By Iva Ralica
This time we will meet an Argentinian-born Croat whose grandparents moved from Croatia. Growing up he wanted to visit Croatia and stay for a little while, but when the chance came – he decided to stay.
Name: Damián Bazán Mamić
Country of origin: Argentina
How long have you been in Zagreb?
The past 3rd of October I have celebrated 10 years since my arrival to Zagreb.
What brought you to Croatia?
All of my life I had wished to come to Croatia. I was born in a Croatian home and my Croatian grandmother and grandfather took care of me and raised me, because my mom passed away when I was only 2. In the beginning I had wished to stay for only 6 months, but quickly decided to make it a year… In Argentina it’s hard to leave home and be independent as a student, and for me that opportunity was worth gold and diamonds.
What was the most difficult thing about the shift?
The language. And still I find the way I speak Croatian – awkward. Yes, my grandmother and grandfather are from Croatia, but did they speak Croatian with me? No! Why? Ask them! This whole adventure could’ve been much more easier and funnier for me, but NO – it happened the hard way.
What are the main differences between Croatia and Argentina?
I will choose only 3 things, because there are a lot of differences, but I think these are the most significant to me: food – weather – security.
1. When it comes to food, as an Argentinian I can’t say that we are a nation of good cooks like I have seen here. We eat only meat. First class meat, but that’s it… At the beginning, I wasn’t so pleased eating all the vegetables and soups (in Argentina you eat soup only when you get a cold), but as the time passed by, not only did I get used to it, but also loved it! I like it all and appreciate all the effort and love Croatian women put in their cooking.
2. Winter is coming… I hate winter, I hate snow, I hate fog, I hate cleaning snow, I hate wearing 2 pairs of everything. The funny thing is that all of my life in Córdoba, Argentina, I was dying to see and enjoy winter happiness. Well, I was soooooo wrong – I’m a “summer guy”.
3. Everyone in Croatia takes security for granted, but for me it’s one of the most important things. I have been in a lot of situations in Argentina when I was robbed, attacked, me and my grandmother threatened with a gun. In Croatia that has never happened. I feel secure – I’m not thinking about who is walking behind my back or if some danger is awaiting me or my children around the corner. I’m the only south American in my neighborhood, which makes me the most dangerous and suspicious man in my street.
How do you make your living here?
Since 2007 I have been working as a journalist for The Voice of Croatia, in the Spanish department. It’s a program mainly for the Croatian Diaspora. Besides that I do a lot of freelance work as a cameraman, video editor and translator. But I would like to say that it wasn’t easy at the beginning. I have worked a lot of different jobs, some of which weren’t so glamorous. But I was never jobless.
Tell us about one of your adventures as a journalist (or fun / interesting experiences)!
Well… There is a funny and awkward situation. I was called to participate as a guest on a TV talk show on the Croatian Radio Television to talk about Argentinian Christmas tradition. Long story short – everything was good and conversation with Mr. Šimleša was fun, but then I told him that I’m an amazing dancer. Please, never say that on live television… The only thing I will say, and I hope you can picture this – I started dancing and calling the audience to join me, but no one, NO ONE, wanted to dance. So I continued dancing alone and rejected on live television without music for 5 minutes… Yes, epic.
3 favourite things about Zagreb?
Zagreb is small enough to get from A to B in no time. The city is clean and beautiful. Yes, I do hate winter, but Advent in Zagreb is amazing.
3 things you would like to change about Zagreb?
First, divlja gradnja – too many buildings in small areas, it´s ridiculous.
Second, wild graffiti, especially the graffiti against Zdravko Mamić. Since I am a Mamić I feel that I have a mission to redeem honor to the family name or destroy it completely. It is hard to decide which path would be harder.
And third, and I know I can’t change this, but I would like to make people stop complaining about everything.
Favourite Croatian food?
This is the hardest question! I will start by saying that since I came to Croatia I have gained almost 30 kilograms. Too many options, from Slavonia´s baked pork (pečenka) to Dalmatian octopus salad (salata od hobotnice), but I might just say a potato pie (pita od krumpira) from the street bakery shop (pekara). It´s pretty awesome.
My mother in law makes the best homemade cherry syrup which is mixed with fresh water. She also makes strawberry juice, but only in May. And if we talk about party drinks, I’m a beer guy.
Favourite place to eat?
If I’m with my family I take them to the old restaurant Stari Fijaker in Mesnička, old traditional Croatian cuisine. When I go out with my friends, we go to a place name Grana, it is a grill house (pečenjarnica) on the suburbs of Zagreb.
I love all kind of beer and in Gornji Grad, in Opatovina street, you can find the amazing Craft room.
Favourite place to chill out?
Morning coffee with my wife in our favorite coffee place in our neighborhood. Yes, I drink my coffee very fast, and then the endless waiting for her to finish her coffee. But I use that time to catch up with the daily news in the newspaper.
Favourite place outside of Zagreb to visit in Croatia?
My favorite place in Croatia after Zagreb is Baška on the island of Krk. I have been there many times with my family and we always keep coming back.
How well do you speak the language?
As I’ve said, I’ve reached a point where people are afraid to ask me if I’m from Slovenia or if I have a speaking disorder, I mean… come on! I don’t want to be humble, I can say everything, I think I have a pretty good vocabulary, but the thing is that I´m still making the same mistakes, too many “padeži” (cases)! I get it, but with all the exceptions, it´s hard. And also the pronunciation, still bad with the letters “š”, “ž”, “đ”, “v”, “b”.
The biggest cultural difference between Croatia and your home country?
Social status of women is one of the biggest differences, it´s different in Argentina. Women there don´t identify themselves as housewives, but here it is all a competition – who cleans better, cooks better… But men here expect that from them. But younger generations are changing that.
One other difference is the way to greet someone. Here you just shake hands, maybe kiss a relative twice in the cheek. In Argentina, even if we are meeting a stranger, and especially relatives, we kiss once in the cheek, even men. We kiss when arriving, leaving, waking up, going to sleep and at any sign of gratitude.
What makes you homesick?
Christmas and New Year. I’ve left all my family and friends back in Cordoba and every year on Christmas and New Year’s Eve I receive hundreds of messages from my cousins and friends which make me happy and homesick. I think about all the good times we spent together and realize how much I miss them. Also, do you know how amazing it is to celebrate Christmas and the New Year´s Eve with shorts and flip flops on?!
Do you see yourself staying here?
Sure, I am not going anywhere. Though it would be nice to spend at least one winter month somewhere warm.
Advice for someone coming and staying in Croatia?
Prepare to fight against the “propuh” (a Croatian mythical force of destruction), it’s the only thing that can stop you. If I made it here, everyone can make it. Croatia and Zagreb offer much more than you can imagine.