Sebastian sees Argentina and the United States as two very different countries. The United States, “was colonialized versus a country [Argentina] that was conquered. The Spanish and the Portuguese conquered countries. They plundered…raped, pillaged, and took advantage of the people. In this country, the main immigration was a colonializing immigration that… had a work ethic, tried to work their way into having a better life as a family rather than as male conquerors… That makes a huge difference in the result of that invasion. Both are invasions, but… the conquering one is much harsher than the other one.”
In the past, Sebastian went back to Argentina often, but in recent years he has been returning less. “Well the experience changes over time because one thing was going back to Argentina when I had big family and my parents were there and my sister, and my sister was starting to have children. I mean it was very enjoyable all that family time back then. But you know as time goes on there are fewer people left. My mother passed, and then my father. So it changes. It changes over time what you experience when you go down there. ”
I ask him if he likes showing his daughters, who were born in New York, his home country. “I may have liked it for a while,” he responded. He is not very proud of his country. He points to the,”worst military government, most repressive government, and most corrupt civilian government” as reasons for his very complicated relationship with Argentina.
Sebastian says that he thinks being first generation Americans have shaped his children’s lives. “Being an immigrant or being a first generation immigrant changes your life dramatically. And your children being the first ones born in the country obviously are affected by that. ” A given country is always transforming itself. As an immigrant, Sebastian points out that, “not only do you have to adapt to something that is different to what you are used to, but you also have to adapt to a changing environment that is different from what you are used to. ”
Part of Sebastian’s often ambivalent feelings towards Argentina stems in part from an experience that occurred once he was already living in New York. Both Sebastian and his wife were born in Buenos Aires. However, when they took return trips to Argentina they often found themselves favoring travel in the Patagonia region of the country rather than the capital city where they grew up. They love to hike and ski, so the mountainous, untamed region of the country appealed to them. They decided to purchase a ranch in Patagonia. They wanted to maintain ties with their home country, and the purchase of this place was a way for them to do that. It was in a place of extraordinary beauty with access to skiing, climbing, and hiking. Sebastian and his family were very excited about the ranch. However, the purchase that was supposed to maintain ties with Argentina ended up being the thing that led Sebastian and his wife to want to sever ties completely. As they worked to make the ranch productive and tried from the United States to manage the different aspects of the property, they realized the impossibility of trusting people and delegating responsibilities. The people they hired robbed them. The people lied to them. Sebastian and his family became incredibly disillusioned. The place that was supposed to be a joy became a burden. It was the source of stress, confusion, and frustration. Sebastian explained, “its always very difficult to go back and do things when you are used to working in a different environment. And all my working life I was in different places. I was not in Argentina, and there they work different. ” As much as they tried, they could not make the ranch run smoothly. They could not prevent the robbings, the betrayals, and the way they felt they were constantly being taken advantage of. 10 years after Sebastian and his wife purchased the property, they sold it, but the feelings of frustration lingered and filtered into their feelings for their home country as a whole.