BUENOS AIRES, Argentina
“Argentine identity is an elusive and mobile frontier between conflicting cultural worlds.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
To this end, my class signed up to take tango lessons from the talented Maria Guana once a week. We supplemented our dance lessons with reading Long After Midnight at the Niño Bien: A Yanqui's Missteps in Argentina, by Brian Winter.
My first post abroad with THINK Global School was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a mix of excitement, fear of the unknown (both school and country), and complete freedom to design my own curriculum. Prior to arrival, I had to make quick work of a few excellent resources to determine what content I was going to plan into my global studies curriculum. My apartment was right above the famous ‘La Biela’ cafe in Recoleta where famous Argentinian author, Jorge Luis Borges, would write. I knew this would be an excellent place to hold a class session on Borgesian writing and set the stage for our first unit. Using the quote above, our first unit was to investigate Argentine identity through the lenses of tango, futbol, and the gaucho. I challenged the students to create a video explaining how this quote is relevant when investigating these three famous Argentinian cultural motifs.
This allowed us to see both the emic and etic or insider’s and outsider's perspective of this world famous dance.
We took visits to the two rival futbol stadiums in Buenos Aires, Boca Juniors and River Plate with our host city specialist Mark McMely. Here we learned about the derby between the two teams and the distinct difference between their fan groups.
The last piece of the puzzle was to take the entire school out to the Estancia Candelabra to learn about farming and ranching culture that dominated Argentina’s early history. Students rode horses and learned cattle culture, and the country's recent transformation to soybean farming. Near Iguazu Falls, we had an interesting face to face experience with the problems of cultural tourism which led to one of the most powerful student-led discussions I have ever had.
For more information check out this iTunes University course. Students combined these cultural motifs of Argentina and attempted to explain Borges’ explanation of the Argentine identity as an elusive and mobile frontier.
Once we had an idea of what it meant to be Argentinian, we investigated some of the political chaos that ensued in Argentina’s more recent history. We looked at the Peron’s and populism and took city visits to the detention centers used in Argentina’s notorious ‘Dirty War.’ The students and I read Gloria Whelan’s The Disappeared, and marched with the Madres at the Plaza de Mayo, who are still waiting for a government answer regarding the disappearance of their children decades ago. Further, we hosted an emotionally heavy evening with the Argentines for National Concord, a non-governmental organization working to reconcile the opposing groups from the past.