2022-08-15

Argentina: A Dream Fulfilled

Written by Anya Meave
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Argentina. A land of many ecosystems and one of the largest countries in South America. As a young adult, I dreamt of visiting Argentina, especially after reading Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” and seeing the movie thereafter. Although the story and book focused on Che Guevara’s life, images of the Argentine landscape could not escape my mind. So, I decided to learn more about Argentina’s ecosystems and communities in various parts of the country via my studies.

During my time as an undergraduate at Oregon State University, I completed my first research project that concerned itself with the region of Casa de Piedra which provided me with a deeper understanding on the history of water usage in the Pampa Province of Argentina. However, I did not want to stop there. I wanted to learn about food systems in Argentina as well given that much of my studies have focused on food systems in general.

During the fall of 2020, I entered the Applied Anthropology program at the University of North Texas. As a first-year graduate student, I became aware that a thesis project is required for graduation, so I began investigating possible topics and organizations quickly. By the winter of 2020, I narrowed down my thesis options and decided to reach out to the organization I felt fit my scope of interest in community food systems. Voluntario Global, the organization selected, not only concentrates on creating solutions for the advancement of community members, it also seeks to focus on the wellbeing of residents through holistic health and nutrition programs. However, the emphasis on fostering an environmental balance between residents and their natural surroundings is what drew me in the most.

My efforts were fruitful, and by the Spring of 2021, I was volunteering as an online English Language assistant with the organization. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, being a virtual volunteer was the best option. The volunteer opportunity allowed me to learn about community frameworks in Argentina and understand cultural aspects I was unfamiliar with such as the influence of British English in the country and a sincere interest in caring for the environment.

Upon completion of my volunteering, I felt ready for the next step which was to begin the process of my thesis work.

During the summer of 2021, I had the opportunity to virtually meet with the Comunidad Milpa team to discuss the thesis project. Comunidad Milpa is an affiliate of Voluntario Global, and is located in Ricardo Rojas, Bueno Aires Province. The organization works with neighboring residents to share knowledge about agroecology methods that emphasize the importance of nutritional wellbeing and environmental health while strengthening local economies.

After understanding the breadth of the project, I began working on data collection instruments which would be used for off-site and in-person research at the Comunidad Milpa site. I then arranged my travels and prepared to venture off with my family to the country I had dreamt of visiting for years.

Fast forward to the spring of 2022. Well, fall of 2022 in Argentina. The anticipation was high, and the 14-hour flight from southern California was long but arriving in Argentina was amazing. As the plain descended and the image of the landscape became clearer through the airplane window, I was able to see a vast number of trees and waterways stretching for miles. Coming from Southern California, the trees and rivers were a welcomed sight. After making our way through airport security, we were kindly met with a young man who would drive my family and I to our destination. Little did we know that the young man would be the first of many who would share first-hand insight into life in Argentina. The open discussions reminded me of my family travels through Mexico as a child on our journeys to visit family.

After arriving at our site, we quickly made our way to Comunidad Milpa where we were met with a warm welcome from members, volunteers from abroad, community organizers, and cheerful dog friends. Lush green trees, healthy plants, beautiful murals, and a vibrant food garden filled the space. The weather was perfect for a day outside and cup of mate which members of the center taught us how to prepare. Accompanied by homemade organic cookies, we enjoyed the traditional Argentine drink while learning about the center and chatting with everyone present.

The days following our initial visit was beneficial in various ways as it allowed for the opportunity to learn more about community structures in Ricardo Rojas, the importance of agroecology food systems in the area, and the vital role popular economies play within the community. Members of the center including Valeria Garcia, the center’s founder, guided us through humble neighborhoods where we were greeted with hellos, smiles, and warm welcomes upon each interaction. Although the experience in Ricardo Rojas was short due to my own time constraints, I gained a better understanding of community frameworks in Bueno Aires which expanded my worldview beyond what I have absorbed living in the global north.

After the experience, I still dream of visiting Argentina both figuratively and literally to learn more about the stories each section of the country has to tell. Since the landscape is vast, there is much to see and understand. I hope to have the opportunity to experience it all again.

Until next time, Argentina!

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