Interview II: November 11, 2013
CG: Is it on?
LB: Yes, um and I don’t have a written consent form, so I was just going to see…
CG: Don’t worry, yeah it’s the same one, I consent.
LB: Okay great, so that was the question I wanted to start with. Like you spoke about your parents briefly when we talked about education, and like how they supported you and gave you the advantages to like live and work and just study in college, just do your schoolwork, so I was going to see if you could tell me more about your family life. Do you have any siblings?
CG: I have a brother, he’s a psychologist he’s a doctor he decided to go and study, sorry he’s not a psychologist he’s a psychiatrist, which means that he can give medication write prescriptions. So basically he works on therapy, different kinds of psychotherapy. He works in a hospital and different kind of private practices. I don’t know… He’s a doctor, my father is a doctor also. He’s a podiatrist, no a pediatrician; podiatrist is something different. He’s a neonatologist, which is a field you have here but in like, you have it in a different um a different profession. So he works in, used to work in, he’s now retired but he still work in the union, in a union of doctors. He continued because he can’t stop. It’s part of that, you know, the hard work ethic that they pass on. Always coming, some sort of heritage that I got from my mother, my mother she’s a lawyer. And she works in family, wills, testaments, divorces, like the civil part of the law. So I don’t know they were just really hard workers. I remember we used to live in Munro, it’s in like the north of the state of Argentina, and both of them work in in, uh, Morón. It’s with an accent in the O, or else it sounds like moron, you don’t want to read moron. It’s the name of a small town in the south of Spain, in the south of Spain. So they they work there because my grandfather from my mother’s side used to live there. So my father got a job there but for some reasons I mean especially since my family built their house on top of my other grandparents house, so basically my father’s grandparents give my parents the space to build. But then they moved to or they I remember we used to go to work every morning at 5 AM, altogether, no? So they go to work and we go to primary school or kindergarten so basically that was the story of my life, traveling until my brother we reach secondary school and it was closer, it was really close to our house like two blocks away from our house it was much more better than like, driving an hour to… but I’m used to that in Argentina you get used to long distances it’s not that because it’s far away but because the transit is like chaos and public transportation is like really good. I used to when I went to the university I use to travel an hour and a half to go to the university every day.
LB: Driving or on public transport?
CG: Public transport. One train and two busses. But you get used to that you know everyone does that. The public transportation system is so effective and is cheaper compared to… It’s cheaper if you think that you have a car, you have to go downtown and downtown Buenos Aires is really expensive to park there, sometimes you don’t even get a parking spot, it is complicated. It’s simpler to take the bus, cheaper to take the bus and you don’t have to you know um, you’re not worried because sometimes they take your car or the stereo or hit it or scratch it. So that’s where I am I never had a car in Argentina that was the other thing I never had the access to a car so…
That’s all my family. I mean I basically spent my childhood traveling from home to school and then coming back and have a wonderful neighborhood. People were like amazing, my friends we got together in summer to go to the swimming pool and spend time there. So it was a really friendly environment for growing up uh, more like um we spend a lot of time in the streets. But it was a different kind of street than today. I don’t want to idolize that my traveling and all the things that you know that are really peaceful neighborhoods but yes they were really peaceful, we didn’t have any troubles at night.
LB: Was it different because it was in Argentina but because it was a couple decades ago?
CG: Because it was a couple decades ago. I think the population especially in uh not suburban but in the outskirts of Buenos Aires tends to be more marginalized year by year especially during 2001. I think that although you get more jobs and more possibility to work right now in Argentina, you still have a huge class that is marginalized who live there. And that’s why I had a lot that crime I meant that’s not the reason you have crime, but it contributes. It’s 2000 and 2001; it’s related to jobs, especially in Argentina I think it’s related to the access to jobs or education. It’s not a culture of working or teaching how to or taking people to schools or to the university, which I mean we have a great educational system. But for some reason now they’re not taking advantage of that everything we get is like publicity and advertisement to consume. To create a consumer class to form a class of people and buying stuff and in order to buy you needs money. So instead of having a society that consume art or produce something different it um I think that compared to 20 years ago that was the difference.
LB: That’s interesting, so what was your community like? So you said it was a textile community did it make a lot of fabrics?
CG: Well I mean it’s not like I’m sure you’re thinking about Mexico. It’s not like that.
LB: No no, I can’t picture it really.
CG: Well I mean the thing is that there are a lot of factories there and also a huge commercial area and it was they it was like a selling point for um products that were not didn’t make the first cut. In order to sell them like in public in malls or like huge stores, basically what you get is 2nd hand I don’t know if you have that here, it’s like outlets. Yeah but you don’t get the first quality things it’s like 2nd hand things.
LB: And was it about the size of Hanover? A little bit bigger?
CG: No um, I will say, no it was much more like kind of… I don’t know how many people. Let me check that. I want to know how many people in my neighborhood. I think is close to a million.
LB: Wow that’s a lot.
CG: It’s a small neighborhood (laughs, looking up statistics for Munro on computer). Considering in Buenos Aires is…
LB: And when did your family move?
CG: They never moved.
LB: Oh okay.
CG: Oh no, 35; well in the Vicente Lopez is bigger but in the neighborhood is 39,000.
LB: That’s still pretty big, a city at least.
CG: Yeah but it’s part of we call it neighborhood but it’s inside one of these like bureaucratic units, you have units its called partido, partido would be like a county and the county has almost a million.
LB: So it’s an urban area too.
CG: Yeah it’s urban there’s nothing its like there are three parks in the whole neighborhood. So, yeah it’s an urban area, it’s an industrial area. So basically you have the neighborhood which is around the train station around you have all the stores and the outside you get all the industry and the so. That’s how it looks like. But the county has a million, the neighborhood has 35,000.
LB: Yeah and there must be others in the area you can travel to.
CG: Yes, yeah, you can travel it’s a small, no it’s not that small but you can travel from one point one neighborhood to another. And it’s close to the capital city, it’s close to Buenos Aires. The capital.
LB: So how did your family feel about you coming to the United States?
CG: Oh at the beginning they didn’t like it at all. They didn’t have a huge experience of immigration in their families although they were immigrants, my grandparents were immigrants, to Buenos Aires from Italy and Spain and and France. So they come to Argentina um so most of them at the beginning of the 20th century during the first World War, or the end of the 19th century. So they didn’t have that experience of immigration although there was in the family because they come from Europe, so they was in the family but they didn’t have. And in 2001, a lot people started to immigrate a lot of of Argentinians, started to immigrate to Europe back to Europe so you have them back again, there as a lot of Spanish immigration in Argentina today. And those who are immigrating 2001 to Spain now they are back with their families most of them are inter-; I would say international marriages, both Argentinians and Spanish. We have a huge attraction between Argentinians and Spanish, I will say. It is true! So basically they came back and now we have a huge Spanish population again. So well immigration was not in the horizon of my family. Let me rephrase that – it was on the horizon of my family but it was not an immediate experience so when I move here, uh they felt like, I don’t know they felt really sad. They were both of them really sad, kind of in denial that I was going to move. And they thought it was a temporary thing and although it was, because I went there to see to Michigan to do a see how the educational system, and I thought I was going to do a masters and return, which is like three years and then come back. But the Argentinian situation was getting harder and harder and once you get out, you lose the contacts inside the university and teaching. And I decided to you know, to do a PhD also and finish that and once we finish, you know with my wife we started to look at job markets in a way. It was a I don’t know, it was trying to build something here in the United States. Not to stay here forever or, no we always have the not a hope… but the we have going back to Argentina in our minds always not because we miss Argentina. Like Spanish people, they always want to go back to Spain. And I’m not saying all Argentineans are the same, I’m like I don’t I always want to go where work is, no? Work or in this cases education or the things that I like. That are related to working and teaching and doing my research. So basically the US opened up positions for me and I did it I took that and then I said okay if I go back to Argentina actually I have a PhD in the United States. Which I don’t know if you know but in Argentina in the University of Buenos Aires I mean having a PhD from the United States is not well seen, it’s like especially in the humanities in philosophy, literature, and sociology, anthropology, having a PhD in the US is like something that they don’t respect as much as having a PhD in Argentina. Argentinians are like really especially in people form the University of Buenos Aires is like University of Buenos Aires is like this elitist institution. So that’s why, it’s like okay it’s not the same if you do a PhD in Argentina, not even if it’s Harvard or doesn’t matter the prestige of the institution, it’s related to the knowledge they give. Not even if you do a PhD in Europe. So basically there’s some sort of like hierarchies they have like.
LB: And now that you have this degree form the U.S. you’d want, it opens up opportunities here.
CG: Yes here and well that’s why I’m here at Dartmouth, no? And I realized that if I want to come back, it’s not that I want to but if you go to Latin America, I recently went to Peru or if you go to Argentina, I have to build a name or build a career and in order to that I have to do it. Here because I already have the opportunities here or I would have to go back to Argentina and have to build again all the networks to be a professional again, although I am; the transition is not that easy, it’s getting easier but it’s not that easy. So yeah.
LB: Did so, you mentioned this in the last interview but I wanted to see if you could expound on it. So you said you have your mate, you cook and stuff, is there anything else that you do to maintain your, I don’t want to say culture, because I think everyone has culture but what do you do to keep up your memory of Argentina in the United States?
CG: Yes I prefer memory I prefer that to culture I think we think of culture…
LB: Culture just sounds so patronizing, I think it like romanticizes immigrants makes them exotic in a way that they’re not.
CG: Yeah just, it seems more we have a conception of culture more dynamic than other people, I mean we I’m saying like as here like intellectuals or people who think about culture. But in terms of tradition and like the word traditions seems to schematic, too fixed, something that’s imposed from above and you can’t escape. But in a way yes we do the memory of Argentina I will say like, the living memory the thing that we actively do in order to feel connected if you put it this way. I think it’s food (laughs). Well I have the advantage that my wife is also Argentinian, and we speak Spanish with the Argentinian accent at home, and there’s a bunch of colleagues here now they are from Argentina, from Cordoba, but they’re from Cordoba from Argentina, and we get together and we get to share um, things from our childhood. There was like childhood and when I don’t know when we were twenties we went out to the disco whatever, with friends and we share the same music from the 90s and 80s. We share the same taste of a lot of things no? We are the same generation so in a way taste of books that we like to read or TV or now with the Internet you get a different kind of connection. I’m not saying it’s as meaningful as a human contact or whatever it’s a different kind of connection. I can watch Argentinian TV here, so in away I’m connected in someway to some part of the culture. And I have friends that with Facebook or with other things I get invitation I know what they’re doing I see pictures of the I have a different construction of them this is completely different from five years ago for example, or when I started the PhD ten years ago, it’s completely different.
LB: Did you, you know, write letters on the typewriters?
CG: (laughs) No, I wasn’t that old, but in a way it felt like that. I was like writing emails I write one email to all of my friends to tell them a story it was more like chronicle, now it’s different. It’s just like I have friends that update their status every ten minutes I know what they’re doing I can see part of them, I can see this virtual persona they create in a way. So in a way I feel like more connected to Argentina and that’s why the idea of the memory of Argentina it’s getting really complicated especially for immigrants because you get a community here you can like build and rehearse because it’s not the same some sort of things that you do in Argentina, though, when you go to Argentina you rehearse traditions. But the rest of the things I feel really connected with Argentina especially with this profession that I get to travel a lot, so I got back to Argentina every year. Sometimes more than once a year, I try to bring my parents once a year, and my parents in law they come here also once a year. So basically I see my family three or four times a year it’s not that much but sometimes it is enough.
LB: I mean that’s the same I see my family and the same number of times I go back to Texas.
CG: Exactly it is and in a way you get a different access to different groups. For example like traveling a plane ticket is now getting cheaper and cheaper though going to Argentina could be expensive, but it is when you think about it its $1,000 a little bit more than that. So you can save that money and I always have my savings this my saving to either go to Argentina or to bring one of my parents so I… I think I have much more opportunities to make that connection. But if you want you can be completely isolated here in the monte.
LB: That’s true.
CG: That depends on the relationship you have with you, at the beginning it was complicated because when I came here there was some sort of like they were sad that I was moving, also that the country couldn’t give me what I needed. They thought that it was part of part of their fault, they couldn’t they were not able to build a country that gives you the resources to succeed or whatever to live. But I think that this is a completely different experience in cultural terms and in every other terms it’s a completely different experience that it was 10 years ago. Now it’s more flexible you can travel you can spend one year in one place and come back. And inside Argentina there is people moving from one province one state to the other although traditionally Argentina is more centralized, everything happens in Buenos Aires, now you have much more things in Santa Fe, Rosario, Cordova, Mendoza in the north of Argentina you have more things going on so there are people migrating inside Argentina.
LB: And have you kept in touch with any of your classmates or friends from college or from high school?
CG: Yes yes well my best friends are form high school, two of them.
LB: Are they still in Argentina?
CG: Yes they are still in Argentina one has a tourist agency, travel agency, and the other works with like a he’s a CEO of a company; I don’t know what he does. We get together and we I know their families I know everything my friends from the neighborhood. And from the University of Buenos Aires I always get together, perhaps more than my other friends because we’re closer and some are well known writers in Argentina or in professors, in Buenos Aires and other universities now that we have more than one. There was a phenomenon that happen at the end of the 1990, the salaries in the University of Buenos Aires were really really low and the professors had to work at 2 or 3 different universities to build a salary, so. What happened traditionally the professors of University of Buenos Aires were considered the best professors and what happened is no one wants to go to another national or private university, because they were not as prestigious as the University of Buenos Aires. But since the professor had a terrible salary they had to move to other universities so they academic level was kind of balanced. Because all the professors of University of Buenos Aires were teaching in other universities that happens at the end of 1990’s and beginning of 2000’s I have friends working in different universities at the same time we share a lot of things, we’re still in contact we write things together.
LB: What’s the mode that you keep in touch? Mostly Facebook, mostly email?
CG: I would say mostly Facebook. Now Facebook, and then email. But mostly it’s Facebook is our especially my generation no? I don’t know why we got really into Facebook and they have Twitter because they’re writers. But writers and twitter they like to write, that’s one of the things and the other is they send me their books, they send me their novels and they’re writing and they send me things. We are in contact in this different ways reading each others stuff and sharing things, like pictures stupid pictures so yeah.
LB: And this is kind of abstract and I don’t want to say too much, but where is home?
CG: Where is home? I think like right now where my wife is I mean where I can build a well.
LB: That’s so sweet!
CG: I mean well that’s my family she’s my, I got to be in amazing relationship with her and although I have friends and another extended community she was always there she was like, and we immigrated together, and we lived together for the first time in the United States.
LB: Wow, that’s a big step.
CG: Yes it is, moving early so I away it’s, that’s home I mean we decide together as a family is my that’s home. So if we’re here if we’re in Argentina, if we’re in Europe, we try to make that concept of home which is really complicated to put together because everyone has this idea and you always try to like pin it down to a spatial thing you know home is there, is a space, it’s something that happens in a space, not in time, for example. But I think that especially with migration you have to also the displacement of places, no? Always if you don’t find a different thing, a more like performative dimension of living you get crazy. Because I move so many times to Argentina to Michigan, Michigan to three times to three different houses which is completely unexpected in Argentina, in Argentina you have one house and you live there kind of forever you have this Italian idea of house.
LB: And your parents moved into the…
CG: My parents you have this house you inherit the house to your kids or your buy a house where you’d have your kids and you try to give that to you kids. The idea of a property is completely different from here, here is more, you sell and buy houses like cars. And for us that’s really complicated and there’s really complicated to buy a house for example because for us you buy a house and you’ll be fixed in one place so it’s hard to make the peaces with that idea of moving and staying or like traveling without moving you have to do that moving without traveling otherwise you get crazy. I move so many times, in Michigan three times and then I move here, here in two or three different houses it was like oh my god it’s crazy we have the study abroad program I spent thee months in Puebla, three months in Barcelona, three months in Madrid, now I’m going back to Buenos Aires for the foreign study program for three months it will be.
LB: Is that this winter?
CG: No it’s in spring. That’s a wonderful experience but you still you’re moving you feel like you don’t have a house and if you are not aware of the connection between houses and place, you can get crazy, super crazy. Especially with immigration, or our kind of immigration, immigration that moves it’s like a flux more than okay let’s going and we established a settlement. No? It’s nothing like that it’s more like traveling around.
LB: …or a circuit?
CG: Something like that but a circuit would imply that you have fixed things and you pass this and you go back, but in this case it’s like a flux. You just move like water and when you find something that stop that you stop but then you just find a different way and it’s impossible to predict. I’m comparing that with water this theory that you cannot if you have a drop of water going down a wall or other surface it will never, if you have two drops of water you will never have the same route, always something that will modify it and change the path, the way the route in which it travel is I think that’s the way which I travel it’s completely unexpected in a way. No sense of patterns or you can’t predict some things but really you can with all the crisis I never expected to be here or to be in Michigan that’s kind of the dynamic that I think about migration.
LB: Do you think you’ll ever return or do you have any plans for the future? I know this in the context of what you just said, it’s…
CG: That’s why I said what I said I read that question and I was thinking like okay how do I put this in the of course there’s something in Argentina that like that makes me go where you go. But also to Europe or to another country I recently went to Peru and if someone gave me a job there I would totally get I would totally go, like “You want to go to Peru? YES! SURE!” It’s not a question of place or going back.
LB: Is it more of opportunities?
CG: It’s of opportunities or if you want to put it in this way, it’s more selfish, it’s okay my career, my future or so I don’t know.
LB: Yeah and self-interest isn’t a bad thing.
CG: It’s not but it’s hard to think about it when you put it in terms of community, in a way you think of your career.