An unexpected cultural experience

When I left on February the 7th, there were six cases of coronavirus in France. There were none in Argentina.

Today’s text comes from Sophie Lopez.

Never in my life would I have imagined this. 

I have always wanted to do a long stay in Latin America to improve my Spanish (I am French, but my father is originally from Spain). Also I wanted to learn more about the history of this part of the world. So last year I decided to attempt the adventure of moving out to Argentina for a while – empanadas, asados, sun, mate, parties, football… everything I love. 

When I left on February the 7th, there were six cases of coronavirus in France. There were none in Argentina. 

After that, everything happened very fast. At first, I did not really bother about it. On March 3rd, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Argentina. A man coming back from Italy. On the same day, the professors of my university sent home all the Italian exchange students. My classmates and I almost took it as a joke. My Spanish friend even talked about a racismo anticoronaviral. Poor Italians! 

Now, we both realize that it was not so funny. The atmosphere started to get a little tense and weird. On March 13th, my university closed its doors. On March 15th, the Argentinian government closed the borders. Finally, on March 20th, the quarantine was in place. 

This is where we are at today in Argentina. They say the quarantine should last until the 13th of April.

I am in lockdown in a house with my eleven roommates. We keep ourselves busy as we can – we play games, organize little parties amongst ourselves, cook big meals together. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes, I sit on my bed and I think this is not how I have imagined my exchange student life in Argentina. Everything seems to be compromised. I am not traveling as I planned. I am not experiencing the Argentinian culture. All these things that I have dreamt about my whole life!

And yet, it does seem like I am living a cultural experience of some sort, even if it is very different from what I prepared myself for. Six of my roommates are from Spain. Each of them is from a different part of the country. Thus, every day I am learning more about the Spanish culture by talking to or by observing them. I thought I knew a lot about this country as it is close to mine and also because of my origins. 

However, the current context in Spain is politically, socially and culturally very complex. More complex than what it is said to be in the Spanish or European media. When you look at one’s passport, you’re inclined to say that all people with that kind of document come from the same country; but deep in their hearts, this is far from the truth. It seems very risky to tell a Basque or a Catalan that he or she is a Spaniard without offending them. 

In the house where we live at the moment, these debates occur a lot. Nobody seems to agree with the person sitting next to them. In my opinion, here is the “split” of the Spanish society – as long as the people will not feel as “Spaniards” before anything else, the country will face difficulties to unite. This politico-cultural debate is fascinating and allows us to raise other questions at the European level. 

But as always, I am losing myself in political rants. Forgive me, I will stop here for now.

So, after all this, my Argentinian cultural experience will have to wait. Hopefully, until the end of April. Although people back home think I am crazy, I have decided to stay in Argentina for the moment. As I am writing this, today, there are 78167 cases of coronavirus in France and 1628 cases in Argentina. As I am waiting to go out again, along with all the debates and news going around, I am enjoying some tortillas de patatas and I am practicing my castellano, instead of my latino, while dreaming about the day I will go to watch a football game at the Estadio Mario Kempes*!

*Córdoba football stadium

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