Human Library: Nicolás Kello
Country of origin: Argentina
Journey: "My story is kind of complex and winding, and here I am now. When I was 6 I moved to the U.S., when I was 10 years old I moved to Montreal, Canada, and then I lived in Brazil for five years. Then I went back to Argentina, then back to the U.S., then back to Argentina again, and then to California for the first time. It's been a lot of back and forth. I have family in Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay; my home is in many different places.”
Mr. Kello's citizenship story is as complex as the varied nations where he made his homes. Student journalist August L. dug a little deeper into Mr. Kello's journey.
August L.: How does the story of your book relate to this month’s theme?
Mr. Kello: The story of my book relates to this month’s theme in a number of ways. The most obvious way is that I am a citizen in two different countries. My original citizenship is in Argentina, where I was born, but I grew up all over the world and lived in different places. As a kid, I learned to speak different languages, and when I was 18 years old I got my Spanish citizenship. Interestingly enough I have never lived in Spain, my parents live there now and I visit often. In Europe, they determine you citizenship not just based on where you were born, but based on where your grandparents are from....Because my grandmother was born in Spain and lived in Spain, I was able to get Spanish citizenship. I think that's really interesting. Right now I hold a green card (permanent resident) in the U.S., and I'm thinking about applying for citizenship. I am currently a dual citizen in Spain and Argentina.
August L.: What was your favorite place to live out of all the places that you lived?
Mr. Kello: All the places I’ve lived in have a special place in my heart, and I grew to love things about them, but I think that the place that had the biggest impact on me was Brazil. I loved living in Brazil. At first it was [a hard adjustment]; I just wasn’t used to the level of poverty and the level of crime, and the level of pollution that there was in Brazil. And at first it was a bit of a shock to my whole person, but in time I grew to understand that despite the suffering chaos that sometimes can exist. There was more joy and more transcendence and more desire for living there that I had experienced anywhere else. The Brazilian people are just so full of warmth and so full of love and enjoyment and I just had a great time. I fell in love with the music, I played a lot of music there.
August L.: What were some of the challenges you faced while you moved around?
Mr. Kello: Well, one of the challenges was honestly having to leave my friends every time and the people that I knew, and the place I lived in; it takes a little bit of time to go from being the new kid to being somebody that actually feels like they belong, like they fit in, right. And it is hard, it is hard to be the new kid. When I first moved to the US, I couldn’t speak English very well at all. And I remember I was six years old and kids would make fun of the way I spoke English and they would make fun of the food that my mom would pack in my lunchbox because it was different than everyone else’s food, and it took me about maybe 6 months to begin to feel like I finally started to fit in, like I started to get the language. And by the fourth year that I was living in the US, I pretty much had already adopted a real sense of identity that fit in with the culture that I was living in and so much so that I began to be called Nick instead of Nicolàs, which is the original name that I had. And right when I started to feel like “Ok, I finally feel like I belong here,” and felt really comfortable, it was time to move again, to a totally different place with a new language, and had to go through that process of being the outsider all over again. So I think that was probably the most challenging part.
August L.: Do you have any comfort foods that you still eat from Brazil?
Mr. Kello: Pão de queijo is a really good comfort food. It’s bread and cheese and it comes in these little bite size pieces. And I love to eat those. They definitely bring back some memories and they make me feel good.
August L.: How often do you visit your family?
Mr. Kello: I visit my family about twice a year. In the summers, I usually go to Europe. My mom and dad live half of the year in Argentina and the other half in Spain. [In the summer I go to Spain], and usually in the winter, I go to Argentina during holiday time.
August L.: Did you have to give up your job when you came to America?
Mr. Kello: I gave up my job of teaching in a school because I wanted to pursue my music studies, music career, and so I came out here to go to school at the California Institute of the Arts.