My final excursion in Argentina was an absolutely incredible way to end my program. Last Thursday I took a bus from Buenos Aires to the northern tip of Argentina, a place called Iguazú. The national park there is enormous and overlaps the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. I even got to see the place where the three borders intersect! The day I arrived, my group was taken into the jungle to visit a tribe of indigenous people called the Guaraní. When I learned about this part of the excursion, I felt a little uncomfortable about going into the jungle to look at the way a tribe of people lives differently than I do. I learned that they used to be semi-nomadic but now they live off tourism and selling their artisan crafts because they can’t travel and hunt anymore due to the development of urban society. While this made me sad, I decided I would rather support them in the only way that I could, so I went and learned a bit about their culture and bought some of their handmade crafts. The guide talked to us about their history and showed us the wooden traps they used to use to catch animals for food. He also told us about their system of government. They normally elect a new leader every 3-4 years, but the current leader has been in place for 27 years now and is responsible for providing the people with running water, electricity, elementary and high school, and most importantly, the title for the land in which they live. I do appreciate learning about other cultures that are different from mine which is why I travel. However, I still feel conflicted about visiting a tribe of people as a tourist. We didn’t go to where they actually live but watching the people that were there and being told to take pictures with them felt like I was visiting a zoo, which made me uncomfortable. These are people just like me, even if they do live differently.
On the other hand, the national park was amazing. Though I was only able to visit a small part of it, what I did see was incredible. There were huge waterfalls that spanned multiple kilometers and mist that made rainbows at almost every angle. In addition to the amazing scenery, there was an array of species of wildlife throughout the park. I couldn’t begin to count the number of butterflies that circled my group every step of the way. That was really cool because they were not afraid to land on our heads, hands, or shoulders. There were a couple of gorgeous blue and purple butterflies that stayed on my hand for about 20 minutes while I walked from the first set of falls to the river, where I rafted down to the next point. I also saw a toucan, a family of monkeys, and a ton of raccoon-like animals called coatis. Coatis aren’t afraid of humans at all, unlike toucans. They came right up to my group looking for food. They were pretty cute, but we weren’t allowed to feed or pet them because they can be dangerous sometimes. We saw multiple falls from multiple angles, each with their own breathtaking view. I’m really starting to realize that seeing things like that with my own eyes is absolutely worth traveling to the other side of the world.
Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.