“I’d always been the English girl in Argentina, and the Argentinian girl in England and never quite knew which one I was myself.”
Argentina is full of wonderful intensity and can be a lot to take for an outsider. London-based Indie Latinx artist, Malena Zavala, found herself in this situation; as a second-generation kid who called London home but with roots in Argentina, the call to 'return' was always there, ringing loud and clear. We speak to her about her journey back to her roots, the beauty of this country and how the experience changed her.
What would you say was the initial reason for the trip?
I needed some time off after finishing my album. I'd just dedicated it to my mixed identity and I wanted to truly spend some time in my country as a form of meditation and connection to my roots.
How would you describe Argentina to someone who’s never been?
This is a hard question to answer. It depends where you go, it's a big country. Buenos Aires is as if a European city had been placed in Latin America. There were a few things I figured out in the city… things like: needing your DNI identity number to pay with your card (something all Argentinians knew by heart but I didn’t); not taking your phone out in the street; using a ‘Sube’ travel card; taking dodgy Uber trips; knowing which were the best areas to go (San Telmo and Palermo); figuring out a gas-heated water system etc. In Chaco, where I was born, there’s a lot of marshes, farmland and nature. Go more west - you get mountain ranges. There's a lot to see.
"I had a plan to explore my country, and overcome some issues of identity I’d been internally battling my whole life.”
Where do you call ‘home’? What makes a place a ‘home’?
I don’t know, maybe my bed. But I don’t think that relates to a place or country. I think home is where all my instruments and things are. This could be anywhere. I think the idea of home is different for everyone. For me, I’ve always been detached from the idea of home as I love to just keep moving. Staying in one place makes me anxious.
Is there anyone you met on your trip that’s made a lasting impression?
I made a couple new friends who were lovely and worked in creative industries. It was really interesting getting to know how they created in a third world country and how the politics affected them. They were also incredible warm and calm people who placed more energy on enjoying time with their friends and family over work. I think that's really important and often gets overlooked in bigger cities like London.
What was the best thing you ate/saw/experienced on the trip?
I personally love Argentine food. Empanadas and milanesa are so tasty. I got to visit amazing bars, restaurants, art exhibitions and shows but the best part was getting invited to go sailing on the river. We sailed down to La Plata and anchored in some marsh lands and spent the day swimming, eating and singing songs to each other.
Where would you like to travel to after all of this is over?
Cuba has been a life long dream.
Extracts taken from: 'Estado de Pertenecer' zine by Malena Zavala
Photography by: Malena Zavala
Feature image by: Sofia Bogar