This post goes out to my peers who want to move past the tourism sites in their new home and truly experience the local culture. Odds are, if you’re going to study abroad somewhere you probably have had a class that at least referenced that region. Whether this is true for you or not, what’s true for all of us is that our professors are cool. You’re probably thinking, okay yes, I already knew that, but I want to tell you that they are cool enough that they probably have visited the same places. Better yet, they may even be doing research in or be experts on your future home. Such was the case for me! I am a part of the Buenos Aires Spring 2020 program where I have been studying spanish, politics, history and enjoying all that the city has to offer. As I was walking through the city, I saw a sign advertising Murga Porteño, the Buenos Aires version of Carnival. It just so happened that around this time last year, I was sitting in Dr. Michael O’Briens Music in Latin America class receiving a lecture about the very same thing. Of course being the dedicated student that I am, I needed to see murga performed in person. I reached out to see if he had any suggestions. He immediately emailed back to offer me dates, groups, stages, and everything I needed to know about the month of carnival that occurs here in the port city, including history and usual themes from each group.
Fast forward to February 24 (2020), aka one of the most exciting nights of my life, I saw Murga in person. I can’t quite find an adjective to cover all the emotions of excitement, wonder, and fascination that I felt during the 5 hours of performances my friends and I watched. The athleticism and showmanship shown by all the dancers and musicians was astounding. I could describe it to you but I think the video below will show more of the spectacle itself.
The one thing my iPhone can’t capture is the discussion occurring simultaneously. Through the language skills I’m developing it was obvious too that these stages are a space just as much for each barrio to make their commentary on anything from the state of the healthcare system to a united latin american identity. The most impressive thing is each group we saw are from different neighborhoods, have different opinions, and yet still managed to respectfully watch and consider each others opinions despite their differences in the name of the art of Murga.
Other than marveling at Murga, my point in this whole story is whether you can remember a direct reference to your host country from your class or not, go ahead and do some digging in C of C faculty before you leave. Odds are someone has at the very least visited and would love to offer you advice and recommendations to make this experience the best possible.