Yesterday we went as a class to meet with the Secretary of State of Drug Trafficking. I thought the secretary was very friendly and went the extra mile to make us feel welcome and that he really wanted to be there talking to us. He was very enthusiastic to answer all of our questions. He seemed well prepared because, even though he didn’t have fancy slide shows or anything, you could tell he had thought a little about what he was going to say before hand. Though the actual content was a little bit irrelevant to our courses, I enjoyed talking with him and thought he enjoyed being with us as well. Today we went to the American embassy to hear a number of short lectures by the ambassador to Argentina and his various staff members. Though I did not feel unwelcome, I did feel like somewhat of a nuisance. The people that spoke sort of gave off a vibe that they had a lot of things to do and we were just one more thing on the list. Only one of them seemed like they had even thought about what they were going to say beforehand. There were frequent repetitions from one person to the next, showing there had been absolutely no planning between people. It was treated like a press conference because they mostly just asked us for questions. Though the presentation given by the colonel on the military of Argentina seemed very well planned and was quite interesting, this was the exception. I thought it worth noting how we, as American students were made to feel in these 2 different circumstances. Though I don’t pretend to know the reason, I found it interesting that we were treated better, made to feel more welcome, and had our time more respected in the embassy of a country other than our home. Then in our home country’s embassy, it seemed we were simply tolerated and shown professional courtesy but also disinterest. The Americans did not go out of their way to make us feel at home like the Argentine secretary had. Though this is a very limited example, I believe this is a window into something bigger, some underlying pillar of Argentine culture and all of Latin America for that matter.
I have traveled extensively throughout Latin America and one thing always seems to remain constant. The hospitality. Every person I have stayed with or gotten to know well in various Latin American countries has been selfless with their time and resources and have gone the extra mile to make me feel liked and well taken care of. Take my family here in Buenos Aires, for example. Though I realize that it’s a little different situation because they are family, they have gone above and beyond even the norm for family members in the US. They always make me stay for dinner when I visit and then they always walk me to the bus stop when I leave, if they don’t accompany me all the way back to the residencia! They make special efforts to get me involved in their conversations since my Spanish is only so-so and they truly make me feel welcome, like there’s no other place they would rather be than there with me. Whenever I’m visiting and they need to go somewhere, they never ask me to leave but encourage me to stay or even to go with them. My extended family has truly been a blessing here in Argentina. All the things they have done for me, as well as all the things I’ve seen of other people I’ve gotten to know in Latin America, has made me come to appreciate the differences between their culture and that in the US. Argentines and others put a strong emphasis on making strangers feel welcome. Relationships with friends and family have much more value here and people seem to put more effort into them than in the States. Whether this comes from the predominance of Catholicism in these cultures or from some other reasons, I can’t begin to say. All I know is that I like it. I thoroughly enjoy my visits to Latin America, mostly because of the people. This is definitely an area that the US could learn a lot from the countries they share a hemisphere with.