Friday, November 30, 2012

Racism in Argentina

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. Argentineans on the other hand don’t usually resort to violence if they dislike a particular race or culture.

I’ve observed that Argentineans will discuss a topic that is considered racist amongst friends or family, either in their own home or 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. Rest assured that they will in no way come after a Peruvian, Colombian, or Chilean with a bat to hurt or kill them. 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 Argentineans or topics I’ve seen discussed in news programs. Please note that some Argentineans may feel this way while others don’t. Also, these observations do not reflect my personal opinion as I have been raised in the United States where the cultural diversity is much greater and my upbringing has given me an open-mindedness that unfortunately, some people in the world seriously lack.

United Kingdom
Some Argentineans, 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 even signs on the highways that state that the Malvinas Islands belong to Argentina. The younger generation doesn’t seem to harbor the same type of resentment. Some Argentinean teenagers even walk the streets with shirts symbolizing the British flag, or the words “I love Britain”.

There are some Argentineans, even government officials, who believe that the United Kingdom wants to colonize Argentina, however untrue that might be.

I’ve had friends who are British and I love television programs like Doctor Who, Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Miranda, and Are You Being Served. British celebrities like David Tennant, Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Catherine Tate, Miranda Hart, to name a few, are among my favorite. I don’t support the negative criticism that the UK has received in Argentina. Unfortunately, this way of thinking has created tension between certain family members and myself.
Told you there was a sign on the highway
Regarding Black People
You will hear Argentineans use the word “negro” or “negra”, which simply means black male or black female. The term is often used among Argentineans to refer to an Argentinean that is ghetto, and so 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 Argentineans will regard a black person with curiosity simply because they are not accustomed to seeing one very often. My parents had never seen a black person until they moved to the United States. To my knowledge, there has not been a racially motivated incident against a black person in Argentina.

Regarding 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 Argentineans have a strong dislike towards Spain because they claim that the Spaniards call Argentineans "Sudaca", which is a blending of two words, meaning southern shit. Argentineans 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 Argentineans have strong negative feelings towards people of the Jewish faith. Again, having been raised in the States I've lived among people of all cultures, including Jews and I have no prejudices against them. 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 Argentineans 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 Argentineans 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 Argentineans are a bit racists amongst countries in central and South America because of recent illegal migration. Argentineans 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 Argentinean 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 Argentineans 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 too much with the United States for fear of cultural contamination, and hostile business takeovers.

Mercosur is an economic and political agreement that was founded in the year 1991. Its members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The whole purpose of the MERCOSUR is to gradually integrate all South American Countries and create a stronger economy. It’s my opinion that for MERCOSUR to work properly, people have to open their minds and let go of old prejudices to embraces a new beginning.

Racism Among Argentinean 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 seeing as stubborn people with bitter looks and bad attitudes.

Argentineans agree on one thing and that’s their strong distaste for people in Buenos Aires. They people of Buenos Aires are often called Porteños, which means "people of the port". The explanation is obvious because Buenos Aires is nearest to the sea ports. 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 this truly is a very powerful country and if all of its people were to let go of all their prejudices and unite, they could become a true world power.
Among the poorest regions of each province are people which Argentineans 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. 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.

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 if they ask for help. You will never find someone that says, “Wait a minute! Before I help you, you need to tell me where you’re from!” Please don’t be discouraged. Argentina is always changing and always growing and with the introduction of music and American television and movies, the younger generation is becoming more open minded.



  1. Hola, he leido tu blog y me resulta muy interesante tu opinión sobre una sociedad muy diferente a la tuya. Yo no soy argentino, pero soy rioplatense, lo cual casi es lo mismo.

    Me gustaría leer en un tiempo tus comentarios para saber de qué manera estás ajustando tu opinión sobre esta región.


  2. Hola, muchas gracias por tu comentario. Te admito que todavia me cuesta integrarme en la sociedad Argentina porque no logre conseguir un trabajo y no me permiten estudiar aqui hasta que legalize mis diplomas con apostillos. La edad aqui tambien es un factor. Aqui discriminan contra el gendro y la edad. Es improbable que contraten a algien que tenga 35 anos (que es mi edad) aqui. Sin embargo en los Estados Unidos no se permite este tipo de discriminacion.

    Tambien las personas en los Estados Unidos están obsesionados con el consumo, pero en Argentina es muy diferente porque el consumo no le importa mucho a nadie aqui (que no sea la comida por supuesto).
    Yo creo que la Argentina es mucho más tranquilo y relajado que los Estados Unidos. He vivido en Nueva York y quería sacarme los pelos de las raizes por la tensión.

    Yo aún extraño ciertos restaurantes, y tiendas en los Estados Unidos, que simplemente no existen aquí.

    La estructura política me confunde. Mis padres nacieron y crecieron en la Argentina así que frecuentemente pelean conmigo porque tenemos diferentes puntos de vista. Ellos odian a los Estados Unidos y a Gran Bretaña, pero sin embargo a mi no.

    Perdoname si no te respondi bien la cuestion. Aunque puedo hablar el Espanol (Castellano), no estoy acostumbrado a hablarlo, leerlo o escribirlo y hay veces que meto la pata. Sentite libre para preguntarme lo que quieras.


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Gracias por tu respuesta!!

      Hay una cuestión que llama mi atención, y es la actitud políticamente correcta que caracteriza a los norteamericanos (si no entiendo mal, sobre todo a los de EEUU).

      Ésta actitud, a mí entender, se está diseminando en esta región por la televisión y por los políticos a quienes les resulta más fácil actuar con corrección política antes que debatir sobre temas que pueden afectar sus campañas.

      Podríamos hablar horas sobre cuáles pueden ser las causas de que se esté asentando aquí este ejercicio de "tolerancia" antes que la "aceptación". Espero entiendas la sutil diferencia en español entre estos términos entrecomillados, que han sido considerados sinónimos a partir de lo PC.

      ¿Qué opinás vos?
      ¿Has visto esta actitud PC en tu estadía en Argentina?
      ¿Considerás que es la mejor forma de relacionarse?
      ¿Cómo la vivías cuando residías en el norte?

      Espero se entienda la idea.
      Estaré por Cba la próxima semana, a lo mejor hasta nos cruzamos por ahí!!! No es tan grande!

      Un muy buen año para ustedes.

    3. Hola!

      En los Estados Unidos, estar 'politicamente correcto' aplica para todos, incluyendo a los politicos, jefes, empleados, maestras/maestros ... etc. En EEUU hay leyes que prohiben la discriminacion contra el gendro, la raza, religion, Deshabilitación, edad, y en algunos estados la discriminacion contra la orientacion sexual. Sin embargo, cuando alguien quiere discriminar contra esta situacion buscan la manera de hacerlo sin que sea muy obvio.

      En las escuelas, el trabajo y hasta en la politica, muchas gente tratan de evitar estos tema porque hay consequencias legales y de imagen publica si encuentran que estan discriminando o excluyendo a una persona o un grupo de gente.

      En Argentina la situacion es muy diferente. La discriminacion de la edad y el gendro no es ilegal. Y aunque han habido varios avances en los derechos de la gente gay, todavia un jefe puede discriminar contra ellos, pero usan alguna razon que sea 'politicamente correcta' para evitar meterse en algun lio.

      Mi observacion es que los Argentinos no tienen ningun problema diciendote como se sienten sobre un tema politico o personal, aunque ofenda a la persona o personas que esten escuchando.

      No puedo ofrecer una opinion sobre la politica Argentina porque mi conocimiento aun esta muy limitada sobre el tema.

      Cuando vivia en Norte America, tuve momentos en cual fui a entrevistar para un trabajo y en una desas la persona que me entrevisto no le habia gustado mi apariencia porque no soy ojos azules o rubio o de piel blanca como un anglo-saxon. Pero su manera de liberarse de mi era usando una excusa como que no estaba calificado o no tenia suficiente experiencia para esa posicion particular ... aunque sabia que estaba sobre calificado para la posicion.

      Tambien me a pasado por ser gay. Aunque las leyes en NY cambiaron para aceptar a los gays, aun habian lugares que discriminaban simplemente con la mala actitud que tenian contra mi. No tenian que atacarme con palablas directas pero era obvio.

      Personalmente no creo que el uso de estar 'politicamente correcto' es la mejor forma de relacionarse ni en el trabajo, ni en la vida persona, ni en la politica porque es obvio cuando uno no quiere a alguien o a algo.

      Tampoco es justo porque nadie quiere tener que trabajar, estudiar o relacionar con alguien que te odie de adentro pero por afuera te sonria porque es 'politicamente correcto'.

      Ojala que pude responder tus cuestiones. Te pido perdon si no lo logre pero aun todavia me cuesta pensar en castellano. Pase tanto tiempo pensando, leyendo, escribiendo, hablando y escuchando en ingles. Temo que causo que mi mente si ponga vaga con el castellano.

      Espero que el 2013 te traiga mucha salud y felicidad para voz y tu seres queridos.

      Cuando estes en Cordoba trata de visitar el centro en Cordoba Capital. Aqui tienen dos galerias (shopping malls). Recomiendo Patio Olmos. Tambien esta el Paseo De Las Flores, que basicamente esta en el corazon del centro y tienen varias tiendas tambien.


    4. One question how would a Mexican American be treated? My friend is mexican and he looks similar to the immigrants in buenos aires but would they judge him on appearance or would they look at him as an American or mexican?

    5. Hi Adam! Buenos Aires has a mixture of a lot of different cultures. There are a lot of Peruvians and I believe Bolivians, especially in the area known as "La CABA", which is the main tourist attraction, but also the most expensive. As as how they'll treat your friend, it's possible that he may run into one or two individuals who might see him and say something, but in general, due to the high level of immigration, Argentineans have grown more and more accustomed to seeing people of different cultures. I don't believe he will be mistreated for being Mexican. At the most, they might mistake him for someone from another Central or South American country. I wouldn't worry about your friend's safety or anything as far as their Mexican heritage is concerned. There are Cubans, Puerto-Ricans, and people from Central America living throughout Argentina. Maybe not as many as in the U.S. but they are here. Your friend will probably feel more comfortable in Buenos Aires. If he were to visit other provinces, like Cordoba, people might see him as Mestizo, but there are people of all types of hair color, eye color, and skin tone. If you have anymore questions, feel free to ask and I'd be happy to answer them for you.

  3. Hi thanks for the prompt response. The thing is on my prior visit to Buenos Aires I recall hearing Porteños opinions on Koreans(chinos), that they have a negative sterotype that they unplug their refrigerator At night from their stores. I don't know if it's just me, being from such a politically correct country. But I flet like pretty bad for them. Have you personally experience any form of discrimination yourself.

    Also would it be hard to find a great place to eat if I eat no meat because last time I recall Argentineans love their meat, however I recently became a vegetarian and I was wondering.

    And lastly is about "gringo pricing". And many countries in Latin America I get charged extra, but Argentina it, was excessive. Anything from food, taxis and a place to stay I would gave to pay a substantial amount of money compared to the native people. What is your experience with "gringo pricing"?

    1. Hi, well, I've only spent a couple of days in B.A. last year when I went on vacation. I've mainly been living in Cordoba for the last 2 years but from what I've seen, Buenos Aires has a larger population of Asians. There are always people who will say something negative about people from Chile, Brazil, the U.S., the U.K., etc., but in general, there aren't any hate crimes related to someone's nationality. So I would say your friend is safe.

      I've experienced discrimination from some people who had negative opinions of people from the States, but I usually just ignored them. There's never been a situation where I've felt that my life was in danger. For the most part, the younger generation is far more open to multi-cultural exchange. I have cousins who are actually from Argentina who have refused to speak to me because I am from the States. It's difficult to explain but I guess it depends on the area you're staying at and the circle you socialize in.

      Sometimes Argentineans might say things that could come off to foreigners as offensive but they don't actually mean it. For example, my last name is Bagdigian, which is of Armenian descent. Some people have called me Turco which means Turk. Anyone who knows about the Armenian holocaust knows that an Armenian might take offense to being called a Turk. However, I don't take offense because I know they actually mean it affectionately. Everyone here gets a nickname.

      There are a couple of bad apples of course, but you'll find that anywhere, even in the States.

      Regarding the vegeterian thing: It's true that Argentina is well known for loving lots and lots of beef. However, because there is a heavy Italian influence, you'll also find that there are several pasta options to choose from. There's also pizza. You can even choose breaded steak (aka milanesa) that is made with soy. At the supermarket you can find a variety of veggies. A friend of mine has actually put me on a diet recently and she makes these amazing veggie pies which has helped me to lose weight. I would say, don't be afraid to ask when you go to a restaurant and don't be afraid to walk out if you feel they're treating you crappy.

      Regarding the pricing: It took awhile for me to get use to the pricing in Argentina. For example, I went to McDonald's today and bought a McFlurry for 25 pesos. Two years ago, I couldn't differentiate between pesos and dollars so 25 pesos seemed like a lot but when you do the conversion to US dollars it's actually 3 dollars.

      You can avoid being ripped off by sticking to large electronic businesses as opposed to Mom and Pop shops who may try and rip you off if they see you are a foreigner. Cabs in general can charge anywhere from 50 to 100 pesos per ride. If they're charging you 200 or 300 pesos, you're probably getting ripped off.

      Most restaurants have their menus posted outside. Some include the pricing as well. So say, you're thinking of ordering a plate of cheese ravioli and the menu says 45 pesos, keep that in mind.

      In the province of Cordoba I haven't noticed any gringo pricing issues. In B.A. however, if you're planning to eat at Wendy's or KFC in the Palermo Shopping Mall or T.G.I.F., expect it to be really expensive, even by Argentinean standards.

      For Buenos Aires, I found that Hotel Mundial is the cheapest and it includes breakfast. I would avoid hostels. Some tend to rip you off and they're filthy.