N: I’m so grateful that you are willing to do this
A: OK so okay I’m ready whenever you are
N: So first I have to start with getting your consent. So first I need to know that you give us permission to use this interview for research and publication
A: Yes of course go ahead
N: Okay perfect so I prepared some questions so ill just start from the beginning. First some simple questions. When did you leave Argentina and how old were you at the time?
A: Oh my god I have to give you my age, I left Argentina in 1990. I left on animal’s day April 29, 1990. On animal’s day because later in life I would become an animal lover, especially a dog lover.
N: That’s so cute
A: That crazy, now? Anyways I was 28.
N: So lets see. Where in Argentina are you from
A: Rosario, Argentina
N: How long have you lived here in the US?
A: 23 years.. shit. Yesterday was 23 years because it was animal’s day
N: wow. The next category is your about your life in Argentina. I was wondering if you could tell me some memories of your childhood in Argentina. What did you do for fun? Anything that describes your childhood
A: you could say that I was kind of a tomboy. I loved riding my bike. I was always riding my bike like a lunatic. I remember I was always riding my bike with my friends from the neighborhood where I lived. We were always outside playing. Like I said, I was always riding my bike… always too fast. My main goal was to be able to ride my bike on the curb… you know the curb? I don’t know why I wanted to do that but I feel so many times before I achieved that goal. I did. My knees were completely destroyed but that was my goal and I don’t even know why. I was always very unconventional. I was always a rebel. Also when I was a little kid I always wanted to be like everyone else. We don’t have an identity at that age, we are so young. I was the only child. Received a lot of affection. I remember when I rode to school I used to cry. When I was little I had the bus come to pick me up. I remember crying. I didn’t want to leave my mom. I had a strong relationship, strong connection with my mom. Although shes completely different from me. You know, shes very feminine. Shes not as spoken and a worrier as I think I am. I was always very friendly. I was always around people. I love friends. I always loved music. I always liked to study, learn other languages, communicate with people. I was very curious. I always wanted to learn about the things that were outside my world. I learned piano. I learned guitar by ear. I learned guitar by myself.
A: Yeah I taught myself to play guitar. I went to catholic school since I was five years old until I was teenager. Same high school same friends but still very close. I remember learning piano and the teacher was of course a nun, very old nun. Haha. I remember I was going once or twice a week. I remember one day I don’t know maybe after 3-4 months after I’d been learning, she died. My friend she “after she listened to you play the piano she died”
I was always involved, willing to help. I always wanted to help, be involved with things. Always very active in school. You know. Like I said I went to a catholic school. we had church and they always needed someone to play the guitar. I would be there always playing, trying to help. I think the main thing in my life during that period of time, my childhood, was that I felt like I wanted to belong. And maybe that happens to kids and teenagers. It was very important to me to feel like I belonged. Because I had my family. I have a great family. Great parents. And even my grandmother and my aunt. My aunt was single. One of the aunts. She was the one who made all my clothes. While I was studying everyone was always complimenting my clothes. My grandmother she cooks. I grew up in a great environment. But I was always interested in learning what was going on outside my world. So that’s why I have so many friends all the time. Really I guess very attached. I used to get very emotional if they rejected me or something. You know now I don’t give a shit but you know back then… hahaha
A: I was always very independent. I think that is the main characteristic of my personality. And learning about everyone else and the world and being very independent.
A: So that’s it. I don’t know
N: Yea that’s great. I’m curious, when did your love for animals start to develop? Was this something that started in childhood?
A: Eh, you know when I was a kid, we always had un canario. You know its very common in Italy, those countries, and in Argentina. I think they brought that custom. To have a canito, you know the canary, the small bird that you have inside the cage? So we had 2-3 all the time until the last one died and then we didn’t because we moved to an apartment, a condominium so you know we didn’t have animals then. But I think it was more late in life that I developed this. I realized about all the cruelty about animals all over the world. I don’t know. I developed more compassion. You know they don’t have any way to defend themselves. That’s something that is central in my personality. I always tend to help people who are powerless or don’t have any way to defend themselves. And I see animals like that. Children and animals. But it was late. I would say the last decade that I realized, I started pay attention. I have 2 dogs. When I got my dogs in 2004 you develop special relationships so you start paying more attention, you know?
N: So, my next question is: why did you decide to leave Argentina and move to the US?
A: I won a scholarship. I was teaching. I was an assistant professor teaching international law. I was very much in-love with the media already. I was assistant reviewer for the number one TV show. I was often on radio. I have my own show already. I was working on other radio shows. I was doing advertising. I developed with two of my friends a small advertising agency. And everything was going well. But the professor at the university, Universidad Nacional de Rosario he was a Rotarian and he knew about my work in the media and he said there is a scholarship for journalists why don’t you apply? And I said okay fine. I was married at that time. Recently married. Well, no actually not that recently. It was four years but you know what I mean. So I applied, I end up winning the scholarship. So I won the scholarship for journalist. And then they sent me to Spain… I was going to go to Barcelona. But then they reviewed my background and anything and then they said no no no, you need to go to the united states.
A: Yeah! I never told you about that, no?!
A: Yeah, so they changed my destination. I was going to go to Universidad of Barcelona in Spain and yea. I said fine. Then I had to take those tests, the English proficiency test. And I came to work for the masters and I went to Drake University. When I was done with that I applied for an internship because I wanted to work for ABC. I took an internship in ABC here in Chicago. Actually I was admitted at CNN but I decided to stay in Chicago. So I stay in Chicago. So what happened was I was with ABC for 6 months, they offered me a boring job and I left. At that time I had made a lot of friends in the Latina media because my position at ABC took me to many functions. So I started doing some work for La Raza newspaper as a news reporter. La Raza newspaper in Chicago. So I worked as a reporter and in three months I was the entertainment editor and then the tourism editor I started traveling all over the United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. And then in not even two years I got bored so I went to… I think I went… basically I was getting bored because there was nothing else to learn so I went to what is today Univision radio. I spent almost five years and more and a half at Univision radio. I was an Hispanic executive because the Argentinean accent was not very popular back then. Now today we have the pope and the queen of Netherlands. Now it’s a different story. We’re cool. We were not that cool back then.
A: Hahaha Is it true?! Is it, don’t you think?!
N: Yeah I guess so!
A: We have a pope, we have a queen, we have the best basketball player in the world! We’re… we’re…
N: You’re on the top!
A: Yeah! So this is a good time for us. But back then it wasn’t. So I worked in advertising which I did very very well. Also there was a news department in the station-there were two radio stations, the only professional radio station in Spanish back then so I was there and the new director knew I was a journalist and he was a good friend so he allowed me to do interviews. So I used my journalistic skills there.
N: So I was wondering what your family and friends thought of the move and how they reacted when they found out you were leaving?
A: Bad. It was really bad.
A: Because I think everyone knew because the way I was that chances… They knew there was a possibility that I would stay here. I might stay here in the united states. My parents, being the only child although I was always very independent, they were worried of course. But everyone was happy, they thought it was a great achievement. They weren’t surprised because I guess I was always moving and doing new things and taking new challenges. So they knew the type of person that I was. But I think they were worried that I might decide to stay, which happened.
N: Did you plan on staying from the beginning?
A: No no no. no. because you need to go back. Usually when you come, you study, you need to go back to your country and then you know actually apply what you learned. But these things happen, its not unusual.
N: So how is your relationship with your family and friends back at home in Argentina?
A: Oh very very close. I think I have many of them, because I am the youngest. With me its very funny because I am very close with my aunts and uncles. But I’m also very close with their kids. Because my mom was very young- she was an accident- so I have cousins who are like 70 years old. But still uncles who are also like 75. Well most of them have gone. I can relate to all of them. Now I think now they appreciate more everything and they respect me. I think I have a great relationship with all of them. Sometimes, I act as you know, because I am neutral, I am here, sometimes I can help them to find solutions to some situations that every family goes through.
N: What is it like when you go back and visit? Is it easy to return and visit?
A: Yes, yes yes it is. The thing is you need to be a little bit more selective because you are not living there so the time you have there you want to be with the people you wanna be. And especially my parents have aged and need my attention. So I try to spend the time with the people that need me more. Of course the people that I don’t want to see. The people I don’t even want to spend three seconds with. So you become more selective. And that’s life. You know, that happens everywhere.
N: Yeah, that’s true.
A: But I use the phone, and with my friends through Facebook. I’m always in touch and I’m very involved. I always know what’s going on. And they know about me. And they’re very proud, by the way.
N: I can imagine
A: Thank you
N: I have a few more questions: when you first came to the US, how did you prepare for the move? Emotionally or just literally?
A: I didn’t. And that’s the story of my life. I don’t. I just face whatever happens I think everyone has inside themselves the power to adjust to any situation because life happens. You don’t get a memo the day before saying “hey tomorrow this is what’s going to happen”. Things happens. So its up to us to be with the situation and that’s why I’m very good at doing crisis management, what I’m doing right now. Because I’m very good at dealing with unknown situations. And I’m not afraid. Actually I work very well under a lot pressure and under critical situations.
N: Wow. So how did people in the US treat you when you first came? Did you notice a specific reaction?
A: Very nice. They were always very nice. The problem was with some Latinos that had preconceptions about Argentinians. You know they believe these stereotypes that we are this or that. We have the reputation of being very cocky and arrogant. And the reputation of knowing everything…which is true… just kidding.
A: Haha That’s why now we have the pope and we have the queen
A: Hahaha And the number one soccer player in the world. Who is also from my city which is a different story…. I’m just kidding
N: Hahaha I love it
A: No they were nice. Of course back then I don’t think ??? Americans not from big cities from small towns like in Iowa where I learned, they didn’t know much about the world. If they did some traveling its different but if they didn’t, they used to ask me oh Argentina Rio de Janeiro? I said not exactly, Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and we don’t speak Portuguese we speak Spanish. So I had to give them a lesson and tell them more. But I think now with the globalization with technology and the internet and social media some people are understanding more the world and learning more. They know that the united states is not the beginning and the end of the world. That there are other countries. And countries that have a lot to offer and very interesting cultures that are much older than the American culture. They were always very nice. Like I said maybe some Latinos… but at that point I didn’t say anything. I didn’t respond. Because I knew I was the new kid on the block and I have to shut up and observe and listen. But now if they tell me I say “go F*ck yourself” hahaha
A: Back then I couldn’t. I was like you invite me to your house but now its different. But if you invite me for the first time and I don’t know you, you have to behave but you are my friend I feel free and I speak my mind you know what I mean?
N: Yea, definitely. My next question: what are some similarities or differences you have noticed with US and Argentinean culture? You mentioned that the US people didn’t seem to have at first an understanding of the whole world. Do you think Argentinians are more worldly?
A: Yes. Yes because we… Yes Argentina was always looking at Europe. Europe was, not even the United States even though we grew up listening to other music playing in the United States, Europe was always the model we look up to. Euro was the best thing. I think that we all come from… there was a huge immigration coming from Italy. I think the largest that went to Argentina. But also immigrants from Europe and Spain. You’ve been to Argentina- you can find everyone: French descendants, Spaniards, even Russians. People from Eastern Europe or from the Middle East. There is a huge tourist community there. So I think we were always more and I think of immigrants that went to Argentina they were always dreaming they would go back to their countries. There was a transfer to the kids, so we all grew up with that idea that Europe was the best. So I think we have a better idea that there was a different world out there and it was very … Europe was the style. Europe was the glamor and if you wanted to be… I cant think…
A: Yea yeah. If you wanted to be eccentric or if you wanted to make an impression you had to be European, lets put it that why. And that’s the reason why the rest of Latin American… I’m not sure whether now its happening… but they used to resent the fact that we considered ourselves more European. There was a huge immigration coming from Europe so it is what it is. The fact that we eat more Italian food and in Spain all the pastries. You can see a huge influence from Europe in the bakeries that we eat. Very strong European influence no doubt.
N: Yeah that’s really interesting.
A: So, things in common, well we are open minded. Argentinians are also welcoming. We like to welcome people from other places. But we don’t see them as a specimen to be observed under the microscope. I think sometimes that happens here in the States. That Americans see you when you are from another country as a specimen. Not that you are bad. But they look at you as something weird and from a standpoint that they say like we are coming from the third world. So they have this preconception, which is wrong. It’s completely wrong. Because I think the education is much better, even today in Argentina, than here.
N: Do you have any specific stories of an American treating you like you were an odd specimen?
A: No I’m just thinking now that I realize looking back. When you come it wasn’t that they mistreated me but they made these questions that actually shows the ignorance. Because me coming from Argentina (because Latin America is the third world) you would think that these people are more educated and that they traveled the world and have a wider knowledge of different cultures of the world and I was disappointed to realize that that wasn’t the case. But again when you come to a big city like Chicago it’s a different story. Although there are people like that here too but if you go to other towns not as big as Chicago, New York it’s a different mentality. If you live in a cosmopolitan city people even if they don’t travel they are exposed to other cultures and willingly because they’re right there. I think in Chicago we have restaurants from all over the world and different cultures and different neighborhoods, Greek town, China town, Hindus and Indians in the north.
N: Do you feel like Chicago is your home?
A: Absolutely. Yes. Oh yes.
N: How so? What makes it so homey for you?
A: Well because I think it’s cosmopolitan. I like people in the Midwest. People are very friendly. And because of the backgrounds I think also the Europeans here we have similar cultures, costumbres similares. I feel that everybody can feel comfortable here because there is room for everyone. It doesn’t matter your religion, your nationality, your background, if you’re a professional or not. The thing that made me love this city so much is because I felt, in Argentina I felt suppressed. I used to be very very catholic. I was very suppressed. Very suppressed. Here I felt like there was so many chances to achieve what I wanted to do and I realized that everything that I could do, everything that I could be. Because there, you know when you’re living also in our country, what people say means a lot for too many people. For me it didn’t and that created some problems because I used to speak my mind and people didn’t like what I said. Over here it’s different because this is such a diverse society. You learn to respect. In Argentina, we criticize everyone and we also, or we used to (I’m not saying that happening right now) but in the group I was, the people that I was involved, they were not like us. Oh they were not good. Good enough. They weren’t good enough. And that’s fine. And then you learn, here I learned that no, you can study and you can share dinner with people who are not pathologizing you. It doesn’t mean I’m catholic now. I consider myself more like a Buddhist. I like Chopra. Because I don’t think the catholic church, I’m talking about the institution, didn’t really help me.
N: How was the political situation in Argentina when you left?
A: It wasn’t bad like it is today. We always have corruption and economic problems but the country was moving forward. We just had the evaluation in 1989, in the year after I left, and it was really bad. They converted dollars. People had dollars in safes in the bank and they converted it into pesos, which is not the same. Same thing happened in 2001 so its like Argentina is always, they don’t think they deserve to enjoy the benefits of living in an advanced or developed country. Because Argentina was on its way to be one of those countries. And now, forget it. That hope is completely gone. At least at the ?? (38:45) nothing is going to happen because everyone’s trying to leave. No jobs. Nothing right now. It was was it was. You live in the military government. I was a teenager. And you know, everything that happened during those years, the dirty war. We didn’t even know what was going on. You know, there was no social media. There was no Internet. It was kept secret in a very good way that we didn’t know. We heard things but we weren’t sure. That was a dangerous time. And I think that catholic church saved me, the fact that I was so much involved with the church. I was a youth counselor. I don’t know, if I had been the person that I am right now I think I would be missing.
N: Is that because they targeted people who were anti-government?
A: Well, you know they have these ___ movement and the government decided to take over. It was a Coup d’état they call it. They applied the military law to the civil society so everybody becomes suspect. Your constitutional guarantees are suspended. They kidnap you and good luck. There is no justice system who can save you or nothing. It was very dangerous when your constitutional rights are suspended. That’s very dangerous for a society. And this is what’s happening in Argentina right now it’s the other way. This people who were chased by the military government in the 70’s are now in power. And these people basically right now want to pass a judicial reform so the judicial reform is basically what the military government did. They want to control everything and the justice and the law it will be whatever they say. So that’s dangerous. Either way, from the left or the right. When they try to suppress those constitutional guarantees we are all in trouble.
N: Absolutely. What is the political situation in Argentina like then?
A: It’s really bad. It’s awful. It’s really really bad. You know people are… basically the government is extremely corrupt, like any other government before. And you know the fact that they are trying to do what I just told you, change the judicial system and basically they are not respecting the constitution. They want to also change the constitution so she, the president, Christina Kirchner, she can be reelected. That’s really bad.
N: Yea that’s terrible.
A: And there is a huge inflation. And everything is bad.
N: How has that effected migration to the US? Do you think there are a lot more Argentinians moving to the US?
A: Yea I think. They are in Miami. There are a lot of people in Miami. Here, yeah. In the past few years we have seen more coming to Chicago but I think because of the weather they tend to go to Miami. They are young professionals. Lawyers, engineers, architects. But working as wage laborers or wagers because they cant find a job here. I mean, there in Argentina.
N: Something that I was wondering. What is it like to raise a child in the US and how have you tried to make him a part of your Argentinean culture? And I know Hector is Mexican. So how is it to have him sort of in the middle of two cultures?
A: Well I think Max he appreciates the fact that he has all these cultures. Mexican and Argentinean, Italian because also we have a strong Italian influence. I think he appreciates that. He sees that as a gift. He is grateful. And I was an Argentinean mom with a kid boy in the United States. Like I said, I am an Argentinean mom because I grew up in Argentina but like I said, I am very independent so my kid is independent. And I think Hector, my husband, enjoys very much the Argentinean culture. I think having to _______(45:60) I think some Mexicans have. I think he feels more free. He’s enjoying more freedom and the fact that he’s been going to Argentina and spending good time, a long time there. He even told me one night, “You know, I’m thinking about applying for an Argentinean citizenship”. I was laughing so hard. You know, I think he feels… because it is a very open … people are very warm. My friends, he sees that. My family in Argentina, crazy stuff happens and I have crazy members (I am one of them) so he feels accepted, he feels at home, and so. And I think usually in a house the mom is the one that sets the roles?. Its not because there is a mandate. This is the way it is. I mean, and the father has a strong personality and usually the father goes to work, well in my case we both work, we work as business owners. But I think I have some personality and that’s difficult to fight against.
N: Yes it’s true!
A: Haha but I always choose what is the best for everyone. And I respect everyone’s space and I don’t like people to ask me if I like to report to people the __. I let you do your thing and I do my thing and don’t ask.
N: So I guess the last question is there anything else that you want to talk about that I haven’t already asked?
A: I think may be very useful for whoever listens to this interview is that: I think we live in a world right now that we need to learn to reinvent ourselves. That we might start working or doing something today and in five years we decide that that we’re going to take a different route and that’s perfectly fine. If you started to become a doctor and you decide that you don’t like it and you want to open a business or make dinner or doggie care, that’s okay because at the end of the day we need to think about what we want to do in life and do something that is going to impact people’s lives positively. So we can help in humans walking on this world, on this earth, to elevate. Because I think right now in general we are very low. I think we need to elevate a little more. We are caught in the economic and the money and worrying to much about the future. We need to live in the present. And really think about what we love to do and how we can help each other.
N: Thank you! That’s beautiful! That’s pretty much all my questions for this interview. Thank you so much for helping me with this, Ale.
A: I hope this is what you need.
N: Yea! I’m going to review the transcript and if I have any other questions ill let you know?
A: yes let me know