 6 (Pt. 1) – Museo Evita
As a part of our various study abroad activities we visited El Museo Evita. El Museo Evita is a museum dedicated to the life and mission of Evita Duarte, the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron. Evita wasn’t simply the first lady of Argentina; she was an actor, a politician, and the heart and soul of the community spirit of Argentina. She was a champion of the poor and underprivileged and spearheaded a plethora of social programs aimed at improving education and enhancing social support for those most in need. As a populist politician she focused upon helping the “descamisados”, the shirtless ones. Like most politicians, she was either loved or hated. The rich hated her, and the poor loved her. This was to be expected of any robin hood-like character. Social programs are incredibly expensive and that tax money has to come from somewhere. However upon her death from cervical cancer in 1952 the country faced an outpouring of emotional turmoil.
It was an incredible experience to attend Museo Evita and gain such incredible insight into the golden age of Argentina. During the reign of Peron Argentina was not only growing, but thriving. Watching films of Evita and her husband it felt as though I was watching a film taking place in Italy, France, Spain or some other prosperous European city. Getting this alternative perspective on Argentina allowed me to see the country in an extremely different light. Argentina has encountered intense economic highs and lows over its history. These changes have defined the Argentine identity. When boiled down, Evita is the pure memory of the golden age of Argentina.
Day 5 (Pt. 2) – The Residencia
When we first arrived to the residencia, we all were shocked. This 10ft x 8ft cement “cell” was going to be our home for the next 2 weeks. We even started joking and calling our roommates our “cell mates.” As our first week passed, I think we have all grown to appreciate the residencia. We are surrounded by other students who are all willing to talk and share their knowledge of Buenos Aires.
We also have the sweetest ladies cooking us breakfast, lunch, and dinner (always very good!) and we have each other as a close knit support group through this crazy adventure. Although we have faulty wifi that seems to only work at 2am and showers that don’t believe in a medium temperature, I think our home (the residencia) has started to grow on us all.
The residencia has the cutest bakery and cafe right next door and easy access to restaurants and night life. I think we all appreciate this since we do not have to go far from “home” after our long and busy days. The residencia also has common rooms where we play cards and just meet up to talk. Although the residencia was not exactly what we were expecting, I believe it has been a way for us to all become closer during this whole process. Now we are off to our next adventure… Tango!
Day 5 (Pt. 1) – Intercultural Communication
Have you ever felt anxious, frustrated, or even confused when you feel someone doesn’t understand you? How would you respond, and furthermore, what if your responses were used for the basic judgement of who you are. Communication and the interpretations that follow are influenced by culture.
For the 5th day, of our trip through Buenos Aires, we attended a Multicultural Communication Lecture focused on the theme of difficulties experienced between communication and culture. In an open lecture, lead by Argentinian native, Maria Ines Quiroga, who received her graduate degree from UMBC in Baltimore, we discussed various topics including, personal feelings that result from language barriers, numerous factors that affect modes of communication, and specific ways to understand these differences and maneuver through them.
In our discussions, we talked about how difficult it can be to overcome these communication barriers, especially on a cultural level. To further understand this we discussed it on terms of how it applies to each country we are covering. In the U.S., we tend to present language in a direct manner and focus priority on ourselves as individuals. This is very much different from the Argentinian society, which identify themselves within their society collectively, and tend to be some what indirect in communication. Maria taught us how it is important to understand that neither spectrum is incorrect, but that each system involves different rules and cultural practices. In addition, natural barriers in communication can be very hard to process in our minds, because we may assume everyone universally comprehends situations in the ways we do, which is not always the case.
Throughout our trip, many of us have been faced with varied levels of difficulty in handling simple events such as ordering a specific food or even asking for directions. In doing so, some of us have become frustrated and reluctant to perform certain task, just to keep things simple. For me personally the most important concept I learned from Maria’s lecture was the “Iceberg Theory of Culture”. The idea of this theory is basically that we judge and process other’s culture by what we see (the visible portion of the iceberg), but it’s important to remember there are a multitude of reasons and purposes of why that culture acts as they do (the bottom unseen portion). Ultimately, the overall takeaway message from this lecture was that as we come in contact with other cultures, it is truly vital that we have an open perspective on how we view and perceive interactions. As our minds are more open and accepting of the differences from our own culture and society, we become more willing to adapt to the practices of other cultures, break our own prejudices, and accept the cultural differences displayed by others.
Day 4 (Pt. 2) – Hotel Bauen
Today we visited the Hotel Bauen, a cooperative run hotel in Buenos Aires. This hotel was closed in 2001, during a disastrous week in Argentina when the hotel owners went bankrupt following social uprising and economic turmoil caused when the president resigned and left the country. About a year and a half after the hotel closed, former workers got together and decided to reopen the hotel on their own. With an agreement with the government, the workers were able to enter the building and start repairing the hotel. In the beginning the cooperative employees were so desperate for funds that they resorted to begging in the streets for enough money to sustain the hotel and feeding their families. As time passed, they were able to exchange goods and services with people in the community, other cooperatives, and people who needed a place to stay. It was several years before the hotel became self-sustainable and now it is a fully functioning hotel run completely by the employees who democratically make organizational decisions.
The story of Hotel Bauen would be very different if it had occurred in the U.S. The U.S. legal system supports private property owners and if an owner wanted to close their hotel there is very little recourse for the workers who may want the property to remain open. The experience has shown me a lot about how cultural shaped “human nature” is. I’ve been told many times that there is no such thing as altruism and that human nature is to put the self before others but during the takeover process many, including some branches of the government, helped the employee of Hotel Bauen at great cost to themselves. For years, many workers at Hotel Bauen took home little money and could barely afford to feed their families. The commitment of employees to Hotel Bauen was so strong that many made personal sacrifices to keep it alive. With over 350 other recuperated businesses in Argentina, many workers have taken control of their organizations and lives.
In America many people “jump ship” once it becomes apparent that a company is losing business or going under, and this is considered the “smart” thing to do. The example of Hotel Bauen illustrates the cultural differences that exist between Argentina and the U.S. While American culture focuses on making as much money as possible, Argentine culture puts a higher price on worker and being a part of something greater than oneself.
Day 4 (Pt. 1) – Carrefour
Carrefour is a French based international company that is the 2nd largest retail chain in the world. Its stores can be found in across the globe and 22 of Argentina’s’ 24 states. Carrefour is primarily a grocery store, but depending on the size can also include other departments such as electronics. We met with Carrefour’s CFO and the director of Human Resources.
It was very interesting to hear about the responsibilities and goals of Human Resources. They described how with Carrefour there are different levels of authority from directors, to managers, and chiefs that help make Carrefour run smoothy and with high employee satisfaction. One point I found particularly fascinating was the different cultures that exist within Carrefour (corporate and local store). In order to help promote better understanding Carrefour attempts to rotate some of its employees between the corporate office and local stores.
Overall Carrefour seemed to be a company promoting happy healthy employees. This was an amazing opportunity to talk with the leaders of the organization and learn about their family oriented culture and work practices.
Day 3 – Teatro Colon
Hola from Buenos Aires!
Today was our third day in Argentina and we had much of the morning to ourselves to sleep in, which was absolutely wonderful after a few days of waking up early. We ate lunch at the residencia and then traveled to Teatro Colon. met outside at promptly 2 pm to go on a tour of Teatro Colon, which required our first subway ride in Argentina, an experience in itself. The Tatro Colon is the national theater or Argentine and one of the worlds most famous theaters and opera houses.
If I had to sum up the Teatro Colon in one word it would be “majestic.” Walking into the builidng, I felt completely overwhelmed by its beauty and the attention to detail that must have gone into its construction. The theater itself is over a hundred years old and heavily influenced by European architecture. It took three architects to finally complete the Teatro Colon – the first two architects were Italian and died at age 44 and construction was actually stalled for years because so many architects were afraid of the curse to take on the task of completing the “haunted” Teatro Colon. The interior and exterior of the building are absolutely beautiful. Much of the flooring inside is covered with tiny ornate mosaic tiles, which were hand cut and placed during the original construction. Gold leaf is painted everywhere and the ceilings are complete with fantastic murals. It’s impossible to touch upon all the details of the theater in writing and I’m sure my pictures will do a much better job than I ever could.
Day 2: El Tigre
Our trip to El Tigre was an exciting and beautiful trip into the areas surrounding the city of Buenos Aires.
While at the Plaza de Frutas a group of us ate at a local restaurant right near the water. In Argentina one of their speciality dishes is called “Locro”. This plate consists of pinto beans and pig meat. Locro is known as the plate eaten during the Argentine Revolution and as such it was important to eat it at least once. It proved to be a testy dish!
Day 1 (Pt. 2): Welcome Dinner
Day 1 (Pt. 1)- City Tour of Buenos Aires
Our Buenos Aires City tour included trips to La Boca, La Recoleta, and Puerta Madero, and other neighborhoods
Introduction: Summer 2014: Culture & Psychology in Argentina
Welcome to the 2014 Culture and Psychology Study Abroad Program to Argentina blog space!
- Why Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of South America”?
- How exposure to new cultures can change our lives?
- What exactly is a gaucho?
- Is human nature really universal?
- What exactly was the Argentine “Dirty War”?
- How our national history really impacts our day to day lives?
- What is the real story behind Eva “Evita” Peron?
- How interrelated are culture and psychology?
- Is Argentine beef really as good as everyone claims? And what about the wine?
- What differences exist between Argentine and U.S. culture?
If you have ever thought about any of these questions or I have just peaked your interest, I would like to offer you the chance to join us on this adventure by following our posts.
While abroad, students participating in this program will be posting about the culture, people, excursions, speakers, their personal stories and reflections, and other activities they experience during this 2 week trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I invite you to share in this unique experience with us as we explore Buenos Aires and examine the similarities and differences between Argentine and U.S. culture from a psychological perspective.
Program Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Psychology