Bianca Pierce, a young woman from Argentina, is committed to keeping Greek culture alive in her country.
By Bianca Pierce
I think I have written and erased this text about three hundred times since it is difficult for me to put into words what I feel for Greece. But I will start from the beginning.
I am Bianca Pierce. I am 24 years old; I am a member of and also teach Greek dance at the San Nicolás Hellenic Association in Comodoro Rivadavia, a city in the province of Chubut, Argentina.
Yes, I am part of an organization that brings Greeks together despite being more than 13 thousand kilometers away from the country.
My Greek community was established in 1937 with the first Greeks who arrived to the city, attracted by the great job opportunities that, at the time, the prosperous oil industry offered.
It was a group of Greeks who, on August 8th, met to form a non-profit civil association, with a single purpose: to continue with their customs, religion, and culture.
Over the years with the economic contribution of its members, it was possible to obtain the land which became the principal venue for our activities. In the beginning, the building only had a small chapel called “San Nicolás”, but developed and grown.
We were very flattered when our city named a boulevard in a historic neighborhood “Greek Descendants,” and one of the city streets “Greece” in honor of the first Greek immigrants. It was a sign of appreciation to the contribution in the development of Comodoro Rivadavia.
Keeping Greek culture alive in Argentina
To this day, we keep our culture alive by participating in diverse events. In my Greek community, there are four dance groups, divided by age. Currently, I have the honor of being one of the Greek dance teachers in two of these groups. We meet and practice every week in order to reflect how much we love Greece in our dances. The aim of dancing is to allow each person to connect with their Greek roots and represent their love for the Greek culture in every dance performance.
In addition to the annual celebration of Greek national dates like Greek Independence, Orthodox Easter, the birthday of our community’s establishment, and Historical OXI, we also have the opportunity to represent Greece annually in a massive event organized by the city in commemoration of the immigrants who came long ago.
For three days, the Greek community presents itself through its dances and its traditional dishes. At these kind of events, you can clearly see how much love there is by the members of the commission, dancers and collaborators, that prepare the booths, dances, and the food itself for sale.
Today, the Greek community is integrated by Greeks, descendants and philhellenes with an only purpose: to keep a small portion of Greece alive in southern Argentina.
From my experience, it is very difficult to explain my feelings since I do not have Greek descent, and I am aware that it is difficult to understand how someone can have so much love for something so distant since I am separated from Greece by more than thirteen thousand kilometers.
However, this Greek community not only made me the person I am today but also taught me to love and admire a culture very unlike my own, respect the Greek national dates as if they were my own, learn the dances, and be interested in learning the language in order to feel a little closer to Greece without actually being Greek.
I want to make note of the love and respect I have for the work of an entire commission in charge of maintaining the facilities, as well as the dance coordinators who passionately and thoughtfully teach each dance and the presidents who have left their mark on the Greek community as a whole. Thanks to these individuals, I have developed a strong sense of belonging and love for Greece.
At times, I have envisioned myself talking to those who were the founders of what I consider my home and telling them about how their descendants so skillfully not only transformed four walls into a home for Greeks but also passed along the nuances of what it is to be Greek to descendants and philhellenes alike—because Greece has become a part of our lives.
After being in touch with the culture for so many years and even having recently begun to study the language, I consider myself Greek. I have never needed papers that tell me otherwise because I know that feelings are stronger than logic or documentation. Of course, I love and respect being Argentinian, but there is a small void in my heart because, physically, I am far from the place I love.
I am happy to tell you that all this love that I am talking about is that which I see reflected in my little nephews, who started dancing this year, and I can assure you that I have never been so happy to see them dance in their traditional Greek attire.
To sum it up, this for me is the Greek community, namely happiness, learning, and a way of life. If any Greek is reading this, I hope that they know how lucky they are to live in a country where we dream and would give anything to even get to know it.
I dedicate this text to all the Greek associations in Argentina and in the world but in particular to my Greek community. This is dedicated to the current president, Constantino Kavata and his commission, who have maintained our building for years, and to my first teachers, Marina Bergalio and Daniel Campano, who knew how to transmit their love for Greece to every member of this community.
This is also dedicated to my colleagues from the dance ballet coordination team with whom we strive to teach and transmit Greek dances as is fit. Finally, I’d like to make mention of and thank the young people, who constantly work while wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They ask for nothing in return other than belonging to a community and being allowed to continue keeping our part of Greece alive so many kilometers away.