New Beginnings

My name is Nia Edwards, and I am a senior at Towson University triple majoring in International Studies, Spanish and Latin American Studies. In my free time I enjoy traveling, writing, and spending time with friends and family. I have a Caribbean background, with a mother from Jamaica and a father from Honduras. I love immersing myself in different cultures, and have a heart for helping others.

The people of Buenos Aires so far have been extremely nice, and what fascinates me the most is their fascination with my unfamiliar but yet intriguing appearance. I cannot even walk a block without a man or sometimes even a woman staring at my hair or me or commenting on how “beautiful” they find me. I have already been asked multiple times if I am Brazilian or Columbian and if I speak “Castellano”, which is an Argentine twist on Spanish. I watch their eyes light up when they find out I do and I am from the United States. Here, they don’t ask me if I’m mixed with something; to them, I am simply black. My darker complexion entices them.  Although they may not understand all the dynamics of black culture, they still embrace me with open arms. Coming from a culture, not only in the United States but also in the Caribbean where my family is from, that constantly tells me that my blackness is unappreciated, I find it refreshing to live to a place like this, even if it is for a short while.

I also find it interesting that although the presence of European culture is very apparent here, there seems to be very few remnants of racism against black people that I have encountered thus far. I’m sure, just like any place, there are still some racial issues or prejudice against black people, but thus far I have not encountered any. Surprisingly, the awkwardness that I expected from the Argentines has been expressed from the students within my study abroad program from the States. I find them unable to openly embrace questions about my hair, my blackness, or the long awkward stares I receive when we go out. Instead of acknowledging the fact that I am unlike the other white Americans in my group, they go about confronting this awkwardness with an unrealistic colorblind approach. When we first arrived I witnessed people stopping in their tracks looking at me. In an attempt to pacify the situation, one girl quickly approached me and said, “Oh don’t worry, they are just staring because you’re so beautiful!” I responded very frankly and said that it was actually because I’m black. It appeared as if her whole body and face contorted as my mouth uttered those words.

Being here makes me question why Americans, specifically some white Americans, seem to have a serious issue and discomfort with acknowledging differences in race. It seems to me that they feel that to acknowledge these differences is to be racist. Clearly this is an American phenomenon because Argentines who could also pass as white Americans have no problem with acknowledging my blackness at all.

The most wonderful thing about being seen as exotic in this space is how it has made me feel personally. It demands I embrace my blackness as something that is in fact beautiful and unique. When I walk down the street, people cannot help but stare at me. In the United States, we are persecuted and even slain for being born black, but here we are gold and rare. That is the thing so far that has caused me to slowly fall in love with this place and the people the most. I feel valued here and appreciated by its citizens for allowing me, “la morocha,” to experience this beautiful city. In the next coming four months, I hope to not only improve my Spanish and learn the distinct Argentine slang, but to also create a bridge for sharing experiences and cultures of being a black Afro-Caribbean woman from the United states with the people of Argentina.