Going into the Oral History project, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was more than simply having a conversation; it was asking the right questions and following the right trains of thought, knowing what to pieces of story to hold on to while leaving others behind. As Cristian mentioned during our first interview, oral histories require a unique craftsmanship which I would soon become familiar with. There are the fun parts, like interviewing interesting subjects and exploring how one person’s experience relates to larger social patterns. There are parts not so fun, like transcribing hours of audio into pages of text, only to rearrange a subject’s stream-of-consciousness speech to eloquent prose, which oftentimes felt like translating English into English. While the Latino Oral History project will stand as one of the most time-consuming and energy-intensive tasks I’ve completed, it has also been one of the most rewarding academic endeavors I’ve taken on at Dartmouth.
The interviews helped me realize that while I may be majoring in Latin American Studies, there was very much about Latin America, and Argentina in particular, that I have yet to learn. At the same time, speaking with Cristian helped me understand and apply the concepts I learned in Latino Roots and Transitions on an individual level. I found examples of the positive and negative factors influencing migration that Everett Lee discusses in “A Theory of Migration” woven into Cristian’s story. While the Argentinian economic crisis made it all but impossible for him to find employment, he was able to find work in the United States, with few intervening factors preventing his migration. And though we never studied Argentinian migration in depth, the challenges faced and advantages gained through migration were not so different from those described in the ethnographies studied in the class. Interestingly, Cristian described his own migration as resembling a flux, or continuous change. He disagreed with a transnational circuit model of migration to describe his own experience because it implied fixed points along a path. Instead, he felt his migration was more like the path of water, random, impossible to predict, and never following the same route twice. In this way his story was unique, and I appreciate the opportunity to have interviewed him for this project. Interviewing Cristian gave me deeper insight into my subject of study, and his story helped put a face to facts and history I’ve learned over the past ten weeks.