Buenos Aires - Post Report Question and Answers
Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It’s easy if you’re willing to speak Spanish. You don’t even have to be good at it. You just have to be willing to engage in Spanish rather than English. I never heard of any harassment or overt discrimination incidents, but my friends who were Black universally felt uncomfortable at post. They said that people stared at them as though they’d never seen a Black person before — which in all honesty is very likely the actual reason they were staring. Argentines are almost universally Caucasian. By the end of my tour, immigration from West Africa was on the rise, but still rare compared to immigration from other South American countries. Most Argentines also do not make distinctions among Asian ethnic groups — everyone from Asia is “Chinese.” Even high-ranking Argentine government officials referred to Asian people (in contexts where not one was from China) as “Chinese.” - Apr 2022
It's not too hard to make friends with local staff. However, in my experience, the country is very classist and racist still. They are not very progressive in terms of race yet and get a bit defensive when discussing it. It came up at work more than once and some folks were willing to talk and learn but many (the younger ones?) were adamant that it was just their sense of humor and we didn't understand. Imagine this: when the Indian Prime Minister was visiting, a local ridiculous tv station showed footage of him getting off of his airplane next to a split screen of Apu from the Simpsons. And this was playing on TVs in the consular section! This is a prime example of generalized racism but be clear that black USDH will face the worst of it. There used to be quite a large population of Afro-Argentines, actually, but this was over 100 years ago and they were almost wiped out due to different wars, diseases and oppressive government policies (notably President Sarmiento in the 1870s). In present day Buenos Aires most Porteños assume black people must be recent immigrants from Africa with little to no Spanish knowledge and living precarious lives and treat them as outsiders if interacting with them at all. This carries over to black officers and EFMs and more than one person told me they wished they knew this before coming. - Jul 2020
Super easy to make friends with locals here. But it helps to know Spanish. - Jul 2019