ASTANA – Irina Vagner, the founder of Centro Kazajo, a Kazakh cultural center in Rosario, Argentina, shared the inspiring story behind its creation and discussed successful past and future projects in a recent interview with the Astana Times. Vagner also commented on the establishment of a twin cities agreement with Almaty, the tradition of raising the Kazakh flag on Independence Day, language courses, and introducing Argentinians to Kazakh traditional dances.
With a relatively small Kazakh diaspora in Argentina, Centro Kazajo primarily attracts residents of Rosario, including Argentinians and other foreigners. The work of the center primarily caters to Spanish speakers, aiming to popularize and showcase Kazakhstan and its culture.
At the time of the center’s establishment in 2014, Kazakhstan was relatively unknown in Latin America, recalled Vagner. “At the very first ethnicities fair in Rosario, attendees would approach our booth with curiosity, asking about the location of Kazakhstan on the map. This sparked the inspiration to establish a center dedicated to showcasing and educating people about the rich heritage of Kazakhstan,” she said.
Vagner emphasized the common values shared between Argentinians and Kazakh people, including the warm hospitality that characterizes both cultures. She pointed out that the rich meat cuisine for which both countries are renowned contributes to the central role of family festivities and the thriving food industry in their respective cultures.
Teaching and promoting the Kazakh language is another focus of Centro Kazajo. They have approximately 20-25 people learning Kazakh. All the lessons are currently conducted online, specifically for Spanish speakers, although they have plans to teach in person in Rosario as well.
As a language teacher with 20 years of experience and fluency in Russian, Spanish, Italian, and English, Vagner began offering basic Kazakh courses due to the growing interest. She collaborated with Nursaule Rsalieva, a renowned Kazakh teacher, to develop the curriculum using published materials from Kazakhstan. Vagner and Centro Kazajo also utilize social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, to share short informative posts about basic Kazakh phrases and pronunciation, promote events of the center and disseminate information about Kazakh celebrations, culture, and music.
Collaboration with the Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Rosario, where Vagner’s husband serves as the Honorary Consul, has been instrumental in the success of Centro Kazajo. The consulate’s support and participation in joint projects have significantly contributed to their impact.
Centro Kazajo has executed several projects since their last interview with the Astana Times in 2017. Collaborations with the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Brazil and the Otandastar Fund have enabled them to acquire Kazakh national costumes and instruments. One of their upcoming projects includes establishing Kazakh dance classes, fulfilling a long-held passion of Vagner. They have also initiated discussions with the University of Humanitarian Sciences in Rosario to organize a fashion show featuring Kazakh traditional costumes and music.
Notably, a twinning agreement between Rosario and Almaty has been established, further strengthening the ties between the two cities. Rosario has also dedicated an area called The Square of the Republic of Kazakhstan in a picturesque district alongside the Paraná River. Additionally, a street in the city has been named after Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayuly.
Another notable event is the raising of the Kazakh flag in Rosario on December 16th, commemorating Kazakhstan’s Independence Day. The City Council illuminates its buildings with the colors of the Kazakh flag.
“The heartfelt reactions from Kazakh people witnessing the raising of their flag in Rosario have left a lasting impression on Argentinians and other residents of the city,” said Vagner.