Argentina offers more than summer trip to CSUNers

Andrew Fingerett

When Ari Morguelan asked for a copy of the Los Angeles Times at a newsstand in Buenos Aires, he was questioned about where he lives.’ Once he told them he was from Los Angeles himself, Morguelan began an interesting conversation about politics.

‘They were asking me about Bush and giving me their opinion, and asking me if I voted for him,’ said the senior history and journalism major. He was one of 18 students to travel to Argentina over the summer with the history department’s field study program, one of two offered at CSUN.

His experiences in Argentina were shared not only by history majors, but by a large number of non-history majors who were able to experience the trip in different ways.

Of the students who participated in the field study, six of them were not history majors, and ranged from business to psychology students. The trip, which was funded by the history department and the College of Social and Behavior Sciences, took students to four cities, including one in neighboring Uruguay, for 15 days in June.

‘The biggest barrier for me (while I was there) was people’s misunderstandings of American politics,’ Morguelan said.

He said that while Americans may be as opinionated as Argentines, they aren’t as active as their South American counterparts.

‘ ‘Anytime they get upset about something, (Argentines) are in the street demonstrating. They don’t understand how (Americans) can affect politics by going into a booth and pressing some buttons every four years,’ Morguelan said about the level of political participation in Argentina. ‘Whereas in Argentina, when something happens, they go on the street the next day and march until there’s a resolution.’

Morguelan said there was a farmer’s strike while the group was there, and there was a threat of violence spreading to the capitol. It wasn’t the only strike the group encountered. Taxi drivers in Buenos Aires were also on strike because they wanted to be able to use designated public transportation lanes while they are not carrying passengers. A natives’ strike that took place during the field study disrupted one of their destinations.

‘There was in instance when we were in Tucum’aacute;n, where we were supposed to go see some ruins, and they had cut down trees and blocked the road to prevent people from going down there,’ said Morguelan. ‘We ended up going on the bus and going halfway there, only to have to turn around.’

Kristina Bakrevski, a senior theater major, was one of the non-history students who also went on the trip. Instead of going to Prague as she had planned, she decided to travel to the Latin American country instead. ‘I thought that I owed it to myself to get a better understanding of the country,’ she said.

The trip was structured in a manner that allowed students to pursue their own areas of interests, something that Patricia Juarez-Dappe, assistant professor of history, liked.
‘I think it’s a good thing that students from different departments attend these field studies, especially because at the time of presenting their research, they have completely different ways of approaching a topic,’ said Juarez-Dappe, who also and proctored of the trip.

One of the most vivid illustrations of what these students with different majors had to offer was presented in their research topics. While three students chose to study the traditional dance of tango, their findings were presented in different ways based on their respective majors.

A sociology major investigated the beginning and evolution of tango, while a history major studied the lyrics of tango songs and their reflection on different political periods in Argentina. Finally, Bakrevski, the theater major, looked at the performance aspects of tango, said Juarez-Dappe.’

‘ ‘I was drawn to the philosophies of it,’ commented Bakrevski, who said she studied the art of tango after it was suggested to her by Juarez-Dappe.’ ‘It’s a passionate expression of national identity.’

Jessica Zurita, the junior sociology major who also chose tango as a research topic, said that the trip didn’t feel like it was university-sponsored.

‘I didn’t see it as a history trip,’ Zurita said. ‘I thought of it as a fun way to learn about a different culture. I was just planning on having fun and learning about the history.’

Aside from the level of political activism they encountered in the country, the group was also surprised by a number of other cultural differences between the U.S. and Argentina. For Bakrevski, the greatest culture shock came during a soccer game.

‘I got to experience firsthand the absolute craziness of an Argentina sports game,’ said Bakrevski. ‘It’s kind of threatening, in a way.’

Some students were also surprised at how similar Argentina’s society is to the U.S., especially Los Angeles. Morguelan said he witnessed quite a bit of Americanization in the country.

‘In Argentina, they love Americans,’ he said. ‘Especially when they found out we were from Los Angeles. I think people, through the media, think L.A. is just paved with gold. I’m not trying to glorify it or anything, but I think for people in other countries that have never been there, all they see is MTV or TMZ and they think that’s what L.A. is like.’

Juarez-Dappe also noted the difference between students’ perceptions and the reality of the region. ‘I think another thing that they realized was that all these stereotypical images we have about Latin America ‘- they’re just stereotypical images, and that each country is unique,’ she said.

Bakrevski, who has traveled on her own through Europe, was pleased with the experience and was glad to have traveled with the history department to South America.

‘If presented with the opportunity, I would definitely do it again,’ she said. ‘I learned so much more going with the history department than I would have alone.’