Monday, August 13, 2012

Sightseeing In Carlos Paz and Alta Gracia

This weekend, my folks, my spouse, and I went on a short road trip to Carlos Paz. I've travelled all along the U.S. east coast many times, but I always missed the chance to see mountains. I take that back. I saw mountains in upstate New York, but the sights in Carlos Paz were breathtaking.

Afterwards, we headed towards Alta Gracia. There is a great deal of beautiful farmland between Carlos Paz and Alta Gracia.

Alta Gracia is considered a "Pueblo" or a small country town. Like Kansas (or Smallville if you're into Superman)

There is a church in Alta Gracia that was founded in the early 1500's. It is a historical site. If you visit, you will notice that the architecture, including the wooden doors to the church have remained untouched, even after several centuries. I am not a church going person, but I was impressed by how ancient the building was. One of my cousins was actually baptised in this church.
There are street vendors near the church grounds as well as stores, restaurants, and ice cream parlors. There is a park right by the church too where families go to relax and enjoy a picnic.
Next to the church you will find a tourist center.

Throughout Alta Gracia you can expect to find a variety of statues that commemorate historical and mythical figures as well as a head statue of the legendary Eva Peron (not pictured).

So whether you're migrating to the province of Cordoba or are simply visiting, Carlos Paz and Alta Gracia are two stops you definitely want to make.

Death In The Family - Dealing With Loss When You’re An Expat

When I was five, I left two important people behind in Argentina, and I´ve spent most of my childhood imagining that I would one day see them again. I got my wish, but it wasn't what I expected.
My uncle and I

My grandmother
Today I visited the cemetery where my grandmother and uncle were buried. She died in 2000 of natural causes, and my uncle died in 2004 in a tragic bus accident at the age of 43. Before I tell you what happens next, let me give you a little history first.

When I was five, my mom and I went to live with my grandmother and uncle for what would have been my final year in Argentina before moving to the United States. During that year I bonded with my grandmother and my uncle (who had been like a dad to me during that year). I had to say goodbye to my grandmother at home before my mom and I travelled from Cordoba to the airport in Buenos Aires. My uncle accompanied us though. The last memory I have of him was a silhouette waving at me from inside the airport as I looked on through the airplane window. I promised myself that I’d find a way to see him, and my grandmother again, but that promise never came … well, not the way I expected anyways.

I’ve encountered people in my life who I’ve considered family back in the States, but they’ve always thrown it in my face how much I wasn’t a part of their family at the first sign of an argument. This was different. These two people … these corpses lying six feet underground are my true family, but they’re gone. Somehow this visit to the cemetery made my return to Argentina a little more difficult to handle, but what’s worse, none of the living family I have seem to care.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignorant of the fact that everyone had their time to grieve when my uncle and grandmother passed away, but these graves were poorly attended to. It’s obvious that no one has visited their graves in years. As my folks had put It, “Once they’re dead there’s nothing left. The dead don’t grieve, or feel sadness, or happiness, nor do they suffer. Funerals and gravestones are for the living, who out of guilt, tend to the graves to make up for the lack of attention they gave to them in life.”

I’m just a grieving grandson, and a nephew, who kept his promise to return to them, but I couldn’t beat the predator that is time and death.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Are Gays Safe in Argentina?

There isn’t a single place on Earth that’s a hundred percent free of homophobia, but for the most part, Argentina is a relatively safe haven for gay, lesbian, and transgender people. As of this post, neither my spouse nor I have encountered any type of homophobic discrimination. (Update 2017: There are some people who will make whistling noises that are similar to bird calls. My spouse and I have had employees at certain privately owned supermarkets, and owners of newspaper kiosks on the street, whistle in this manner. We're told that this is the way some homophobes react when someone that's gay approaches them)   

Cultural Perspective Physical appearance (style of clothing, hairstyle), financial, and social standing are what defines most people in the United States. Argentinian society isn’t guided by these types of categories. People here tend to respect your differences and leave you alone, unless of course, you have metal pins sticking out of your skull.  

How Businesses Treat Gays Unfortunately, you won't find stores with the rainbow flag on the doors or windows, which is a sign that the store is gay owned or gay friendly like in the States. But it doesn't mean that you'll find yourself being mistreated either. My spouse and I haven't encountered a lot of homophobia while visiting shopping centers, supermarkets, video stores, or government establishments. They acknowledge our homosexuality and remain quite friendly for the most part.  

Immigration My spouse and I have had to visit the immigration building in Cordoba a few times in order to get his residency paperwork going. Never once did we hesitate to point out that we had gotten married back in New York, and we never got any indication that the immigration staff was condescending. 

Misunderstanding If you run across a nasty store owner or supermarket attendee, it’s most likely the result of them being rude or disgruntled and not because you’re gay.  

Gay Rights in Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner legalized gay marriages, and passed a handful of laws that protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from violence and discrimination in Argentina. 

Conservative Views You’re bound to run into people who are homophobic. Older Argentinians (those born in the 1940s) tend to cling to their old ways. The same goes with overly religious fanatics. Unfortunately, these types of people are everywhere in the world. 

 Conclusion For the most part, Argentinians are quite accepting. So I encourage anyone, gay or straight, to move down here to live a less stressful life, mostly free of judgment. You won’t regret it.