There I Was, Black in Buenos Aires

Sam McKenzie Jr.
6 min readFeb 20, 2017

For most people, an international journey involves stepping out of your cultural comfort zone. But for the Black traveler does international travel require a bigger leap?

When Black travelers cross borders and barriers, some may wonder to what extent racism resides across the lines. When I decided to quit my job and move to Buenos Aires for a year, I too had my own questions. I wondered what it was like to be Black in Buenos Aires.

To be more specific, I wondered if Argentines are racist.

I wondered if landlords on Airbnb and Craigslist would rent to me.

I also wondered if little kids would point at me and if people would want to take pictures with me.

Like many Black people, I wasn’t afraid of racism. Like many Black people, being the only one, or one of a few, was nothing new to me. But I really didn’t want to spend time and money traveling someplace only to experience discrimination. At the time, I didn’t think anyone needed to pay money to get those types of experiences which are, sadly, freely available.

So, while searching online for information about being Black in Buenos Aires, I came across this comment on a blog I want to share with you:

“Why would anyone want to visit a country that takes pride in being ‘white-only’ and diminishes the humanity of other human beings based solely on one’s ethnicity, nationality and or color of one’s skin???? That would be akin to a Jewish person visiting Germany in 1940… Why would any self-respecting person put him/herself in a situation where he/she may be dehumanized with belittling jeers and stares, as though one were a creature in the zoo on display for the pleasure of others, not to mention being treated as though one were invisible??? Why would any non-white person want to visit a RACIST country??? Again, I say it’s akin, to a Jewish person visit (sic) Germany in 1940 — it makes no sense…”

What do you say to that? After reading that, I began questioning if going to Buenos Aires was a good idea.

Maybe like me, you’ve read about how Argentina whited out its Black population.

Maybe, like me, you’ve read about how people in Argentina treated a Black student like a prostitute almost every day.