2012 PFIG Recipient Pilar Barreyro
College of Arts & Sciences
African American & African Studies Major
2013 Graduation Year
Internship: Agrupacion Xango
Notes on the first week
Rows of ornate, regal buildings stylized by French architecture, beautiful tango classics being played on the street, the sweet smell of croissants dipped in honey placed in the inviting windows of cafés all make up my daily commute to work in the city that is commonly referred to as the "Paris of South America"- Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is the fall/winter season in Argentina and I am here working with an organization called Agrupación XANGÔ for eight weeks. Agrupación XANGÔ is a small human rights organization that advocates for equal rights on behalf of the Afro-Latino and LGBTQ communities of Buenos Aires.
My first week has certainly been a memorable one and I have spent my days commuting around the city attending meetings with ambassadors, speaking with youth leaders at recreation centers, and facilitating workshops with aspiring teachers to create a curriculum with a positive afro-centric focus. The pace of work here is very fast and although I grew up speaking Spanish, it has been a huge adjustment composing my thoughts on political and social issues in Spanish and communicating them in a rapid and efficient manner. Although my colleagues are twenty years my senior, they all share the same youthful passion for human rights. Although the hours here differ from the typical 9 to 5 internships in the USA, each day I spend up to eight hours travelling and attending multiple meetings concerning the racial and social implications of politics in this city with the intent of bettering the conditions of living for Afro-Latino and LGBTQ communities here.
I really didn't know what to expect of my internship when I arrived in Buenos Aires after 20 hours of layovers and flying but I am pleased to say I am thoroughly excited to see what this summer has in store for me. I have already learned so much about community outreach and how important it is to really engage with the people whom you are advocating for. In my first week I have attended ten meetings and three conferences and although it was exhausting, the determination of my colleagues to use all of their energy advocating for those who are often ignored is really inspiring and motivating for me.
Everyday that I walk to work I feel as though I am in a moving postcard. This city is filled with so much beauty, history and culture and as the daughter of an Argentine, I am truly excited to be interning with Agrupación XANGÔ this summer and being able to simultaneously connect with my roots while working to better the living conditions of those who are left disadvantaged by the political and social system here. My boss has decided to let me meet with the organization to propose some of my ideas for new projects and hopefully we will be able to implement them as an organization and expand the work we do. I can't wait to see what the next chapter of my internship brings in this beautiful city and I am really grateful to the Parent's Committee for making this incredible experience possible!
It’s been about a month since my last journal entry and so much has already progressed here in Buenos Aires. I have been giving a lot more responsibility as I was given the task of proposing and implementing four new projects for the new gender department of the organization. Together, with fellow afro-latina XANGÔ member Marcela Lorenzo, we created four project goals for the new department:
- Creating a network of communication between afro-descendent women in Buenos Aires of all social classes in order to promote a community of support and trust free from economic bias. This network would link together different afro-latina women from those who work locally as prostitutes to business owners and professors.
- Create a section on the blog geared towards reconstructing representations of afro-descendent women and members of the LGBTQ community in a positive way while also promoting African/African diasporic culture as well as education through the lens of afro-centricity.
- Creating a guía or guide of important telephone numbers and contacts such as human rights organizations, embassies, self-defense classes and food services to publish on the blog as well as distribute to afro-descendent people and LGBTQ community members in Buenos Aires.
- Provide publicity to businesses owned by afro-descendent people in Buenos Aires, by showcasing their businesses and writing reviews on the blog.
So far the experience has been both positive and challenging. Everyday there is a new challenge whether it’s figuring out how to coordinate taking 3 different buses and a train to a lower income neighborhood on the periphery of Buenos Aires in order to attend a community meeting, or composing an oral critique of a meeting or event on the spot in perfect Spanish. What I’ve learned is to have always keep a positive and fearless attitude when it comes to improving. Even when I make a few mistakes typing a document in Spanish, or I get on the wrong bus and show up a few minutes late to an event, everything is a learning opportunity, and with a positive attitude, improving comes with ease.
While I have been heading these four new projects I have also been super busy working on the many other bustling projects and events my organization is working on. As July 28 is Día de la Mujer Afro-Latina y Afro-Caribeña I have been going to countless meetings representing my organization with dozens of afro-latina women from multiple organizations throughout Buenos Aires. Discussing everything from safety to maternal healthcare to shelter, all of the afro-latina representatives work together tentatively to draft education, health and housing initiatives to better benefit the Afro-latino community. In addition to the preparation for Día de la Mujer Afro-Latina y Afro-Caribeña I have been working really hard preparing for the upcoming art show at the Cancilleria a beautiful, historic building where my organization is showcasing over 20 different paintings from afro-descendent artists across Latin America, Central Africa and Cape Verde.
It’s halfway through my internship and my days are jam-packed with excitement, meetings and project development. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this experience has in store for me and what new projects lay ahead.
My experience interning in Buenos Aires, Argentina this summer has been one of the greatest and most influential experiences of my young adult life. Not only have I learned so much in terms of how grass roots human rights organizations operate, but I have also learned so much about myself-about my drive, my energy, my commitment to public service and my future in this field. I think one of the most important things I learned during this internship was how important it is to do the gritty fieldwork in public service or human rights law in order to understand how important it is not to romanticize causes and issues. There were many people in Buenos Aires whom I encountered who were aggressively opposed to everything my organization stood for. There were also several moments where I was disheartened at the constant uphill battle to fight for equal human rights for the gay and afro-Latino community and I was met with large-scale homophobia and racism on a weekly basis. However, each small accomplishment made the battle worth fighting and large accomplishments rejuvenated me and gave me a new stamina and energy to contribute more and push myself even harder.
This internship experience has solidified my desire to become an international human rights lawyer. It was such an amazing experience being able to go back to Argentina, my heritage on my father’s side, and work towards improving the community of Buenos Aires to be more human rights conscious, open minded, and tolerant. Working with groups and Argentine community members who were working day jobs and organizing meetings late into the night to be proactive and make a difference really inspired me and instilled in me confidence; anyone can and should participate in public service because everyone has something to offer to make changes in his community, both local and global.
Although I am of Argentine heritage and a fluent Spanish speaker, going to Argentina did put me outside of my comfort zone. I was the only intern and the youngest member of my organization, Agrupación XANGO, by about 18 years. As a result, in my free time, it became my responsibility to meet people my age and find fun things to do in the city. However, this real and formidable sense of independence allowed me to achieve a level of personal growth for which I will always be grateful. Although it is difficult to just pick up and go to another country as a foreigner all alone, I recommend that everyone volunteer and participate in a public service organization or project internationally. It is a life-changing, humbling experience and it allows us to understand that what people, both domestically and internationally, really need isn’t our "help", but rather, our support. Supporting the gay and afro-latino communities of Buenos Aires, Argentina this summer and working with Agrupación XANGO was an incredible experience that I recommend to anyone interested in public service and African diaspora/LGBTQ human rights advocacy.