By: Tahyia Alvi
While Hispanic Heritage Month may have concluded for the year on Oct. 15, our appreciation for our Hispanic community members knows no end date. This issue, we highlight Dr. Carlos Lisoni of the Political Science department here at IU South Bend.
From having multiple publications in the Journal of Politics in Latin America, to getting his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, to winning the Associate Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award in 2019, Dr. Lisoni has done it all. For this week’s issue, we wanted to learn more about his culture, including his experience growing up in Argentina, his favorite childhood memories, his inspirations and the importance of learning about one’s own culture in our globalized world. Read on for a question-and-answer session with Dr. Lisoni.
Tahyia Alvi: How important is celebrating the Hispanic Heritage month to you? Is there anything special you do to commemorate your culture this month? How easy or difficult is it for you to keep your culture intact while living in the United States?
Dr. Lisoni: Hispanic Heritage Month is a pretty new thing to me. In fact, I became aware of it once I joined the IUSB community. This month is an opportunity to see us; to see ourselves as part of a larger community. There may be just a few people from Argentina, there may be just a few people from Honduras, Colombia, etc., however, we do share many cultural characteristics. Also, even though there may be, for example, political differences, we do share, in some respects, a common history, a common experience from countries that are poorer than the United States. At the same time, this month is an opportunity to look at one another and understand the challenges that we may face in this country; that we are together.
I came to the United States more than 20 years ago, and I feel fortunate enough to be able to keep in touch with my country of origin, Argentina, and stay in touch with my family, literally, on a daily basis thanks to the new technologies, as well as keeping in touch with the news.
I have also been fortunate enough to travel yearly to see my family back home and bring my daughters to see their family. Both my daughters are fluent in Spanish as well, and I’m very proud of that. Since they were born I wanted to instill in them an Argentine culture by reading children’s literature, by listening to TV and the radio or watching cartoons from Argentina, by singing lullabies in Spanish. My wife and I have made an effort not to simply teach them Spanish, but to learn about the history and the culture of Argentina. I will regularly put out the Argentine flag on occasion of a special celebration or even during a soccer game of the Argentine national team.
T.A.: Is there a favorite childhood memory, being in your hometown, that brings you joy?
D.L.: I am originally from a small town in southern Argentina in the Patagonia region. When I was a kid, we played fútbol (like everybody does) on a gravel field, on a dirt field. I did not play on a grass soccer field until I traveled to New Zealand as an exchange student.
I enjoy telling my daughters stories of when I was a kid; for example, on the weekends we as a family would go fishing or for a barbecue to the countryside, and my brother and I would chase sheep in the open fields, or we would simply throw rocks trying to cross the river or make a fire to grill or to stay warm. Of course, back in the 80s in southern Argentina, there was only one TV channel and the cartoons were at 5 in the afternoon. Watching television was not really what we wanted to do as kids. We would play sports all day or ride our bikes.
T.A.: What’s your current favorite Hispanic artist and song? What’s a song you’d recommend us to listen to?
D.L.: I like to listen to all sorts of music. There are very many beautiful songs that make me think of Argentina and his tumultuous history. However, one song that I play for my students in my Latin American politics class is not from Argentina and it is by a group called Calle 13, and the song is called Latinoamérica. That song summarizes much of the difficulties people in our region face and it summarizes some of its history, as well.
T.A.: Which celebrities from your country bring you pride? Do you think they are representative of your culture and country?
D.L.: There are many people, many celebrities that I feel proud of as Argentines. And they are in different fields of science, sports and politics. Diego Maradona, for example. This soccer player was born in poverty, in a very poor family and he went to the top of the world. And he never forgot his origins, standing up to the powerful in the soccer organizations. Eva Perón died at the age of 33, and in just six or seven years she fought for the poor and marginalized in Argentina; Evita remains in the hearts of the people in my country.
T.A.: What would be some great ways for non-Hispanic individuals to celebrate this month?
Of course, being a political science professor, I think that one way to celebrate Hispanic heritage month would be to watch movies either, from Latin America or about Latin America. However, what I do in one of my classes, and that I would recommend, is reading the book Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano (Las venas abiertas de América Latina). This is probably the one book I will recommend for Hispanic people and non-Hispanic people to read and learn about Latin America.