What’s it like being a Jamaican living in Argentina?
Interviews

What’s it like being a Jamaican living in Argentina?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Argentina? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with André Sinclair. He is a Jamaican who lives in Argentina.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Argentina? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com, and today in Jamaicans to the World we talk to Andre Sinclair; a Jamaican who is living in Argentina. Welcome, Andre, how you doing?

Andre: Thank you, Xavier. I’m doing fine. Thank you for having me on the show. How are you doing?

Xavier: I’m doing good. So the first question is this one, which paat (part) a Jamaica yuh (you) come from?

Andre: Everybody dun (done) know seh (that) yow (hey), Swallowfield Kingston, born and raised. I spend the majority of my life there until I left in 2015.

Xavier: Okay and which school you’re representing, because we know we are big into our school down there.

Andre: Well, I was fortunate to have attended Jamaica College.

Xavier: Oh! are you serious?

Andre: I’m serious, serious. I’m not serious.

Xavier: Dude, do you know which school I went to? The great Jamaica College.

Andre: Brother.

Xavier: My perfect brother.

Andre: What years did you attend?

Xavier: Well I’m too old.

Andre: That’s fine. My older brother went there and my uncle went there. So maybe you have only seen one of them.

Xavier: Yeah, we can catch up on that but in 85 is when I left JC; so quite a while back. Andre, tell us the story of how you ended up in Argentina.

Andre: Alright, well I think it’s an interesting story. So after I’d finished university in Jamaica, I wanted to do further studies but my professors were like, you know, you’ve lived your entire life in Jamaica; you should go somewhere else, experience somewhere different. I mean, I like that point of view so I looked around, but I didn’t want to go to, countries that speak English because we speak English and, the culture is different but it has many similarities. So I wanted to go somewhere that was completely different and actually, I wasn’t thinking of Argentina. I was thinking of the Netherlands and what happened was I had to pay the university application with I think it was a postal order or a credit card and I wanted to be sure, but because I just left university, I was really young. I didn’t have a credit card yet. So I asked a friend to pay the fee for me, the application fee. I gave him the money and he delayed until the deadline passed. I had to either wait another year to reapply or go somewhere else and a friend told me about Argentina, and I went to the embassy there in New Kingston and spoke to them, and then after maybe two or three months I took a plane and came here.

Xavier: That is interesting. So Argentina was the second choice at this point in time.

Andre: Yes.

Xavier: Let’s keep in mind, and you’re still there.

Andre: I’m still there and I’ve left here and I’ve came back here, I’ve gone to other countries, and I’ve been back here. Still here.

Xavier: There seems to be something that draws you back there. What do you love about Argentina?

Andre: There are a few things or now many things but a few of the things that stand out is especially the city where I live. I think it’s more a tourist city, being that there are many foreigners that are attracted to this city. I’ve met people from any country that you can imagine; from Tunisia, from Russia, from Hungary, from South Africa, and I’ve made friends with people all over the world. For some strange reason they all come here, I’m not certain why. Well, the city I live in is called Rosario; is actually the city where Messi is from and Di Maria. Jamaicans get crazy when I tell them that back home. He lives in the same city as Messi, I’m like yes, but you know he doesn’t live here.

Xavier: It’s a city that attracts a lot of foreigners as you say, and I guess is there anything that you don’t like about Argentina? Apart from it being far from Jamaica, is there anything that you’d say, I don’t really like this?

Andre: Oh, there is one thing that, again stands out in my mind and it stands out on the street everytime I go outside; is you have to be careful how you walk on the streets because it’s not dangerous. I think it’s very, very safe. The Argentines, they’ll tell you that, hey, don’t go out after dark because it’s dangerous and whenever I go out, like skateboarding, like 2, 3, 4 am in the morning, you’ll see the same Argentines walking their dogs. It’s really funny but what you need to watch out for on the street is the dog droppings. It’s everywhere and the government has a real problem with that. It’s a bit annoying because Argentines think it’s good luck to step in dog droppings. You will see footprints with that all over the street, so they have to wash the streets daily.

Xavier: That is very interesting. I know we have some superstitions. I remember I have an uncle that used to say, if a woman sneezes on you, I think that’s how it guh (goes), a woman sneezes on you, it’s bad; but if a man sneezes on you, it’s good. This has been the most interesting one along those lines that I’ve ever heard.

Andre: Yes.

Xavier: As a Jamaican there, when people realize or find out, Andre is Jamaican, maybe you have one experience that you remember. They find out you’re Jamaican and they seh (say) you’re Jamaican, you know, some expression, something. What typically happens when people find out you’re Jamaican, and maybe you have one experience again that you remember?

Andre: Well, one experience that I remember; there was this girl once when she found out I was from Jamaica. First of all, as you said, there are countless experiences. I’m sure you’ve experienced this all over the world too, but one that really stood out is, she said, “Oh, you’re from Jamaica?” And I’m like, yes, and she says, “So, in which part of Africa is it? And I said, “No, it’s not in Africa.” And she said, “Oh no, you don’t understand, like, is it in West Africa, North Africa, South Africa.” I mean, like South Africa, the country? I said, “No, it’s in the Caribbean.” She said, “The Caribbean, that’s like near to Africa,” but I had to explain it, most people think that. I don’t know why they associate Jamaica and Africa.

Xavier: Do they know about, I mean, typically here, they know Bob Marley, they know Usain Bolt; do they typically?

Andre: Yes they do, and their favorite Jamaican movie is Cool Runnings and it’s extremely popular here. Everyone loves it.

Xavier: Go ahead, sorry.

Andre: No, they’re like, hey you guys don’t even have ice and you guys did that. I’m like, yes, we like to, you know, what we say a lot, we try our hand at everything but here there’s a lot of ice so they’re accustomed to it.

Xavier: Is language a barrier for you? Because when earlier you said, you wanted to go somewhere where you speak a different language. Is language still a barrier for you? Or have you mastered it, I think it’s Spanish, right?

Andre: Yes, it’s Spanish.

Xavier: Okay. So is it still a barrier for you or you’re good now?

Andre: I’m good now, but at the beginning it was horrible and we have a joke that, like, no one says yes more affirmative or more stronger than a foreigner that doesn’t know what you’re saying to him. They’re like, hey are you cool? Yes. Are you lost? Yes. Or you probably just sitting at home but everything is a yes, but the confusion that I had before, especially here in Argentina, they speak a dialect of Spanish. It’s not Spain Spanish, it’s a dialect they call it Castellano. You know in the other countries, for example, Mexico, it might sound different, in Argentina. I make a joke sometimes saying I keep forgetting that you guys don’t speak Spanish. When I say Spanish words to them and they don’t understand me, like in the supermarket, they have the same thing in Spanish and they’re like, no, we don’t have that. I’m like yes, it’s right behind you and they’re like, oh, and they say a word in Castellano and I’m like, yes, I keep forgetting you guys don’t speak Spanish, I’m sorry. Well, that still happens.

Xavier: What’s a popular, Castashano yuh (you) said?

Andre: Yeah, Castashano.

Xavier: What’s a popular Castashano word? You know like we have; mi (I) soon cum (come), or ketch yuh pon di strong (catch you tomorrow), or likkle (little) more or whatever. What’s a popular Castashano slang?

Andre: I’m not certain, for example, when they greet each other or they normally say ‘capo’, or depending on where you’re from, if it’s like people in the neighborhood, they probably say ‘compa’; which is short for ‘compañero’ or ‘gaucho’.

Xavier: Is like, yow mi brethren? (hey my friend)

Andre: Exactly. Basically, we say ‘gaucho’ which is I think it’s from the word ‘gaucho’, which is from the ranches in the past that occupied Buenos Aires, but you know, like the ‘g’ is silent, so it sounds like ‘waucho’.

Xavier: We guh (going to) move on to food.

Andre: Yes.

Lasagna

Xavier: What is the food, that if I visit Argentina or a Jamaican visit Argentina you said, you got to try this. You’ve got to try this food. What would it be?

Andre: Well, it’s probably just a personal favorite for me but it’s Lasagna. They’re very, very good at pasta here because of the roots, it’s from Italy and they have a lot of parents, grandparents; most of them are from like Italy. They cook a lot of pasta, pizza, a lot of saucy things that you put on top of just any type of noodles or such, but my favorite would be Lasagna and I had some incredible Lasagna, but it’s not that easy to cook here for anyone. Sometimes you get it and it’s flat and sometimes you get it and it’s the best thing; but if you like dessert, again, I think it’s an Italian dessert. It’s called Tiramisu. Have you tried it?

Argentina – Tiramisu

Xavier: No, I haven’t. The thing I hear the most about with Argentina is the Steak.

Andre: Yes, I was getting to that. The meat here, I think it’s the best. Well, it’s renowned as the best in South America and I’m sorry, I say meat because in Spanish, but the beef here, it’s the best in South America. It’s really delicious and the way they cook it, it’s incredible because they will cook it, I don’t know, in 5 or 10 minutes and it’s ready and you don’t die after you eat it. It’s really good, and the wine.

Xavier: I had a friend that used to cook strips of steak and, it was my daughter’s friend and the friend moved out to college, right. My daughter’s friend moved out to college, I was like, when is he coming back so we can stop by there because he just made this awesome steak and he just kept feeding him. He was just like come for more, here on the grill, come for more.

Andre: Yeah, they love stuffing you with food here and the wine too, it’s great. So if you come to Argentina you need to try the wine, all of them, but don’t limit yourself to one.

Xavier: You had said in terms of the culture itself, and the people, you know, are there similarities you saw to Jamaicans that, you can say bwoy (boy) this is very similar to what we do in Jamaica or so on. Tell us a little bit about that, the people and the culture itself.

Andre: No, there are no similarities, zero. There is nothing common, everything is different here. The culture is different, the language, the weather, the food, but I mean in terms of the culture; for example, if you greet someone, Argentines normally they greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek and sometimes both cheeks and they do that when they are saying goodbye too, which is not a good thing when there is a pandemic around. The government had to tell them to stop doing this and stop sharing what they call Mate (maté), which is a drink that is made of Yerba Mate leaves, and hot water, and they put a straw in it; a metal straw and they pass it around to maybe everyone in the room and everyone drinks from the same straw but because it’s boiling hot there is zero chance of getting sick, but the government was like hey stop kissing each other, stop sharing Mate, but that’s part of the culture where they kiss you. When I just came here, people would walk up to me and try to kiss me when they’re saying hello. The men do this too and I would be like, no, I’m from Jamaica, we don’t do that, I’d probably shake your hand but it’s just the culture. It’s not like they’re in love with you or anything.

Sharing Maté – Drink with Metal Straw

Xavier: I see. So in terms of attractions there and things to see; if there’s one attraction or one place that you’d say to visit Argentina, and it could be something simple Andre, it could be something simple. If you visit Argentina, you have to go see this?

Andre: There are, I think, three places that jump off my head. The first one I’ve been to already and it’s the Andes Mountains, they are extremely beautiful. I mean, I’m from Jamaica, so I’ve seen like lush, green, beautiful mountains but these are different and they’re still beautiful. For example, the mountain is made of rocks, and rocks in very strange colors. I’ve seen a mountain made of red, like red stone, a completely red mountain, a completely yellow mountain and it was amazing but apart from that, there are also the salt lakes in the north; where like the ground is completely made of salt and it looks like goes on for miles, and it’s incredible. Apart from that, there is the Southern, always frozen all the time, because you know, it’s close to the bottom of the world, Antarctica and you can go like skiing and snowboarding there but it’s cold, but it’s not as cold as the city where I live. Let me say it’s cold, but where I live because there’s so much humidity, it feels like your fingers are going to drop off. It’s cold and it’s bearable because there’s no humidity.

Xavier: Let me ask you this; you’re a skateboarder you say, so have you gone snowboarding and so on?

Andre: Not yet because I hate the cold. Every time I decided to go and then I’m like, oh, this is winter is really cold maybe next winter, but I need to do it.

Xavier: When you land in Jamaica, what’s the first thing you go for? What’s the food? What’s the first thing yuh (you) seh (say) bwoy (boy) I land in Jamaica, I haffi (have to) get some a dis (of this)

Andre: KFC. I haven’t had KFC in years, because KFC just came to the city in December of last year. So all of that time we didn’t have KFC and I mean as soon as it came then in January the pandemic broke out so it close down, and the cooking, everything; the seasoning, it’s much different from what you would eat in Jamaica. In Jamaica, we use a lot of seasoning in our food. Here it’s a bit different. It is more basic like salt and pepper. If you put too much black pepper, they’ll probably tell you it’s too spicy. For example, the spicy fried chicken here in KFC, it doesn’t exist.

Xavier: What you miss the most about Jamaica? Apart from the food, what do you miss the most?

Andre: The heat, obviously. I’m always cold here, even right now it feels a bit cold for me even though it’s spring. For example, the work ethic just being able to do whatever I want for maybe 24/7 if I want. Here, they emphasize relaxing, and you know, taking a break a lot, but I don’t know if it’s because I was in Kingston that I have a workaholic work ethic and Kingston facilitates that. So here, in Spanish culture, they have this thing called siesta. In English, it means a nap. So from 1 pm to 5 pm every day, everybody just closes everywhere and they go to sleep and then they return at five and I’m like, hey, why are you guys sleeping in the most productive part of the day? But then they open until later hours so that took me a while to get accustomed to when I just came here because I was not on vacation again. I would wake up maybe midday and at one I would go and try to find food and everywhere would be closed. It took me a while.

Xavier: I guess that’s what goes into my next question, which is the advice you would give a Jamaican moving to Argentina and I think you just kinda touched on one a bit, you say siesta.

Andre: Yes, wake up early.

Xavier: Any other words of advice for anyone that’s thinking of moving to Argentina, a Jamaican thinking of moving there?

Andre: Yes, be very open-minded. So, as I said, there is nothing in common between the cultures, there is nothing in common geographically or anything at all; so be very open-minded and it will only help you because, I mean, if you come here, two things can happen, I mean, you’ll go through culture shock, but it will be either that you like it or you hate it. I mean, I’ve been through the culture shock where I rejected everything else; I hated this cold, I don’t like the food, but once you open your mind to it and try to enjoy for example, there are many things to enjoy every country has something to offer. You just need to be able to look for what is available to you to enjoy.

Xavier: Good words. Andre thank you for sharing your story with us, really appreciate you spending the time. I see you representing with your Jamaican chain.

Andre: Always, I never take it off.

Xavier: You know, always continue to represent us. I don’t know if you have any closing words if you can say and also say goodbye in, I not going try to pronounce their dialect, but goodbye in that, and we close from there. Any closing words and if you could tell us goodbye in the language?

Andre: I’ll tell you goodbye in the language. It’s a simple one word phrase. Actually, they say ‘ciao’, which is Italian but in Italian, it means hello and here it means goodbye; which is funny because we kind of do the same thing in Jamaica when you call a Jamaican house at night, we say hello, good night and people get confused, like, did you just hang up. So they say ‘ciao’.

Xavier: Well Andre, ‘ciao’, and we will catch up and thanks again for sharing your story. You have a good day sir.

Andre: Thanks for having me Xavier and have a good day as well.

Photo Source: DepositPhotos

About the author

Xavier Murphy