Friday, November 30, 2012

Racism in Argentina

Over the last several months, I've noticed that racism in Argentina is very different from racism in the United States. In the U.S., you’ll find that there is a great deal of hate crimes against Jews, Blacks, Muslims, etc. On the other hand, Argentinians don’t usually resort to violence if they dislike a particular race or culture, but they will use violence in some instances when it comes to a political dispute against the government. 

I've found that Argentinians will discuss a topic that might be considered racist among friends or family, regardless of whether they're in their own home, at a restaurant, or shopping center. This conversation usually ensues because of an initial political conversation. For example, a discussion about the war in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands can lead to a slur about someone from the United Kingdom. A discussion about cultural contamination and excessive immigration could lead to slurs about neighboring countries, like Peru or Colombia. But will they come after a Peruvian, Colombian, or Chilean with a bat to hurt or kill them? The answer is no. Argentina was founded by immigrants from all over the world, not just Spain. Their constitution includes a creed that welcomes all immigrants to Argentina who wish to seek knowledge to better themselves and the country. 

The list I am about to share is based on topics of discussion I’ve had with Argentinians, or topics I’ve seen discussed in news programs. Please note that some Argentinians may feel this way while others don’t.  

United Kingdom 
Some Argentinians, especially those over 40, hold a strong grudge against the British because of the war over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. To this day, there are streets, and even a city named Malvinas. There are signs on the highways that state that the Malvinas Islands belong to Argentina too. The younger generation doesn’t seem to harbor the same type of resentment. Some Argentine teenagers even walk the streets with shirts symbolizing the British flag, or the words “I love Britain”.  
Told you there was a sign on the highway
Unfortunately, there are Argentinians, including government officials, who believe that the United Kingdom wants to colonize Argentina, however untrue that might be.

Black People 
Argentinians use the word “negro” or “negra”, which simply means black male or black female, a lot! The term can be used one of two ways. It can refer to someone whom locals consider to be "ghetto", but the word has no bearing on the actual skin color of the individual. The number of black people in Argentina is extremely small; more so probably than in Australia. I’ve only seen three black people in Cordoba in the past 5 months. Most Argentinians who do see a black person will regard them with curiosity simply because they are not accustomed to seeing one. To my knowledge, there haven't been any racially motivated incidents against black people in Argentina. Another way that Argentinians use the word "negro" or "negra" is as an affectionate nickname for someone, but if you're not use to it, it can be very confusing to know if you're being insulted or not. 

People From Spain 
People from Spain are often referred to as Gallego. This is not meant as an insult. It is how the individual uses the term in a sentence that makes it right or wrong. Some Argentinians have a strong dislike towards the people of Spain because they claim that the Spaniards call Argentinians "Sudaca", which is a blending of two words, meaning southern sh*t. Argentinians also argue that when Spain was in crisis, Argentina came to their aid. So, the use of the word Sudaca” is considered a sign of ingratitude on their part. 

Regarding Jewish People 
This is a really touchy subject. It’s been my observation that Argentinians have strong negative feelings towards people of the Jewish faith. Argentina does have a Nazi community, albeit secluded. Most are either war criminals or descendants of the Nazis involved in the Jewish holocaust, which were granted asylum by Argentina several decades ago. Some Argentinians I’ve spoken to claim that this has kept the Jewish community at bay… from what exactly? I don’t know.  

Regarding Italians, Asians, and Middle Easterners 
While you may hear Argentinians refer to Italians as "Tano", it is in no way meant as an insult. It's the equivalent of calling a Jewish person a Jew. It always depends on how the individual uses it in a sentence.   

Regardless of where they are from, Asians are usually called Chino, which means Chinese in Spanish. There is a small percentage of Asians in Cordoba, and in Argentina in general, but the percentage is higher than that of the black population. 

Middle Easterners  
Middle Easterners are usually called Turco, which means Turk. This is ironic because there is a large Armenian community in Argentina. My maternal grandfather was Armenian and from what I'm told, he detested being called a Turco because the Turks were responsible for the Armenian genocide and the death of his family. 

Other Central and South American countries (excluding Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay)  
Some of the older generations of Argentinians can be a bit racist among countries in central and South America because of recent illegal migration. Argentinians fear cultural contamination in much the same way as some Americans fear cultural contamination from Mexico and Cuba in the United States. In addition, they feel that taking care of a wave of immigrants from other countries depletes jobs and government resources that are intended for Argentinian residents/citizens. 

Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay 
The issue Argentina has with Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay originally stemmed from territorial disputes. In modern time, the issue most Argentinians have with these countries is in their belief that these countries allegedly sold out to the United States for business and profit, while Argentina has tried to avoid dealing with the United States as much as possible for fear of cultural contamination, and hostile business takeovers. 

Racism Among Argentine Provinces 
My mother is from Cordoba and a lot of other provinces see Cordobeses as rude. While people from Mendoza are seen as not being very bright. The people of the province of San Juan, which is my father’s province, are viewed as stubborn people with bitter looks and bad attitudes, and the cycle of discrimination doesn't end there. 

Argentinians agree on one thing, and that’s their strong distaste for people in Buenos Aires. The people of Buenos Aires are often called PorteƱos, which means "people of the port". The explanation is obvious because Buenos Aires is nearest to the seaports. As to why they are hated, I'm told that this has something to do with the misconception that the people in the capital are stuck up. I can't really say whether this is true or not because I have not had the fortune of encountering or making any friends from Buenos Aires (as of this post). It is an unfortunate way of thinking in my opinion because I've noticed that this country has the potential to become a major world power, but only if they let go of all their prejudices and unite. 

Among the poorest regions of each province are people, which Argentinians call Villeros (Ghetto), who live in “la villa” (the ghetto). The Villeros are often looked down upon as a scourge. If you wanted to insult someone you would call them a Villero. 

The only discrimination I would truly worry about as an expat is that of work discrimination. You are more likely to face discrimination based on gender and age in Argentina rather than culture unless you find work in B.A., which is a little more culturally diverse. Some people will only hire women for a certain position, others will only hire men. It’s rare to find a job posting for anyone over 31 years of age. Believe me, I know and I’m struggling with this. I did learn that one American expat had been walking in downtown, when someone, presumably shouted "Yankee, go home!" But this was an isolated incident, and was most likely a personal attack from someone they knew as Americans can easily blend into the Argentine population based on hair, eye, and skin color. 

In Conclusion 
Despite what you’ve just read, you need to know that Argentina is a very beautiful, rich and peaceful country. Most people will be quite helpful to foreigners. You will never find someone that says, “Wait a minute! Before I help you, you need to tell me where you’re from!” So, please don’t be discouraged. Argentina is always changing and always growing, and with the introduction of American music, television, and movies, the younger generation is becoming more open minded.