Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edgardo Mansilla, June 4, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Background information / parents and childhood

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Partial Transcript: This is Nieta Wigginton. I'm here with Mr. Edgardo Mansilla...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla gives some basic information about himself. He also talks about his parents and his childhood.

Keywords: Domingo Garmeda Mansilla (??); Etela Margarita Mansilla (??); Reading; School

Subjects: Argentina; Banfield (Argentina); Education; Families

GPS: Banfield (Argentina)
Map Coordinates: -34.743693, -58.392892
00:04:52 - The power of the Catholic Church in Argentina

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Partial Transcript: Um, my father also... the other thing about my family, we were Baptist in a society that...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about the power of the Catholic Church in Argentina, and the difficulty that this posed for his family, who were Baptists.

Keywords: Baptists; Catholics; Christianity; Church; Church services; Curfews; Parades; Permits; Religion; Sundays

Subjects: Baptists--Argentina; Catholic Church; Catholicism; Francis, Pope, 1936-

00:07:43 - Public speaking opportunities in church / the Dirty War in Argentina

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Partial Transcript: Eh, and the other thing is that, uh, the church, we used to get e--engage in leading, leading the worship...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about some of the opportunities he had to practice his public speaking skills in church as a young person. He also talks about the Dirty War in Argentina in the 1970's and 1980's, and political instability in other parts of Latin America, including Chile.

Keywords: Chile; Church; Church services; Dirty War; Juan Domingo Perón; Military intervention; Missing (Movie); Missing people; Pastors; Preaching; Public speaking; Revolutions; Young people

Subjects: Argentina--History--Dirty War, 1976-1983; Baptists; Baptists--Argentina

00:12:28 - Living under a military dictatorship

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Partial Transcript: So, eh, my, my school we, I, I went to a... middle class public school.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla describes his experiences living under Argentina's repressive military government in the 1970's. He tells how he was arrested for refusing to cut his hair.

Keywords: "The Missing Class"; Arrests; Dictatorships; Haircuts; Killings; Laws; Military governments; Missing people; Police; Records; Rules; Safety; Seminary students; Shaving; Skirts; Students

Subjects:  Argentina--History--Dirty War, 1976-1983

00:16:53 - Democracy in the Baptist Church / dissidents in Argentina

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Partial Transcript: Wonderful. Let me back up into a bit of your, uh, your conversation earlier. You were saying in the...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla describes the democratic nature of the Baptist Church in Argentina. He also discusses whom the government considered to be dissidents, including Baptists and Communists.

Keywords: Civil registries; Communists; Conversation; Democracy; Dissidents; Gay marriage; Marriage; Pastors; Separation of church and state; Young people

Subjects: Baptists; Baptists--Argentina; Same-sex marriage

00:20:28 - Faith, democracy, and liberalism

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Partial Transcript: The Catholic Church was trying to enforce the teaching of the Catholic faith in public schools.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla tells how the Catholic Church in Argentina desired to teach Catholicism in public schools, and how this made the Baptists ally themselves with communists to oppose this. He talks about his personal faith, and how he believes it has led him to support liberalism and democracy.

Keywords: Baptist pastors; Christianity; Faith; Liberalism; Liberals; Minorities; The Bible; Theology

Subjects: Baptists; Baptists--Argentina; Catholic Church; Communists

00:24:01 - Parents and the decision to go to seminary / revolutionary books

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you this, um, when you were in Argentina, and your parents saw that uh, you would...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about his decision to attend a Baptist seminary, and his mother's fear that he would potentially be arrested for this. He discusses some of the books he read that could be considered seditious or revolutionary, and how his mother buried them to try to protect him from the government.

Keywords: Books; Carl Marx; Charging interest; Childhood; Children; Death threats; Dictators; Music; Parents; Reading; Seminary; Sigmund Freud; The Bible

Subjects: Baptists; Baptists--Argentina; Education; Social justice

00:29:19 - Decision to work with the poor / Christianity and social justice

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Partial Transcript: What type of work did your parents do? You, you were going into the ministry. What...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses his decision to work in a poor part of Argentina after he completed seminary. He shares his views on the intersection between Christianity and social justice.

Keywords: Cancer patients; Careers; Christians; Churches; Food; Housing; Matthew 25 (Bible); Nurses; Parents; Social action; Theology; Villa Miseria

Subjects: Argentina; Christianity; Poverty; Social justice

00:34:24 - Working with the Baptist Youth Work Congress

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Partial Transcript: Being the church... uh, my brother, who is two years younger than me...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about his work with the Baptist Youth Work Congress (??), and the threats he received at that time.

Keywords: Amnesty International; Baptist Youth Work Congress (??); National Convention; Siblings; Threats; Youth Convention

Subjects: Baptists; Death threats

00:36:42 - Coping with death threats

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Partial Transcript: So you experienced your first, your first death threat...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla describes how he dealt with the frequent death threats he received during his work in Argentina. He talks about his personal philosophy regarding this kind of danger.

Keywords: Bombs; Choices; Danger; Existentialists; Fatalists; Soren Kierkegaard; Teaching; Threats

Subjects: Death threats

00:38:58 - Teaching classes on social justice / family members and interest in social justice

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Partial Transcript: And I uh, I teach one of my classes is planning and community development.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla briefly discusses some of the classes that he has taught at the University of Louisville. He also talks about his family, especially his children, and their interests in social justice issues.

Keywords: Anna Kate Mansilla; Catalina Mansilla; Children; Classes; College courses; Lautaro Mansilla; Marriage; Planning; Rallies; Roderigo Mansilla; Social work; Spouses

Subjects: Social justice; Teachers; University of Louisville

GPS: University of Louisville, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.215123, -85.757711
00:43:49 - Liberalism and conservatism of different generations / problems with the food stamp system

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Partial Transcript: You said she's the right time to be activist...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla states that he feels college is a good age to be involved in social activism, but thinks that many young people are more conservative than their parents. He also talks about what he feels are some of the problems with the current food stamp system.

Keywords: Change; Childcare; College; Conservatism; Cynicism; Food stamps; Hippies; Immigrants; Liberalism; Liberals; Money; Social change; Societal change; Young people

Subjects: Clinton, Bill, 1946-; College students; Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994

00:48:49 - The death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan / immigration reform

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Partial Transcript: Concern today. How-- I'm asking you now, how many soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses the soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and American society's lack of emphasis on social justice. He also describes the need for immigration reform in the United States.

Keywords: Compassion; Death; Deportation; Hotel Rwanda (Movie); Immigration reform; Musicians; Peace; Pete Seeger; Singers; Wars

Subjects: Afghan War, 2001-; Immigrants; Iraq War, 2003-2011; Social justice; Soldiers

00:53:39 - Illegal immigrant detainees at the Boone County Jail / the treatment of illegal immigrants

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Partial Transcript: Tell me, tell me what the detention center...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about his visits to the Boone County Jail in Burlington, Kentucky, and interviews he conducted with the illegal immigrants detained there, who were facing deportation. He discusses some of the problems with how the United States currently treats immigrants

Keywords: Boone County Jail; Clerical errors; Homeland Security; Interviews; Private prisons; Traffic violations

Subjects: Boone County (Ky.); Families; Illegal aliens

GPS: Boone County Jail (Burlington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 39.036470, -84.728462
00:57:58 - Student receptivity to social justice / missionary and social work in Argentina

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Partial Transcript: Which group do you find to be the most open to social justice? Your graduate students or undergraduates?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla briefly compares how receptive graduate and undergraduate students are to social justice. He also talks about his work with a community center in Argentina.

Keywords: Charity; Community centers; Graduate students; Missionaries; Sarah Williams; Social work; Teaching; Undergraduate students

Subjects: Buenos Aires (Argentina); College students; Emigration and immigration; Poverty; Social justice

GPS: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Map Coordinates: -34.599868, -58.384094
01:01:54 - Funding for social justice programs in Argentina / changes in the idea of community

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Partial Transcript: Where were you getting your funding to run these type of programs?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses how his organization in Argentina received funding for social programs, and how the idea of community has changed in the past few decades.

Keywords: Communities; Construction; Funding; Houses; Housing projects; Money; Social work; Societal change

Subjects: Argentina

01:05:21 - A degree in social work from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Partial Transcript: And what's this school that had the program?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla tells how he came to study at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and talks about studying social work in seminaries in Argentina and the United States.

Keywords: School of Social Work; Universities

Subjects: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

GPS: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.247508, -85.686160
01:08:16 - Changes in the Southern Baptist church in Argentina / requirements for immigration to the United States

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Partial Transcript: In Argentina, was a change in the Baptist convention, was took over by a charismatic...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla shares how the deepening conservatism of the Baptist Church in Argentina convinced him to immigrate to the United States instead. He talks about the numerous requirements for immigrating to the United States.

Keywords: Citizenship; Conservatism; Laws; Pastors; Sponsors

Subjects: Baptists--Argentina; Emigration and immigration; Immigrants; Poverty

01:11:58 - Work with Americana Community Center

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Partial Transcript: Had you already been working with the Americana when, like when you were a student here...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses the work he has done with Americana Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, starting with his practicum there as a social work student.

Keywords: Activity centers; Adult education; Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Apartments; Mayors; Practicums; Rentals; Social work; Translation; Translators

Subjects: Community centers; Immigrants; Louisville (Ky.); Refugees; Social workers

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:16:40 - Refugees in Louisville, Kentucky / working with politicians on immigration

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Partial Transcript: At that time, it was also the increase, the influx for refugees. We have people coming from Sierra Leone...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses the influx of refugees in the United States, especially in Louisville, where he was working. He talks about what he feels are the unfair conditions for immigration and the need for reform. He also briefly discusses the work that he and others have done with state politicians to raise awareness for these issues.

Keywords: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Bosnians; Cubans; Immigration reform; Iraqis; Laws; Paperwork; Sierra Leone

Subjects: Immigrants; Immigrants--Kentucky; Politicians; Politicians--Kentucky; Refugees; Social justice

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:20:19 - Refugees being sent to Louisville / a Christian argument in favor of helping refugees

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Partial Transcript: What do you think it is about Louisville, or about Kentucky that attracts immigrants or refugees?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla states several of the reasons why refugees are sent to Louisville, instead of to other American cities. He also argues that Jesus Christ himself was a refugee in Egypt, something he feels that many Christians forget.

Keywords: Accents; Argentinians; Burundi; Christians; Jesus Christ; Jobs; Latinos; Neighbors; Paperwork; Refugee camps

Subjects: Immigrants; Louisville (Ky.); Refugees

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.254358, -85.752411
01:27:32 - The importance of programs for both children and adults

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Partial Transcript: Eh, the fact that you are poor is not a reason that you...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses some of the programs that the community center has for both children and adults, and shares why he feels they are important.

Keywords: Activities; Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Children; English; Health care; Hobbies; Music; Parents; Poetry; Single parents; Work

Subjects: Community centers; Education; Poverty

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:32:16 - Learning foreign languages

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Partial Transcript: How many countries are represented in the people that you serve...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses his experiences learning several foreign languages, including English.

Keywords: English; Foreign languages; French; Greek; Hebrew; Italian; Languages; Portuguese; Spanish; TOEFL

Subjects: Refugees

01:34:40 - English language learning for immigrants and refugees / cultural changes throughout generations

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Partial Transcript: How do you solve the problem of hosting your, uh, training workshops for families...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla talks about some of the English language classes that the community center offers, and how they are divided up by learning level. He also discusses how immigrant families change culturally after several generations.

Keywords: Accents; Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Cultures; Diversity; English; English classes; English levels; Generations; Language learning; Relationships; Training; Translators; Workshops

Subjects: Community centers; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:40:31 - Important cultural values

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Partial Transcript: What are the parts of your culture that are important, that you want them to keep?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla describes some of the values that he hopes to pass down to his children, including spirituality, a love of learning, and work ethic.

Keywords: Culture; Family values; Learning; Life experience; Spirituality; Vacations; Volunteer work; William Morris; Work; Work ethic

Subjects: Education; Families

01:46:18 - A heart attack

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Partial Transcript: One year ago I have a heart attack. I was in a meeting in Lexington...

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla shares that he had had a heart attack, but did not realize it until weeks later.

Keywords: Doctors; Emergency rooms; Heart attacks

Subjects: Myocardial infarction

01:49:42 - The difficulties of raising funds for salaries / working with diverse community members

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Partial Transcript: While I'm working in this place, or any nonprofit, it is stressful.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses the stress of trying to raise money to pay the employees of the community center. He also talks about some of the ways that the community center works with the very diverse population who uses it.

Keywords: Diversity; Money; Programming; Raising money; Salaries; Staff; Stress; Work

Subjects: Community centers; Fund raising; Immigrants; Refugees

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:54:21 - Teenage immigrants / working in a low income area

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Partial Transcript: Being a teenager in a different country is absolutely insane.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses some of the difficulties for teenage immigrants, and shares some of the reasons why the Americana Community Center is located in a primarily low income area.

Keywords: Accents; Adolescents; Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Bullying; Churches; Diversity; Ethnicity; Laws; Muslims; Native Americans; Working

Subjects: African Americans; Poverty; Refugees; Teenagers

GPS: Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.178676, -85.764113
01:58:21 - Integration vs. assimilation

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Partial Transcript: Find ways to integrate the society, so... and our foundation is human dignity.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla gives his views on how he hopes for immigrants to be integrated into American society, not simply assimilated, and explains this difference. He also shares some ways in which immigrants can enrich the society they become a part of.

Keywords: "Melting pot"; Assimilation; Communities; Credit cards; Dignity; Entitlement; Human dignity; Integration; Money; Porches; Stews; Values; Work ethic; Workers

Subjects: Families; Immigrants

02:02:55 - Fighting the notion of "the other" / silence and listening

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Partial Transcript: And we become so focused [??] I, myself, and me, that we lost the connection with, with the other.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses the philosophical idea of "the other", and how the community center works to fight that idea. He also discusses the importance of both listening and silence.

Keywords: "The other"; Accents; Americana Community Center (Louisville, Ky.); Bolivians; Continuing education; Interdependence; Listening; Martin Brewer (??); Meditation; Othering; Philosophers; Silence

Subjects: Education; Other (Philosophy)

02:06:51 - Cultural transitions for immigrants

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Partial Transcript: Are the thoughts in your head in Spanish or English?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses some of the cultural transitions he has experienced since moving to the United States, including dreaming in English instead of Spanish, eating in his car, and being startled by the changes in Argentina when he visited there again.

Keywords: Americans; Cars; Culture; Dreams; English; Fast food restaurants; First generation immigrants; Languages; Spanish

Subjects: Argentina; Immigrants; United States

02:10:23 - Keeping or losing ties with one's home country

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Partial Transcript: Why did you choose to keep a home in Argentina?

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses his reasons for keeping a house in Argentina for some time. He tells how some immigrants choose to cut all ties with their birth country, while others keep some of their original culture.

Keywords: Children; Culture; Houses; Parents; Tradition

Subjects: Argentina; Immigrants; Voting

02:12:47 - Racial identification / conclusion

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Partial Transcript: You said be part of the process when you talked about being here in the United States.

Segment Synopsis: Mansilla discusses why he considers himself to be of Latino decent, rather than white European. He also sums up his work, and how he hopes to be seen by others. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Censuses; Hispanics; Latinos; Parents

Subjects: Ethnicity