Sara González, pseud.

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Sara Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Argentinean native who migrated to the United States in 2008 to pursue her degree in academia. Growing up in middle class Buenos Aires, Gonzalez is first in her family to complete her college degree and obtain a masters degree. In this interview, Gonzalez discusses her family and upbringing in Argentina, her interest in issues surrounding poverty from an academic standpoint and her perceptions of gender roles in Argentina compared to the United States.



Stephanie Markunas: This is Stephanie Markunas interviewing Sara here in
Carrboro, NC on April 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm. And we will start now. Sara, tell me a little
bit about what it was like growing up back in Argentina.
Sara Gonzales: So I grew up in a very big city, the capital city of Buenos Aires.
My family background is middle class. So I was very lucky to attend very good schools.
So my experience is of a middle class family, sort of, in a big city in Argentina. So it's
very particular. What things can I tell you?
SM: Did you have a big family or a small family?
SG: So it was my mother, my father, and I have two brothers; an older brother, a
younger brother, and myself.
SM: When you attended school, what did you find your school experience like?
How did you fit into that?
SG: My elementary school, the system is a little bit different; since you are six
years old until you are twelve years old and then you start high school. So my
elementary school experience was a very positive one. It was a small public school in a
neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It was coed [coeducational]. At this
school, it was very good quality school, so people from different neighborhoods attended
this school. You had, because it was public, you had really different classes. So you
could encounter things, and problematics, like people who found it very hard, who's
parent's found it very hard, to get a salary at the end of the month. They didn't have a
stable job for instance. Other kids, who had the salary of their parents was, sort of, a
constant and was always at the medium level, at least. So, I met very different people
there. I think it was very enriching in that sense. Then for high school, I went to an
English school, a private school. Quite expensive, where I got a scholarship to study
there, and the experience was very different because there was not as much diversity as
there was in the elementary school.
SM: You were saying that the elementary school was co-ed. Were non-coed
[coeducational] schools common in Buenos Aires?
SG: Yes. The Catholic Church in Argentina is pretty strong. So, there are some
non-coed schools, particularly Catholic schools that a lot of people go to.
SM: The public schools, was everything free? Or were there uniforms that people
still had to pay for, and books? Or was everything included by the government?
SG: There were no uniforms that people had to wear. There was no monthly
stipend, tuition; so that was free. I do not really remember buying a lot of books. In
Argentina you work a lot with photocopies, and those are very cheap. So, it was really,
what you call, a free school. There was a monthly contribution that was voluntary and
very low.
SM: In Argentina is there a law that requires children to go to a certain level, in
school? For instance here, kids are required to get an education up through high school.
I guess people do drop out, but I want to say that, you cannot have a child at home and
not put them into public schools. That's why we have public schools for kids of all
SG: Yes. In Argentina it's exactly the same. Elementary and high school is
mandatory, it's regulated by law. Most of the kids do attend school, and schools are
pretty good in Argentina. I mean, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, are examples of
countries that have wide coverage, at least of elementary school.
SM: Growing up, did you gain a sense of your role as a girl growing up, or as a
woman once you reach a certain age? Did you get a sense of expectations from your
society of what they expected you to do in the future? Or how they expected you to act
or behave within your community because you were a female?
SG: So let's see. I think there are particular examples in which, maybe, I wasn't
aware of, but now going back to those moments, they sound like a control sort of. Let me
give you an example. So, when I was growing up, when I was in elementary school,
women at school had to learn handicrafts. While men learned--. So how to sow or how
to cook, right? (A question was presented to assure my understanding). Men, in that
school, learned how to build stuff; how to build houses. So those were very clearly
differentiated gender roles. Now, when I talk to my nieces or my younger cousins, that's
something that doesn't take place anymore in public schools, at least in the city. But
growing up, that was something very clear for me, and I was never very good at cooking,
so I never got good grades in that course. Then when I went to high school, the situation
changed in the sense that--. I feel that throughout my life, because I have chosen an
academic career, the academia is a very particular place where discrimination is not so
clear. Women and men have equal opportunities to attend to these places. At the same
time, at the college level, more women graduate compared to men in Argentina. So that
atmosphere was kind of a bubble. But having said that, particularly in college, it is very
particular that I had mostly men professors. While working for one of these universities,
there were mostly male professors at college.
SM: Was there any reason in particular, that you can point a finger to, of why
there were more females pursuing an academic career than males?
SG: You mean females studying in a university?
SM: Yes.
SG: I'm not sure. The difference is really very small. So I am not sure what the
reasons are in terms of why women go to universities more in Argentina. What's
frustrating is that, when women graduate into the job market, they are at forty percent
less than men for the same activity developed. So, inequality is less so at the college
level. It is more at the level of the labor market. In general, the jobs that are—, the least
protected jobs like people who work in houses, for instance, maids. Those jobs are
generally carried out by women. There is a top level to that is by women who are
generally foreigners in Argentina; people who come from Bolivia, Paraguay, from poorer
countries seeking jobs and they work in the informal sector in these very unprotected
SM: Did you feel that--. You said that growing up you had two brothers; one
older, one younger. Did you feel that your responsibilities at home were different from
the responsibilities placed on your brothers?
SG: Maybe not so much in the domestic sphere, in the sense that my mom also
worked since I was very young. So the example at home was always that women had to
work as much as men. But yes. More in the sense that, my brothers got permission to go
to bars or dancing or out with their friends earlier in life than I did. There was this
feeling that I had to be more protected than them.
SM: Your parents. Did they both have the same amount of education that you're
obtaining right now?
SG: No, my mom did not finish high school. She came from a very poor
background, outside of Buenos Aires. A place called Junin. That's where Eva Peron was
born. It's a very very poor place, and so she made it into the city and started working in
the city. My father—. The parents of my father are immigrants from Poland. So, his
parents also come from a very poor background, but he made it to college. He didn't
finish college, but he made it to college.
SM: Did he attend college in Argentina or in Poland?
SG: In Argentina. No, my father was born in Argentina.
SM: Oh, ok. In terms of your parent's expectations for you and your brothers, do
your parents have--. Are your parents set in a certain--. Like they desire this for you,
they desire you to be--. You must complete college and you must have a career in, for
instance, a doctor or a lawyer. Did they have certain expectations for you or certain
expectations for your brothers? Or, are they, pretty much, open to whatever you guys are
interested in?
SG: I think that my parents were always very open-minded, in the sense of letting
us choose whatever we wanted to choose. It was less of a gender difference than more a
difference of them wanting us to do something that makes us happy, but at the same time,
makes us happy and have a sustainable life. So, for them, particularly for my father, it
was quite hard to understand why I wanted to seek a career in the academia. A place
where in Argentina, it is particularly not very well paid. So this idea that we should seek
for jobs--. Particularly because they come from an immigrant--. He comes from an
immigrant background where they know how it is to be poor. So they always fear that of
me when I didn't choose a business career or doctor or lawyer.
SM: One of those stereotypical, what your family wishes for you. When—. You
said your mother came to Buenos Aires, or came to the city, to get a job. In your
mother's generation, were opportunities for women equal to those opportunities of men?
How it now leveled off, like you said in education, but less in the workforce now. In the
generation of your parents, what was that dynamic in their generation?
SG: I think that it was definitely more difficult. For my mother's brothers, it was
way easier to go to the city than it was for my mother. I think that her parents, my
grandparents felt that it was bad for her to leave the household and go to the big city,
unprotected, and to something new that they were unsure what she was seeking. I think
my mother was very strong in proving them wrong. She started with very bad jobs, then
in the end she opened up her own small company. So, I think that in the end, her
parents, sort of, forgave her for leaving the household, but it took them longer to forgive
her than to forgive her brothers.
SM: Do you think that--. Have you heard stories from your parents and your
grandparents, or from I don't know how many generations back--. Have you heard
stories of traditional expectations for women and for men? Buenos Aires is such a huge,
developed city, and it's hard for me to picture traditional norms within such a huge city.
But, Buenos Aires wasn't always that way. I'm interested to find out maybe if you have
any knowledge of how things were in past generations from that region where your
family is from.
SG: Yes. I think that is very clear in the case of my family where it was the
women staying home and the men working. So, from the side of my mother, when she
was growing up in Junin, in this small town, my grandfather used to work for the railroad
industry and my grandmother stayed at home. Then on the side of my father, the same
case was true. They were living in a small neighborhood outside Buenos Aires, in ( ),
and my grandmother stayed at home and my grandfather opened his own company.
SM: What made you decide to pursue a career in academia?
SG: So, when I graduated from college I became more and more interested in
poverty in Argentina. So I started working for an NGO, and trying to see whether that
was where my interest was. Then I worked for a company. So, after moving around a
little bit, I discovered that I wanted to study poverty, but from an academic perspective.
Sort of like, to make a difference from there. In Argentina there are not that many PhD's
in Political Science. There are two right now, and a third one that is opening right now.
But they are not as prestigious as in the U.S. In particular, these PhD's don't receive
funding for studying. So, you have to work all day long and then do your PhD. So I was
very lucky to get funding from the U.S., and came here.
SM: Did you--. With your work with the NGO, what kind of communities and
specific problems relating to poverty were you exposed to in Argentina? Were they
based in Buenos Aires or was it in a different place in Argentina?
SG: I worked in the main office of Habitat for Humanity in Argentina, which is an
organization that builds houses, very low cost houses. The office that I was part of
worked, particularly, with neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. There were other offices
around the country. So it was mainly urban poverty. The work that I did, I had to go to
the field a couple of times. But my job was mainly in the office trying to recruit
SM: So when you started looking for a PhD program here in the United States,
where you directed towards UNC or did they contact you? How did your interests in
UNC come about?
SG: I started studying with Delanor Fauld, a professor in Buenos Aires who
studied care in Buenos Aires. Through her, I started reading one of the professors at
UNC, Evelyn Huber, who is our main instructor. So, since the beginning, I wanted to
work with her. Evelyn works a lot with social policy in Latin America. So, when I
applied to many universities, UNC was really my priority and the place that I wanted to
come to; particularly to study with Evelyn.
SM: When did you come to North Carolina, to Chapel Hill?
SG: I came in August 2008.
SM: What was your initial reaction? Had you ever traveled outside of Argentina
SG: Yes. I was very lucky growing up. A policy that did not benefit most of the
Argentineans benefited my family, which was the convertibility law. So one dollar was
like one peso in Argentina, so it was very cheap for us to travel. Now it is very expensive
again. But at that moment, I had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and to Europe. So
when I came here, so what was my reaction? At the beginning I was surprised. I didn't
really know what to expect from a "college town". I didn't know what that meant. So
my image of the U.S. was either New York or Disney World. So, I didn't really know
what all of this was about. So, when the plane was landing and I saw all of the, sort of--.
SM: Trees?
SG: Trees and nature. But then I realized how comfortable, how much easier it is
to adapt to a place like Chapel Hill, compared to a big city. It's very easy to move
around and to learn your way in this place.
SM: That's so funny. Just that, I think about I grew up here. So, I don't have a
comparison in terms of a big city, but I can only imagine. I've seen pictures of Buenos
Aires, but that's it. I've spent maybe an hour max. in New York City, so I don't really
know what that is like.
SG: It gets overwhelming.
SM: I don't doubt it. I don't doubt it. Coming here to school, once you kind of
situated yourself on campus, did you get a sense of a difference in educational styles
between the university here and the university in Buenos Aires? What were those
SG: I think that the university here is --. There are differences. So the main
difference in Argentina is the difference between the private and the public universities.
So, the public university is really very big. So the big lectures, like we have here in the
U.S. The, what we call "sections" in the U.S. are way bigger also. So there is not the
possibility of that much interaction with the students. So one thing that, positively,
surprised me is that students are really eager to participate and to give their opinion, and
they value their opinion very much and feel very much entitled. That's something that in
Argentina it's still developing right now. There is still this idea that the main lecture is
giving a lecture to everybody, and everybody else is just silent in their seat, and that's it.
The only interaction that the people have, the student's have with the professor is the
moment of the exam. Sometimes those exams are oral. So, that would be it.
SM: Wow. Do you get a sense of why it is like that in Argentina? Why that
custom has developed?
SG: I think it draws a lot from traditions in France, in the way of studying in
France. This is the way it has traditionally been. Education in Argentina has a lot of
influence, more from Europe than from the U.S. So, for instance, when we learned
English, we learned English from Great Britain not the U.S. So, yes, I think those were
the sources.
SM: Is there anything in particular that you miss the most from Argentina, being
here in the small town, comparatively, of Chapel Hill?
SG: Not so much the place. I love Buenos Aires, but I feel very comfortable in
Chapel Hill. I think it is a very perfect place for studying and focusing on your work. I
miss my family mostly. Particularly my mother and my brothers, but also my friends and
my father.
SM: When you finish--. Well, let's talk about your PhD. Have you proposed
your dissertation yet? I don't know how it works. I know nothing about it.
SG: So I finished the course work, which is generally developed in the first two
years. I finished my comprehensive exams. I got the last grade last Friday.
SM: Congratulations.
SG: I am defending the perspective, the proposal, in the beginning of the fall or at
the end of the spring. We still have to schedule it, but it's almost ready. Then I have a
year of fieldwork. So, I'm going, in the fall, to Argentina and Brazil and spending a year
in the field. Then coming, hopefully, back to write one more year the dissertation.
Hopefully, in two more years I will be done.
SM: Nice. What direction are you going with your fieldwork? What is your main
focus? I know you said poverty and that you want to study poverty from an academic
perspective, so what is going to be your focus?
SG: So, I'm looking at Argentina and Brazil because they are two very big,
federal countries. I'm going to take a look at regional differences, in terms of welfare
outcomes or poverty, inequality, access to clean water. So, I'm trying to understand if
there is anything about politics and implementation of policies that determine whether
certain states in Brazil, or certain provinces in Argentina, develop so much better than
SM: Interesting. That is a huge undertaking.
SG: Yes.
SM: In terms of~. Kind of going back to growing up in Argentina, you spent
your childhood through adolescence in Buenos Aires. Did you have much interaction
with more rural areas in Argentina or did you ever visit places outside of the big city?
SG: So, I think maybe two experiences are worth highlighting. One was--. So
my father is Jewish, but he doesn't believe in God, and my mom is Catholic. We have
this big mixture in my family where they were always very free to give us the opportunity
to choose any religion; and of course we didn't choose any. But, speaking for any
religion, when I was a teenager, I traveled to Salta, which is the north east of Argentina.
It is a very poor province, and I traveled in a missionary group, a Catholic missionary
group. I spent there two weeks the first one and two weeks the other one. [I spent two
weeks there the first time, and two weeks the second time]. I think it was a very good
experience in terms of understanding a little bit more of how people related to religion
and to their daily lives and so on. I didn't continue with the group. I didn't practice
Catholicism anymore, but that experience was very important. The other one, before
coming to the U.S. in 2008,1 had the opportunity to interview very poor women in the
outskirts of Buenos Aires. Trying to figure out what were their care arrangements. How
could they make work if they didn't have enough money to pay for care, childcare? So,
that was the project.
SM: That is very interesting. In those more rural, more poor [poorer] areas, was it
very common for the women to not have the opportunities to work? Not because they
were not allowed, but because they were unable to provide care for children. This was a
SG: Absolutely. This project was very interesting in the sense that--. Clearly the
problem with care is that, cross social classes, particularly lower classes where the jobs
are very low wage paid jobs and, therefore, these women might not have enough money
to, on top of their job, pay for childcare. That was very clear from the study. Sort of the
care arrangements that some of these women made were that, maybe, a younger child
would take care of the baby. I don't know. An eight year old girl would take care of the
baby; which of course is not ideal. In many other cases, women just lost their jobs. I
think a very interesting dynamic in Argentina is that in the sixties and seventies [1960's
and 1970's], you did have the feminist revolution that you had in the US., but it was more
liberating of middle classes and higher classes. It was less so of poor women who really
did not have the option to conscious in the feminist sense. So, I think that, pretty much,
the challenge in Argentina is making the revolution for those women. Of course there are
still middle class concerns that are very real, very material, and very concrete. Women
are earning less in the labor market, women being less in politics than of men, and that's
very real.
SM: What kind of resources does the government in Argentina provide rural
areas? Are they on an equal level as the more urban developed areas or are they on
completely different levels?
SG: There has been a change in Argentina in that, in the eighties and nineties
[1980's and 1990's] the policies were very much, particularly the policies geared towards
very poor people were very targeted. So, the coverage was very small. Most of the
people who got it were from urban areas particularly because that's where you get your
votes. Some things are changing, and there is a new policy in Argentina called the ( )
Universal Child Allowance that covers only half of the population that they should be
covering, but it is increasing. Rural areas are still a big problem, there is no
infrastructure. For instance, this policy is a conditional cash transfer policy that in
exchange for receiving a quantity of fixed money, women or men have to take their kids
to check ups and they have to attend school. Generally it's mostly women who do this.
The problem is that sometimes the clinics, or the salitas, in the very rural areas are not
good. The schools are very far. So, this conditionality in the policy is actually penalizing
rural areas.
SM: Infrastructure and access to schools, as you were just saying in rural areas—.
I don't know how to form my question, sorry. For instance, in a rural area, the type of
education they would have access to would not be a wide range of choices. Would they
just have access to maybe an elementary school that several communities had to travel to,
and then another high school would be in a different location? Are things set up like
that? So, not only is the quality of the schools lower than those in the urban more
developed, areas, but access requires commute? Is that, kind of, a set up that would be
typical in rural areas in Argentina?
SG: I think it really really depends on the area. I'm definitely not an expert on
this. But defiantly there are, and my mom had these stories. She and her brothers had to
commute, walk basically, a lot of miles in order to get to school. Sometimes in winter,
there was no snow, but raining and very cold. So, that makes it very hard. Sometimes
they have schools that are moving; so they are not fixed, or very small schools where
different levels go to the same classroom, for example. Something that I think is more
certain than what I said before, is the quality of the education is very different compared
to the urban, rich areas in the city of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, or Rosario. So, that's
definitely a big difference. These kids are in a disadvantage from the very beginning.
Even if they made it to school, which most of the kids do, the quality is very different.
The probability of them getting a better job is, really, very low.
SM: In the schools--. You were talking earlier on about how when you were in
the elementary school there were those programs where you had the "handicraft"
program and the men had the building program, but that's no longer there and
implemented in the school system. Did you have any sort of global perspective studies or
programs in elementary school or in high school apart from world history and apart from-
-? How other societies grow and how other cultures are. Did you have any sort of
anthropology or sociology type course?
SG: I think definitely not in elementary school. Elementary school was very
much traditional civics and citizenship, math, and language. I had English since the very
end. When I was ten, I started. So, not so much in elementary school. In high school it
was different. As I mentioned, my school was an English school, so it had an
international bacillary. That degree would, potentially, allow any student to go to college
in the UK. So, it had a different global perspective. Particularly in the sense that, in the
morning, we had all Spanish and in the afternoon it was completely English. The
courses that we took in the morning; math, physics, chemistry; were taught again in
English and from the British perspective. So, in that sense, it was definitely more global.
SM: When we talk about gender dynamics, in general, do you feel that there is a
strong representation of different spheres in which males and females interact or interact
with society here in the United States? Do you feel that--. That's not a good question.
[Pause] On a campus setting, that's hard to see because our role is as a student. Walking
around here, in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, do you see any sort of area where a certain
gender dominates? Or, do you see anything that might represent--. I don't know how to
word this.
SG: Yes, I think I understand what you are trying to say. It's really hard to tell
because I am a complete outsider and the experience in my life has been mostly as a
student or as a teacher, instructor. So, [I have] always [been] in a very, sort of, gated
community or this bubble that is education. Everybody is equal. There are definitely
some hints, and some things in the society, and things that I see as an outsider between a
lot of brackets. Definitely more men are working construction here. When my friends
are looking for baby sitters, they are generally women. So it's women doing their
traditional role as caretakers. But at the same time, again from a foreigner/outsider not
knowing the society that well, I do feel, and this is very subjective, I do feel more
comfortable here as a woman. So, I don't care that much of what I wear. For example,
in Argentina something that is very common is cat calling in the street; where men think
that is completely acceptable and that it is ok. They don't even understand why women
get angry when they cat call you, or they say something that is completely disgusting.
After that, as a woman, you feel that you have to wear bigger cloths or cover yourself a
little bit more. I feel that something fabulous, at least of campus and what I have seen, is
women dress as they want without any sort of, other than internal feelings, but not caring
of what men have to say. If they think about something, they will just keep it inside, they
will not more verbal, explicit. That, as a woman, makes me feel way better. I think
people are way more careful in what they --, how they refer to women. At least, the ways
of expression is different.
SM: Interesting. That is actually a perfect example. Almost as an outsider, it
makes it easier for you to see something like that because it's not what you've grown
accustomed to back at home. That's interesting. Do you think that norm, that—. Back in
Argentina, do you think that men who are comfortable cat calling or comfortable saying
horrid things to women in either sexual terms or other things... do you think that —. Why
do you think that has become such a common, normalized, activity for men? Why is—.
It's not like its being received by women well, why is this activity lingering around?
SG: I have no idea about what the origins are, but I can tell you that it is
something that even people I respect and love say things. I had my brother visiting in the
U.S. and I gave the rules of what not to do in the U.S. When a police man comes, you
don't try to bribe a police man. This is very obvious in Argentina. So you should shut up
and see what the police man has to say to you. Same thing with women. If you see a
woman you like, you just don't open your mouth. So he was frustrated. He was like why
are women like that in the U.S., and I said no. Women are the same as in Argentina; it's
just not ok to hit on a woman in the street shouting from your car. That's just not ok. So,
I have no idea about the origins, but it's definitely something that is widespread. It's
something that is across classes, across neighborhoods. I'm not saying that there are not
women who, maybe, appreciate it. It is just that, what if a woman doesn't?
SM: Yes. That's just interesting. When that does happen here in the U.S., it is
not highly looked on. It's not looked upon in a good way.
SG: Yes. I definitely found many things that I feel more comfortable in terms of
gender roles here in the U.S. compared to Argentina. One of the things is look upon
cheating, for example. Cheating in Argentina, particularly when men cheat, is not so bad.
SM: In a relationship?
SG: In a relationship, right. Exactly, cheating on your wife, cheating on your
girlfriend. I wouldn't say it's celebrated, but more or less. In the U.S., I feel that it is
something that is way more rejected. It's something you would hide from your friends,
your guy friend. I feel that that is definitely different in how they regard cheating on
someone else.
SM: In light of that, do you have experience with--, I guess I would say "mixed"
relationships? Do you have experience either in your experience or seeing friends that
have had two people in a relationship come from completely different backgrounds?
Have you seen a struggle, or a kind of tension, throughout the relationship because of
little variances like that? Have you seen anything like that?
SG: Right now, I've been dating for the past year, an American. So that is
culturally different I guess. But it's not so much. Our backgrounds are very different in
the sense that we lived all of our lives in, he's from New Jersey and I'm from Buenos
Aires sort of thing. But we are both PhD students and we have very similar interests and,
I think, both of us laugh a lot about the idea of how a person is shaped and constructed by
a nation and by the place in which that person was born. He lived in Buenos Aires for
two years and I lived here for three years. So, sort of, you don't lose your roots, but you
become a little bit more adaptable to different places and different cultures. So, I think
that makes it [so there's] not as many conflicts. I feel that I have way less conflicts with
my partner right now than maybe with a partner from Argentina; which backgrounds are
completely different in the sense that he might be a businessman and me in the academia.
Something like that, completely different activities.
SM: Is there anything that--. Let me scratch that question. Let me go and ask a
little bit about your family, in terms of your brothers. Did your brothers decide to go
ahead and pursue a career in the university or at least go through the university to pursue
a career? Or, did they take a different route?
SG: So they both entered the university. One of them wanted to become a lawyer
and then dropped school the third year and opened his own company. He's doing pretty
well in his own company so he has no interest in going back to college. The other one is
in college, studying, but he's doing it very slowly because he is working with my father
at the same time. I am really the first person in my family who finished college, and
finished in May and proceeding to a PhD. So, I think they did the thing that was most
expected; which is working in places that will give them material support, to put it some
way. Not, this sort of academic thing of having to move around the world and not
knowing really where you belong. So, we are doing very different things.
SM: Do any of them have a family?
SG: They don't, not yet. My older brother is thirty, and my younger brother is
SM: Do your parents, for example. Do they express interest, or a desire, for one
of you guys to start a family and have grandchildren? Do they express any sort of desire
in that?
SG: I think they do. They expect me less to have children because of the career
that I have chosen and that it is so unstable in the sense of where you are living or what
salary you are going to get. So I think they expect it more from them [my brothers] than
from me. But yes, they would like to have grandchildren
SM: Interesting. Your parents, now that you guys are not living at home. Do
your brothers live in the same area as your parents?
SG: Yes.
SM: Your father has his own company, and your mother--?
SG: My mother works from home. Sort of administering her apartment buildings,
apartments that she has.
SM: Do you think at large, after the feminist movement in Argentina, and here in
the United States, obviously had more impact in the more developed areas of society; big
cities with more financing and more voting leverage, and all that stuff where the
universities are. Do you think that there is an interest in the lower class? One of the
things you mentioned was the need for a type of movement or the lower classes in terms
of liberating these women and providing resources in order to help them move up in
terms of their socio-economic status. In terms of having childcare or having more
resources in order to facilitate their ability to join the labor force or just to move ahead.
Do you feel that there is general interest in this? In terms of academic discussion and in
terms of discussion on location, do you think that there is interest in this sort of
movement both here and in Argentina?
SG: The case I know most is Argentina, but I think there is definitely academic
interest, particularly in sociology, in studying the problematics of these women that are
trying to give policy advice to the government. Not that the government is going to read
any of this. But, the idea is that the idea is there. In terms of movements, I can't identify
any movement coming from poor women. There are definitely parties that mobilize poor
people, including women or NGO's that represent them. But this is like middle class,
white, people who speak with the voice of poor women. I think one thing that was thing
interesting that I saw making interviews in Peru was a woman that was part of the
indigenous movement in Peru. She was saying that the feminist revolution in Peru was
possible because we were taking care of the kids of these families. Now, who is going to
be taking care of our kids when we want to make a revolution? I think in countries like
Peru, like Bolivia, poverty is very associated with indigenous movements; people who
are not white, European descendents. In Argentina, indigenous movements are not even
organized. The communities are very small, they are very disarticulated. So, you have
very non-organized
SM: One of the things that I~. I had never been out of the country until this year.
Until going down to Mexico over spring break. One of the things that I found extremely
interesting was the disconnect within a community that didn't have the resources
available to more urban areas. It was a disconnect in terms of they did not understand
why resources were needed, or programs were trying to be developed in order to help the
long term sustainability of that community, or to help promote eventual development.
No community that I saw was trying to drastically change, because it wasn't
economically feasible for one little foundation to do that. But, a lot of the community
members, mainly in the older generations, possibly due to lack in communication, didn't
see the connection of having more education and having more resources available for
their children. Or beginning to start little business developments in order to sustain and
help support and provide more security for the community. When you say that the rural,
poor areas in Argentina there's that disarticulation, there's that no real organization or
movement on that level. Do you think that might have to do with a similar sort of
disconnection in terms of not understanding the concept behind what education is for?
Or, what small development is for? Or, what small investment into providing a more
sustainable and secure future? Do you think that there is a disconnect as well?
SG: Interesting. I think it really varies a lot across communities and across
neighborhoods. There are certainly many neighborhoods that are way more organized
than others. There are networks of citizens who are working together. I don't know,
organizing a soup kitchen, for example. There are very disarticulated government
programs that promote what you are talking about for starting a farm or starting your own
business. Or, I don't know, credit to start something very small and maybe make it
bigger. I think I would say it really depends. One of the things that has been very
negative for Argentine politics is for a lot of time, and into the present as well, the main
parties have had very clientalistic linkages with the societies. So, the poor people, and in
particular, understanding the provision of food and the provision of services as favors in
exchange for something else that you can call a vote, or a ( ). So many of these
programs or these plans are distributed with this "noncitizen" aims. These people are
being seen more cliental than as citizens. So, that is absolutely very problematic. But I
think education --. I think it's a very big problem in terms of quality, not so much in
terms of attendance.
SM: Sorry for asking you questions that are not necessarily your expertise. I am
just curious to hear your perspective of them because you are in the academic field, and I
know that you are more read in terms of more general issues regarding Argentina. I
know that you do not necessarily have lots of experience with lots and lots of rural
populations in Argentina, but it is interesting to hear your perspective because you are
knowledgeable about Argentinean policy. Argentine? [Laughter regarding Stephanie's
inability to choose the proper pronunciation].
SG: At least I can tell you something, as little as I know.
SM: No, it's excellent. It's interesting to me because Argentina is huge.
Geographically, it's a huge country. Do you have any idea in terms of the proportion of
the population who are classified as under the poverty line? Since this is your field, what
is the percentage currently?
SG: So currently, the numbers speak about a fifteen percent of poverty, more or
less. Some others speak of about nine percent of poverty. It really depends on what's
your source. This is very problematic because statistics in Argentina, since 2007, are not
very reliable in the sense that the central government intervened in the main statistic
institution. So, we are not sure if those numbers are very reliable.
SM: That was in 2007?
SG: 2007, yes. But, people speak of those numbers, from nine percent to fifteen
percent of the population. This is sort of a big achievement, if you consider that in 2001,
after the crisis, more than half of the population was below the poverty line. So, since
2001, of course this is contributing to the increasing price of commodities and that,
overall, Latin America as a region is doing better, Argentina is doing better. Definitely, it
also has to do with the current government's politics.
SM: Those numbers, anywhere from nine to fifteen with variances. Are those
people mainly urban poor or mainly rural poor? Or, is it a pretty equal percentage
amongst them?
SG: Most of the people live in cities. I mean, a third of the population lives in
Buenos Aires only.
SM: Wow.
SG: So, the whole country has an average of half a person per square kilometer.
Which is nothing, basically. But in Argentina, in Buenos Aires, many many people live
in the province. So, it's a third of the whole country. Most of the people are urban.
SM: Interesting. I know Argentina is not as big as Brazil, but I'm still imagining
Argentina as a big country.
SG: It's a huge country, yes.
SM: So the density is not equally spread out at all?
SG: Not even. Exactly.
SM: Very interesting. That makes sense why infrastructure is not up to par in
areas that are not urban, because they are so spread out. I know you said that the
program—, the Universal Child. I know that you said that it is a relatively new program
in that it is assisting children that need, families who need help to provide for their
families, to provide care. Are there any sorts of policies aimed at increasing
infrastructure in non-urban areas? Are there any goals, especially since the distribution is
so spread out? It's hard to pass a policy aimed at implementing lots of infrastructure
when it doesn't benefit a large population. I feel that it would something hard to pass as
a policy when there are more densely populated areas that need things. Has there been
any sort of--?
SG: Yes, that is not my area of expertise at all. There are definitely some,
because Argentina is a federal country. There are policies at the national level, the
provincial level, and the municipal level. So, in some provinces, most of the budget is
being executed, and is being used. There are some building of new clinics, and building
of--. Yes, so infrastructure more generally. There are provinces where this happens less.
SM: Is that proportional to--. Is there taxation in Argentina similar to that of taxes
here in the United States, or is it different?
SG: Sort of. Two main sources of revenue for the provinces; one is a
transference. It is called coparticipaciones, and that comes from the nation. That is
something that is automatic and it's given every year to the provinces. In order to
determine the formula, that determines how much money they will receive, that has to be
unanimously decided by all of the governors. So, that is a very, sort of, high role. It is
very hard to change the equation, the formula to receive the coparticipaciones, the
transferences. Then, the other sources of revenue are the local taxes, taxes that the
provinces can get themselves. They can set the base and the rate of particular taxes.
SM: That is why, proportionately, rural areas can't get, probably, enough revenue
to implement the things that are really necessary. Proportionately, the population is not
SG: Right, the population is sometimes not there, but also the way of
implementing certain policies is very different and the incentives that politicians have are
very different. The level of organization that the civil society has is very different. So,
it's harder to demand the, sort of, transparent implementation of a policy if you are not as
organized. For example, the city of Buenos Aires, you have controls all over for the
government to distribute policies transparently. In the more rural areas this is more
SM: I see. Well, thank you.
SG: You're welcome.
SM: You have been a great help. It's interesting because Buenos Aires,
comparatively, is one of the, I don't know what it is ranked as, is one of the most
developed Latin American cities. It's just interesting because it is really on par with what
I feel is here. But, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
SG: You're welcome. Thank you.