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A glimpse of Latin America

March 25, 2010
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Kinesiology student brings home photography award, memories of Argentina

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The subway in Buenos Aires is the oldest in Latin America. Built in 1913, it still uses some of its original cars. So one day, during a six-month stay in the Argentine capital, University of Michigan movement science major Nicole Sapiro rode it all the way to the end of the line, just to get a shot of one of those empty cars in the amber glow of the day’s end.

“It took an hour and a half, and once we got there, there was this couple in the back, and they weren’t leaving,” Sapiro said.

She took the picture anyway. It’s one of her favorites from the thousands she shot during her time in Argentina on a study abroad trip in early 2009. One of them, a photo of antique seltzer bottles at the San Telmo Antique Fair was a runner up in the Best Shot photo contest sponsored by Glimpse, a NationalGeographic partner website dedicated to students’ and young adults’ experiences abroad.

Photography wasn’t an official part of Sapiro’s studies at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, but the images she brought home capture the depth of her experience in Latin America.

“I was able to end up in some cool places at some cool times and capture some incredible moments while I was there,” said Sapiro, who took three subject classes at Belgrano – History of Argentina, Art and Architecture, and History of Tango – all of them in Spanish. “…The fun thing about being in one place so long is I learned a lot about the culture; I spoke the language, even with an Argentine accent, so I could have a conversation and I was able to get into places that were seldom visited by tourists.”

On her off-days, Sapiro would grab her camera and a bag of coins and hop on a bus. She’d ride as far as a peso’s worth of monedas would take her and get off the bus wherever things looked interesting. One of those wanderings took her to an outdoor market, Feria de Mataderos, in a small city on the outskirts of greater Buenos Aires. A festival was underway, with arts and crafts vendors, music, and people dancing spontaneously in the street.

Other days she found her way to the cemetery where former Argentine First Lady Eva Perón is buried, to the annual gathering at the grave of tango singer Carlos Gardel, to sporting events, to neighborhoods and markets and other places where the things she was learning in class sprung to life. At the end of the day, when she was starting to get tired, she’d pull out her Guia-T her handy guide to the busses of Buenos Aires – and it would tell her how to get home.

Sapiro, now 21 and on the verge of graduation, also traveled independently to Uruguay and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and took a trip to Iguazu Falls, at the junction of Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, with others in her study abroad program. She’s developed a serious passion for photography in the past few years, though it hardly compares to her passion for travel.

When she was in high school, Sapiro spent a summer volunteering in the highlands of Fiji. She’s been to some 26 countries and every continent except for Antarctica.

But this was her first experience living abroad for an extended time, and the immersion shows in her photography. “I was there 6 months,” she said. “I knew the city; I had a connection to the city. I could sit there, and if there was a shot I wanted and someone was standing in the way, I had no had no problem waiting 5-10 minutes for them to move. Sometimes when you’re traveling, you’re not willing to wait because you’ve got to get going.”

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