I’m writing this blog sitting on the sidewalk outside a theater, waiting for my fellow exchange students to show up so we can watch a Norwegian melodrama translated into Spanish for the next hour and half of our lives. I’ve got some Leona Lewis tunes cranked and am honestly pretty darn content.
My life in Buenos Aires since the first couple of weeks, what with our impromptu Patagonia excursion, Lollapalooza, and then Uruguay, has calmed down tremendously. Weekends consist of catching up on much needed sleep, because between the heat and the constant stress of overflowing public transportation, everyone has come to the conclusion that exhaustion is pretty much our constant state of being. School is in full swing, which means 75 plus pages of Spanish articles a week, a Spanish detective novel about the black market of buying and selling horses, and the looming promise of presentations in Spanish in front of a classroom full of native Spanish speakers. While daily life as a student in Argentina ha become fairly routine, what has been new and different and exciting has been my internship with a semi-socialist newspaper, La Izquierda.
As part of my concentration at IFSA-Butler, Human Rights and Diversity, I am required to do an internship over the course of the semester with an NGO that focuses on themes relating to diversity, gender rights, or more generally, human rights. As soon as I saw the list of organizations we could choose from, and it was an impressive list (think along the lines of Amnesty International), I knew that I needed to somehow worm my way back into a newspaper office through the one internship at a paper listed, as I am desperately missing the Badger Herald and our slightly grungy student paper. Thankfully, the woman who coordinates the internships caught my drift, whether it was because I only included recent work experience from newspapers and other writing jobs, my list of talents that almost exclusively highlighted my admittedly limited knowledge of InDesign, or because my personal statement was egregiously full of references to my love for the media, and placed me at the newspaper, La Izquierda.
When I say semi-socialist, I mean that the newspaper is very closely affiliated with one of the further left parties in Argentina, a party that the supporters of Bernie Sanders would be big fans of. La Izquierda focuses a lot on reporting social issues, with many of its writers and editors themselves active members of the leftist movement in Argentina, especially here in Buenos Aires. While the paper does have typical newspaper sections, reporting international news or financial stories, it focuses much more on gender and diversity, indigenous rights, and other specific areas where the left perceives there are either misperceptions or mistreatments, possibly both, of a section of society in Argentina. La Izquierda, while affiliated with the left party, does not solely publish content to further the party’s agenda, nor is it required to publish stories that support its actions or condemn its opponents. Therefore, while more politically biased than most mainstream media sources in the United States, La Izquierda maintains its autonomy to publish unique pieces offering insights into pertinent and pressing social issues, most of which are more liberally leaning than not, that challenge readers to approach an oftentimes taboo or under-discussed topic from a new perspective.
As part of the internship, I will be working with a fellow IFSA student to write and publish articles about the current Congressional debate surrounding the potential legalization of abortion in Argentina. Unbeknownst to me, I arrived in Argentina as a historic shift in the rhetoric surrounding abortion was happening, resulting in the opening of unprecedented political discussion about the possibility of decriminalizing abortion, making it legal and free in the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy. The current law rules abortion illegal in all but two situations: if a woman is raped or if the pregnancy is severely threatening to her health. Therefore, hundreds to thousands of woman annually receive unsafe, unsanitary abortions, or choose to take matters into their own hands to end their pregnancy. Unsafe abortions account for a third of maternal deaths in Argentina, a figure far too high and far too preventable to ignore. In the eyes of many lawmakers, Argentine women, and myself, it is high time that the law changes to protect women and allow them to reclaim their own bodies to protect their health and the health of their peers who are able to conceive. Not only has it been empowering to witness the feminist movement fight for women’s rights to their bodies, but it has opened up opportunities for myself to spend my semester researching and writing about a topic I am passionate about in a political and cultural context that I otherwise would never have become familiar with. So far myself and my fellow IFSA student at La Izquierda have written a grand total of one article, but not without hours upon hours spent on research and constructing grammatically incorrect Spanish sentences trying to adequately explain to ourselves and to our future readers the intricacies of two Argentine court cases regarding arbitrary punishments doled out to women who, for various reasons, interrupted their pregnancies.
The work I have had the privilege of doing so far with La Izquierda not only has shown me how a newspaper is run in a different country, which is invaluable experience to have both as a member of a student paper in Madison and as a future professional in journalism, but has given me an incredibly unique opportunity to interact with a historical political moment in Argentina in a way very few students are lucky enough to have.