The Identity Ordeal

Part of my purpose in Argentina was to secure my DNI. A DNI is essentially an Argentine identity card and number, also known as Documento Nacional de Indentidad. Not exactly a Social Security Number, but more so the number your person is entitled to. Make of it what you will.

Now, many of you may ask, “why didn’t you just get it from the Argentine consulate in America?” Well, my friends, I tried. I had been pursuing the ever-so elusive Argentine Consulate in Los Angeles for about six months before I threw my hands up. Their website is both poorly organized and explained– even for a millennial like me, I couldn’t find a damn number to call. And when I did– yes, I thought I had triumphed– I was only talking to an automated message. With no option to speak to a real-life person. Bitter and frustrated, I emailed the suggested email address with hopes of getting some sort of answer. Weeks passed. No answer. Now, your heroine doesn’t give up easily. So I packed a bag, filled my gas tank, and made that glorious drive down the 5 to deal with these “Argentines” in person. Conviction can be dangerous when your blood’s had five hours to boil over 400 miles.

Alas, I made it to the Argentine Consulate located on Wilshire Avenue in Los Angeles. All official and needed documents in hand. At eight in the morning. I was ready. I even managed to drag my brother, a senior at UCLA, to benefit from my determination. However, it was all for shit.

After awkwardly waiting in the lobby of this grandiose building, the lobby receptionist informed us the “Argentine Consulate was now open” and we could “proceed to the third floor.” Up we went. I signed my name first on the list– I’m a selfish asshole when it comes to getting shit done– and sat down to wait for my name. Five minutes later, they did. And I’ll cut short the little story I’ve been telling you, because I’m a terrible story writer and I don’t have the patience for writing the story out myself. Anyway, this dude (yes, no other word than dude describes this dude) told us there was no way we could set up an appointment to begin the process without emailing a request. I told the dude I did send one. That I sent several. And that I couldn’t even find a real person to call if I needed help. The dude pretended to be puzzled, and proceeded to write down an email address and the name of the woman, as well as what to subject the email. Dude tells me this lady will respond in a couple weeks and get me sorted. I asked the dude normally how long the process to get a DNI and an Argentine passport takes, and the dude tells me about nine months. Both irritated and exasperated by the uselessness of my trip to the consulate and waste of time, I scurried out, my brother trailing me.

That’s the backstory. Pointless? Irrelevant? Maybe. But I chose to include this encounter with idiocy and bureaucratic bullshit to illustrate the “jodido” nature of my quest for DNI was from the beginning. As much as I love Argentina, it’s bureaucracy and sub-terranean level of efficiency is also why I despise it. This impotent encounter at the consulate was only a premonition of how things would go once I got to Argentina to secure my DNI, face to face with a nation I call home.

I suppose I should tell you that I did, indeed, file my papers for DNI at the National Registry of Persons in Buenos Aires last week. It did not come easy, however. But then again, nothing worth having in life does.

The essential documents I needed to complete a request and application for DNI was my father’s or mother’s birth certificate as well as my own, which needed to be apostilled, translated, and legalized. Simple, right? I am laughing as I write this. The hideous irony of my ordeal never ceases to infuriate and humor me. A very smart teacher of mine once told me: “comedy is tragedy plus time.” And so it goes.

Anyway, before I left for BA, I made sure I had all my papers in order. I had already send my birth certificate to be apostilled in Sacramento, California, sent in a request to the California Department of Justice for a background check and (nonexistent) criminal record. My father already had a copy of his birth certificate, so, with all documents in transit and prepared, I thought I was set. Of course, I wasn’t.

My apostilled birth certificate did not arrive until December 29, in part because the official man who apostilles things and whatnot, failed to process my certificate before I left the states, so it had to be mailed via FedEx internationally. I received it. Fine. And then I had to get it translated by a public notary in BA. I found a very nice lady who did it for me. She warned me, though, that the Registry might make me go to the Public Translator’s office in BA to notarize and approve her translation of my papers. I kept that in mind. But I had already spent 900 pesos translating papers and having my half- crazy grandmother chauffeur me around town, and I wasn’t going to do more than I needed to.

You’re probably sick of hearing about this stupid fucking story. I’m sick of writing it, too. It’s because it is so stupid I must write it. So you can see how stupid this whole thing is. So every time someone asks me how I got my Argentine papers, I can tell them to fuck off and go read my thousand worded journey of how I did it instead of wasting my breath on an infuriating quest. Or, I could always lie and say it was a piece of cake. But what kind of story would that make? Hemingway would be disappointed in me, and Fitzgerald would drink himself into a stupor at my poor attempt to use prose for a poor excuse of a story. But I will carry on, anyways. I’ll almost done, I promise. Forgive me.

Alas, I get all the papers I think I need. Mind you, I ended up meeting with my uncle’s friend who works for some organization that helps people with papers to double check I had everything I needed– a now seemingly pointless waste of my time and efforts. My list consisted of the following: a translated and apostilled birth certificate, a California background check, an Argentina background check, my American passport, and my father’s DNI. I was apparently set to go. But of course I wasn’t. I went the next day into the micro center, via bus and train to arrive at 155 25 de mayo, the National Registry of Persons. After being politely ushered in through the looming entrance of the National Registry, I waited in line for a clerk to attend to me. My turn came, and I presented a very nice lady my hard earned and sought after papers. She rejected them. Every. Single. One. But in a kind, sympathetic voice, of course. To my utter horror, she enlightened upon me that all I needed was my father’s birth certificate, and my own. Now the problem with my birth certificate, she said, was that the translation needed to be “legalizado,” just like my translator might have warned me. I kindly thanked her, gathered my papers, and left. I figured it best to avoid a public disturbance with my blistering anger and urge to swear profusely. Besides, I don’t think my grandmother could physically handle the shit storm of words I wanted to unleash into the already polluted air of Buenos Aires. But I didn’t. I’m an adult, and since graduating college, I have at least believed the illusion that I was one. And adults don’t pull Patrick Bateman psychotic meltdowns on the streets of BA, oh no.

Instead, I took it upon myself to get my birth certificate’s translation legalized that same day, because low and behold, the office was only a few Subte rides away. In fact, it’s right in front of the Callao Subte entrance, and I thanked the universe for taking pity on me. There, I had my precious–and now expensive– piece of paper legalized. All I had to do was return home, retrieve my dad’s birth certificate, and go the next day.

And I did! Boy, oh boy, did I make my way downtown, walking fast, faces passing, to the Registry. I was confident, that this time, I had everything, and I would not be turned away. And I wasn’t! Yes, dear reader, my application for a DNI was completed. I took a photo, scanned my fingerprints, and signed my signature. “You should receive it in fifteen days,” were the golden, glorious words I had been yearning to hear for the last six months. Feeling accomplished and very adult, I returned to San Isidro, where I treated myself to a bondiola sandwich and mint and ginger lemonade. You should try it sometime.

One thing, though. Have you ever seen a Quentin Tarantino film? Maybe “Django: UnChained”? Or “The Hateful 8”? If you haven’t, you’re an idiot. If you have, then you are aware of the both dreadfully long and dreadfully captivating plots, that seem to carry on even after you believe you’ve reached the end. My story is much like that, and alas, there is one last part to my utterly enthralling and boring story.

Serenading in the air-conditioned cafe in sunny San Isidro, enjoying my cortado after my meal, I receive a text message. “Who could it be?” I thought. “Maybe a long lost lover?” I indulged. But no. I was gravely mistaken.

It was the Registry. It read: “El tramite de tu Nuevo DNI requiere cumplimentar informacion.”

A text message. Telling. Me. I. Had. To. Return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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