Three stories: ( to make up for such a poor april may news letter)
Belén ( Girls name that means Bethlehem)
Belén is more than a city, it is a memory, Belen is a 12 year old girl with an inner strentgh that baffles even me and she goes to la casita. She and her siblings are of Paraguayan descent. The same way that we discriminate against Dominicans and have our rivalries with Cuba in Argentina they discriminate against Paraguay and Bolivia have similar rivalries with Chile and Uruguay. On top of that is the cruelty we are capable of as children reflecting those invisible barriers that tell us. “ Look they are different. Different isn´t good lets pick on them, him, her...”
At la casita these social norms are present as well, especially for these kids who come from backgrounds where violence is natural and every day. It forms a part of their social understanding and how they relate to others.
One tuesday we were working on home work. It was a nice day out more spring than fall.
Belen had gone into the kitchen for a drink of water. As she stood behind the counter that divides the kitchen and the common area two boys came up across from her and threw their water in her face. Ok so in the telling of this I am not taking sides because on any given day Belen also does her fare share of bullying. So, As I was saying obviously not in the mood to stand still after an agression of this nature she rounded out of the kitchen and into the common area standin up to them fighting back. I try to step in reprimanding hte boys for what they have done but by this point they were beyond upset. Belen yelled and Alexis egged her on. Other kids like Pablo with his radio personality tired to break them up but he was just shot out of the way like a rocket.
Then the kicks and the punches started to fly, until Belen and Alexis were locked in a fearce grip by the hairs. I physically jumped in this time trying to pry them apart, with my hands and with my words. This is when it got bad because five or six more came up from behind who really don’t like Belen for being Paraguayan and started kicking and pulling hairs from their side. (Belen has realllly long hair)
Still in the middle trying to pull them apart when Braian one of the older boys whos visiting for the day steps in and lifts Alexis out of the hold mean while every one is yelling. Thats when my supervisor came out of the meeting she had been in. What’s going on here?! All the instigators ran, Belen fell to the floor and cried, Alexis calmed down inside of Braian´s grip. Moni my supervisor took the boys who had started the fight into the office to talk to them while I took Belen into the kitchen, gave her a new glass of water and fixed her hair. I didn’t know what else to do. These problems are beyond la Casita, Belen will continue to be different as am I. So, when the hey Paragua ( word that means umbrella) jokes start,
I say: ¿Qué onda che? No va llover. ( What´s up with that dude, it’s not gonna rain.)
It’s not a lot but it’s a different example, and Belen has started saying it too. When she asks me: Kris are you Argentine?
I say: No, there’s nothing wrong wih not being from here, if we were all the same it would be very boring...
For some time the powers that be in charge of la Casita have been fixing things up and walls have been painted some holes patched. The kids love to paint and I thought why not paint a mural on one of the walls. It didn’t turn out exactly as I had hope because there was a lot of red tape to go through and then my time was coming to an end. No one who was staying felt like picking up the project so it wasn’t done. Still there is a magical thing called chalk. We may not have painted a wall but we drew many murals many times over on the ground. This gave us the freedom to think: What do we want to draw today?
Music, Milongas and the Argentine rhythm
All of you who know me know how I love to dance. It´s part of what keeps me sane. These last few months I aksed if we oculd bring in a CD player into la casita so I could share some salsa with the kids. From that day new life was brought into la casita. Before the kids on days where it wasn’t nice enough to be outside would loose them selves in cartoons. Now we dance and the older kids share with me their own taditional dances. (it’s kind of like the dances you learned when you were little if you grew up in texas and they made you learn how to square dancefor phys ed ) We danced: El carnavalito, la chacarera y el chámame. They are like the danza, bomba and plena are for Puerto Rico or quadrille is for st. Thomas, the only thing is that it has become popular almost mainstream and is still danced by all ages today. There is also the Tango and la Milongabut this is seen more in Buenos Aires its turisty almost. To say that every one in Argentina dances tango is like saying that all puertoricans dance salsa or like Ricky Martin it’s not the case. There is also cumbia which is like Argentina’s reggeton sort of...
I have danced all these thingsJ While I dance and jump and spin, with the kids while a rock and roll version of “Arroz con leche se quiere casar” blares on the radio, Milagros a 2 year old allways finds her way to me takes my hand so we can do the twist. In moments like those my heart found a place of well being.
Obviously danceing isn’t limited to la casita, it happens at HUL too. Mostly upstairs with the girls, while we cook or clean o watch the Argentine version of dancing with the stars. Often it happens while watching that show as we laugh at the how the costumes get skympier and the back ground dancers never coordinate.
In my experience Argentines arn’t as rumberos or pachangueros in the same way as Puertoricans but they do have son and they get down just the same...-