Sophomore connects with his Argentine heritage

Santiago Benes feels at home at New Trier and in San Juan, Argentina

Sophomore Santiago Benes, an Argentine-American, gains a deeper understanding of his culture through yearly visits

Erik Jaman

Sophomore Santiago Benes, an Argentine-American, gains a deeper understanding of his culture through yearly visits

Sophomore Santiago Benes, a first generation American carries on his Argentine heritage through connecting with his native language and culture.


The understanding of his own culture has helped Benes feel at home at New Trier. He feels more accepting and comfortable with himself. Benes said teaching people about those cultures and traditions is an important way to combat hate. 


“The New Trier Spanish department in particular does an amazing job informing students about different Spanish speaking cultures,” explained Benes.


One of the ways Benes connects to his heritage is through sailing.


“My father was the one who got me into sailing,” explained Benes. “He sailed when he was a kid in San Juan, Argentina on man-made lakes in the middle of the desert. It is really fun visiting there to partake in what he did.”


When Benes visits Argentina he feels somewhat different there. Because he’s not as fluent in the language nor the culture, he sometimes feels like an outsider. However part of him also feels at home. 


“Connecting with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents is always natural because family transcends language. However it is not always easy. My Spanish is not perfect and they don’t understand English very well,” admitted Benes.


However, Benes wishes to become closer with his family by harnessing his lack of knowledge of the language in the best way possible.


“I used to go there during the summers to learn Spanish. However, it often felt like I was teaching others as much as they were teaching me. I taught them about American culture, and in turn they taught me about my heritage in Argentina and the Spanish language,” said Benes


When he’s in Argentina, Benes participates in their holiday Dia de la Reina.


“It celebrates when the three kings came to visit baby Jesus. One of the major traditions is to leave out a bowl of lettuce and three beers. The lettuce for the king’s camels and the beers for the kings. And during the night they will give you 3 separate gifts,” said Benes.


With Hispanic Heritage Month coming to close Benes said that he wishes to use the Hispanic Heritage Month to learn about other non-Argentine cultures.


“New Trier has been doing a great job pushing this month out there onto their students and it’s fantastic to see so many accepting students.”