An international mural series connecting creators.
Una serie internacional de murales conectando creadores.
Who’s my audience I wonder?
Me, and beyond myself. My family, my friends, both sides of the world, this hemisphere divided and united by people. I’m stretching myself, like a ballerina warming up—not quite graceful, but getting stronger, toughening my toes. Argentina is kicking my ass. Every day is hard and wonderful too. Human relationships are so complicated, and I’ve been gone for a year and a half. And now I’m back. It’s the first time I’ve ever returned somewhere other than California. There’s a sense of permanence and belonging even in all the strangeness. I can’t explain even to myself what it’s like to discover myself in a town of 300 people in the middle of Argentina AGAIN, with the same mix of absolute accident and intention.
The first time I ever came to Prospe I knew I’d come back here. Out of all the places in the world I’ve had the good fortune to discover, this tiny rural town has me hooked. This kitchen is my own. The curtains in the doorway mean home. I’ll be leaving this place soon enough, just as I so recently left my home in California 2 weeks ago. I believe there will come a time in my life when I’m looking for a place in the world to anchor myself, but right now I’m looking for my internal home. I’m developing the magnetism of my core, and I’m going from one pole to the other as part of the process.
Just in this short time of reuniting with my friends in Prospe, they’ve already cracked me open various times.
They yanked my yanki heart out by insisting that we were not going to put locks on the doors of the car and I was going to have to stop being so paranoid and start trusting people. The sense of loss of control made me flip and I sobbed inconsolably while they apologized for going to far with their joke. My friends are brutes. I love them for it, because they don’t pussyfoot around. They’re going to tell it the way it motherfucking is. And sometimes it’s motherfucking wonderful and sometimes it’s motherfucking hard to hear. But they’re not scared, or at least, fear isn’t what guides them. Fear guides me. It’s not the only point on my compass, but it’s always in the balance. I want to do it right, I want to win. I want to know I thought of everything I could so it all works out according to plan. But as my dear friend Sasha likes to quote, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” Noe, the eldest daughter of the Giurda family, knows all too well that reality doesn’t obey plans.
Noelia married young and had two baby boys who were loved and cared for except that, she discovered when the oldest son was 4 years old, they were being sexually abused by their father. It was nearly impossible to except this as reality since this was her husband, the father of her children, her own father’s friend, a man who was respected in the community and loved by her family, but as evidence of the abuse came out, along with evidence of a history of abuse within the husband’s family, Noe got her kids away from their abuser. She spent four years trying to bring the case to court so that their safety could be assured. But the judicial system is not always just, and Enzo and Valentino’s father family includes a judge and a district attorney. Noe and the boys eventually left their home in Prosperidad and moved to the nearby city of San Francisco, Córdoba where they didn’t have to fear being accosted at public events or stalked at their home. I had the privilege of helping them move into their new home a year and a half ago, just a few days before I left Argentina, and Enzo proudly showed me that he had lost his first tooth.
None of this was part of the plan, Noe reminds me, but this is the life that she’s got. She’s a single mother of two beautiful boys who today are joys to be around, but needed extensive therapy to stop reliving the terrors of their early childhood. Occasionally, Noe and her boys come back to Prospe to spend time with their grandfather and uncles. This Saturday was one of those occasions, when Grandpa Giurda sang in the choir and tío (uncle) David danced traditional folklore. Before we all got out of the car, Noe warned us: the family of the Enzo’s and Vale’s father would probably be there, and if they tried to get close the boys were to get away from them and find an adult immediately. Since Noe was headed back to the house to round up the rest of the extended family, I was the designated adult.
As we pulled up to the event, Noe pointed out the “abuela” (the mother of her ex-husband), a hulking figure dressed all in black. As I spotted her, the woman touched her eye in a menacing signal of “ojo” or “look out.” Minutes later, as I stood with seven children (Enzo, Vale, and various cousins) at the entrance of the event. As we counted off—summer camp habits are way too fun to give up—I saw the “abuela” descending on little 6-year old Valentino with arms outstretched. I stepped forward and put myself in between them, stretching out my arm to block her, saying “NO.” The crazy bitch hit me. Seriously, the woman smacked me in the jaw. Fortunately and unfortunately, her blow was accidentally diffused by Nicolás, one of the cousins who had rushed to my side to protect Vale. Split between the two of us, she didn’t do much damage. I stood there facing her without saying anything as she mumbled strange things like, “I know you” (she doesn’t). Most of the kids scrambled back to the car immediately, and the staring contest was finally broken when Noe called out to me that she had the boys in the car and would take them home. The dark “abuela” grumbled, “mejor así” or “better that way” and lumbered away into the event hall. The kids who were still there with me and I regrouped, and the small crowd that witnessed the scene began to buzz with both normal and forced conversation. As news of what happened spread to the rest of the Giurda family, they came up to me to make sure I was fine and to say, laughing as we do in the face of things we cannot control, “welcome to the family.”
I slept until 3pm today because after the event (yes, the show went on and yes, the “abuela” was there the whole time), I went with David and Noe to report the incident to the police in San Francisco. We tried to report it to the local police in Prosperidad, but they have made it clear that they want nothing to do with the case. Isra (David and Noe’s brother) likes to say that something good always comes out of the bad, and in this case he may be right. The police woman who took down my report was extremely professional and took to heart the background story of Enzo and Vale’s sexual abuse and has given Noe important advice on how to go forward with the case which had gone dormant after years of fruitless struggle.
So here I am, called here God knows why, participating in the life events of the Giurda family. We all agreed that as strange as it is, I was the perfect person for this to happen to. Everyone else would have reacted by jumping the bitch and tearing out her hair (the kids accentuated that this is what they would like to do), but my California cool meant that there was no confusion about who the aggressor was in the situation, and finally there is some official legal evidence of the violence that has been going on for years.
To keep it real, David, Noe and I stopped for icecream before heading back to Prospe at 5am in the morning.
The fields have flooded with rain, there is so much family everywhere, we’re eating delicious asados (grilled meat), I’m planning art projects with the Giurda sisters and navigating a society that’s so different and yet just as human as the one I was born into, and goddamn it feels good to be in Argentina.
Surprise me, universe. I know you will over and again and I’m liking the discomfort.
December 2, 2013