I find myself sitting down to write this post on my final afternoon in Buenos Aires, a place that has become my home over the last six months. The moment is bittersweet; I am excited to return home to see family and friends for the Christmas holiday but I will undoubtedly miss the life I have led in this bustling, often confusing, and cosmopolitan city. I will miss Susy, my host here in the neighborhood of Palermo who has so generously welcomed me into her home, and especially her cooking. I will also certainly find myself longing for $7 steaks and $2 bottles of Malbec, though my reunion with Hoosier cooking may distract me from this. Most of all I will miss the friends I have made from across the United States during the semester who have accompanied me through this wild ride. Though I may miss many things about Argentina, I think many things I have learned here are likely to stay with me.
Argentina, in ways I likely will not even realize for months, has left its mark on me. Most of all, I find my political perceptions profoundly affected by the firsthand experience I have had in witnessing Argentine elections. I arrived in Argentina an admittedly very liberal young man, drawn to leftist thought of all its varied stripes. However, in Argentina, particularly in the Peronist Argentina lead by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, I have seen the many downsides that progressive populism can bring. From mysterious killings of opponents, deep-rooted corruption and clientelism, and an economy choked by regulation, Argentina offered many examples of where my preferred form of government can go wrong. I have yet to draw ultimate conclusions from this exposure, I remain unsure of how many of these issues are isolated to Argentina and which may instead be attributed to larger flaws in left-leaning, assertive populism as a whole. Therefore, I remain a steadfast proponent of progressive change, but have gained a profound respect for Western mixed-market economics and the institutional limits which keep power in check in the United States.
I have always found myself drawn to politics at some fundamental level of my being, my preferred conversation topics always drifting towards the taboos of government or religion and the like, but as I have grown I have realized the importance of consensus above all else. Argentina’s aggressive zero-sum politics have left me convinced that the only way forward is through cooperation, through engaging diverse stakeholders to create policy that works for all, not just for some. I will take this valuable lesson with me for years to come, and if I am ever lucky enough to serve in public office I will strive to remember that it is practical results for constituents that matters above all else. Argentina is a nation defined by political uncertainty, of ebbs and flows that have dramatically altered its model of insertion in the world from decade to decade. As Argentina turns from leftist populism to right-leaning economic reform once again (with the newly floating peso surging and prices fluctuating wildly), I feel incredibly lucky to have been raised in a remarkably stable nation and feel naive to have taken it for granted for so long.
There are other ways Argentina has impacted me as well, like forgetting that breakfast can be more than a medialuna (i.e. croissant) and coffee, or that coffee is more than just espresso. I will surely miss the simplicity of commuting by subway to class aboard the Subte D Line each day, especially midst Bloomington’s inevitable snows of January and February. It will be odd to not eat empanadas (meat-filled pockets of bread) or milanesa (sandwich very similar to pork tenderloins) almost everyday for lunch. Above all else, not being able to text the friends I have made here to go to some museum or sit in a park and relax will be especially difficult. Buenos Aires has been very good to me these past six months, for that, and my ever improving Spanish, I am grateful.