“Code-switching became a reflex, and I had accepted my host mom’s prejudice against me. But most of all, I still struggled with losing a sense of community.”
Being black in Argentina was uncomfortable. REALLY uncomfortable. In a way that I wasn’t really prepared for. I learned how to ignore the constant stares (though it didn’t make it easier). Code-switching became a reflex, and I had accepted my host mom’s prejudice against me. But most of all, I still struggled with losing a sense of community. At my HBCU, I didn’t have to explain black culture to anyone. I didn’t have to think about how I spoke. And I was constantly in an environment where blackness was celebrated.
In Argentina, I was always a little too self-aware. Partly, from adjusting to a new culture and partly from dealing with the reactions of others., A good bit of my memories from there aren’t the best. Four months later, I was relieved when I finally went home.
And yet, I’m grateful for my time there. I gained a confidence in Buenos Aires that I know I couldn’t have gotten from home. I learned how to embrace the uncomfortable moments and even move past them. I was bold and direct and very #unbothered about standing out. I went skydiving for my 21st birthday, hiked in Patagonia, ice-trekked on a glacier, and backpacked through Chile. I drank mate and took the subway for the first time, and learned how to Argentine tango (I’m still pretty bad). It took many real, awkward and isolated moments, but the perspective I gained was worth it.
For one, my blackness won’t always be accepted by others. And I’ve learned to not look for it. While the discrimination–the racism–may not take the same form as it does here, it still exists. Did it mean I had to accept it? No.
When I was tired of the staring, I stared back even harder.
When someone pointed out my “accent”, I talked even more.And when my host mom treated me unfairly, I reported her.
If anything, Buenos Aires made me realize how much more I want to travel. Because if I can live there, I can live somewhere else too. In the end, my time in Argentina may not have been what I expected, but it was what I needed.
Alissa Malbrough, Ridgeville, SC
Follow Alissa on Instagram : @avmal02