The Patagonia Mosaic gave us the opportunity to collect oral histories in Argentina, a nation that has been built upon immigration, just as the United States has. It was fascinating to me to reach an understanding as to the Argentine conception of national and cultural identification, as it is so distinct from the United States.
The Patagonia Mosaic was not only an immersion into another culture. Personally, since my homestay was with Paraguayan immigrants to Argentina, and their Argentine children, I was immersed into Argentine culture, as well as Paraguayan culture, something that I had not expected. Additionally, as students, we had the unique opportunity of learning about other ethnic groups through each others’ stories about our host families: Croatians, Italians, Bulgarians.
Engaging in oral history interviewing is such a powerful experience, and gives one the opportunity of both interacting with the narrator and serving as a channel through which they can express their immigration and work experiences, as well as their feelings about their native country. Through interviewing my host parents, and triggering an expression of the love they feel for Paraguay and their language, Guaraní, I learned about their history, how it is connected to their home, and their family history as it has developed with the growth of their children in Argentina.
In addition, walking through Barrio San Martín, a marginalized barrio with most residents being of indigenous and/or Chilean descent, I was able to ask individuals about their connection to YPF and the privatization, as well as talk about migration and work. As we walked through the streets, and as we spent time in the Biblioteca Popular, we videotaped people’s stories about labor, about housing, about mapuche and tehuelche roots, about the government and its connection with the people and response to their needs.
Mostly, I had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful research team of students with various skills and experience: language, filming, oral history. The professors brought with them the backgrounds of Sociology, History, Oral History and the making of documentaries. It is with this diverse group, that I travelled to Argentina, and with whom I discovered the diversity in Comodoro Rivadavia, Patagonia, Argentina. Truthfully, upon returning and now, I have the feeling that I took part in something on the edge, something new and exciting at Dickinson College.
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