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Going the Distance: An American-Argentinian Love Story
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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Suchitra Shenoy Packer

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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A long-distance relationship is not for the weak-hearted. But, if you are Shavonne and Gaston, you just take it in stride and roll with it, turning distances into adventures and opportunities. Meet our How We Met featured couple for October, newlyweds, Shavonne and Gaston.

Shavonne is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from Frostburg State University and her Master’s Degree and Ph.D., both in Communication from Purdue University. When she is not professing, she enjoys traveling with Gaston and her friends, and mentoring students. She is also an avid user of social media.

Gaston is PAS Engineer for IPSoft. His work includes proving information technology support for both internal and external clients. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia College of Missouri. When he is not working or traveling with Shavonne, he enjoys watching Argentinian and Italian soccer, running, and riding his motorcycle.

Over to Shavonne and Gaston…

How did you meet? What attracted you to each other?

Shavonne: Gaston and I met each other at a speed dating event in the Chicago suburbs. I did not go with the hopes of meeting anyone, I just went to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. We went so we could say that we did the event, just like you see it done in the movies.

Gaston: I went because I had just moved to a different suburb for work. I was away from my friends and family. I was looking to meet new people.

Shavonne: At the event, the ladies stayed seated at tables and the men moved around. Each date was 5 minutes. I thought that Gaston was very cute and charming. We struck up a conversation about where he was from. When he told me Argentina I asked him if he likes to tango. He told me, yes, but I would later find out this was not exactly the case. Although I would find out that his grandmother was especially fond of the dance. He knew all the right things to say (haha). At the end of the night, we had to fill out a sheet indicating who we were interested in getting to know better.

When Gaston and I matched I was excited but I did not think that he was going to get in touch with me. I was pleasantly surprised when a few days later he sent me a text asking if I wanted to go out on another date. I happily said yes.

If two people both selected each other the company sent both people the other person’s name and contact information. When Gaston and I matched I was excited but I did not think that he was going to get in touch with me. I was pleasantly surprised when a few days later he sent me a text asking if I wanted to go out on another date. I happily said yes. The second time around we went to an Italian restaurant. We went at dinner time around 6. We talked so much neither of us ate our food. We also never even realized that we had talked right through the closing of the restaurant. From that day on we were pretty much inseparable.

Gaston: Shavonne was very easy to talk to during the speed dating event. She was also not weird like some of the other people I met. I wanted to get to know more about her after our “first date” which seemed all too brief.

Shavonne Gaston

Tell us about your cultural backgrounds.

Gaston: I am from Argentina. I was born there and moved to the U.S. when I was 15. We moved to the Chicago area.

Shavonne: I am African-American. I am originally from Maryland.

Tell us about the dating challenges you may have faced.

Gaston: We have two unique personalities. I am more of a Type A person while Shavonne is more laid back. We learned to compromise and see things from each other’s perspective.

We learned to compromise and see things from each other’s perspective.

Shavonne: I would say dating long distance was a challenge. I never really saw it as one but friends and strangers were always so shocked to hear that we have always been at a distance yet we have been together so long. We always kept in constant contact so it never felt like we were very far from one another. Over 4 years later we are happier than ever.

What were your family and friends’ thoughts about you dating/being in a relationship?

Gaston: They thought it was good.

Shavonne: My family was always very supportive. My Mom, Aunt, and cousin visited me while I was in graduate school and met Gaston. They liked him from the minute they met him. The rest of my family met him at Thanksgiving. My Dad, my brother, and grandmother thought that he was great. He even helped out in the kitchen that year. I am pretty sure that is when he became an honorary family member.

I am pretty sure he became an honorary family member at my family's Thanksgiving dinner. Click To Tweet

What did you think about being an interracial couple? When the topic of race comes up (if it does), what is it usually about and how do you negotiate and navigate those discussions?

Gaston: We compromise. I would say that I have experienced this especially as it pertains to sampling foods from each other’s cultures. We agree to try new things. We also agree to be as appreciative of each other’s cultures as we can.

I share with him what it is like to be Black in America given the socio-political climate. Click To Tweet

Shavonne: I agree. I am very inquisitive. I am always asking Gaston what things are like in Argentina. He lived there until he was 15.

Learning new things gives me a better appreciation for his culture and for him.

I also take opportunities to share with Gaston what it is like to be Black in America given the current political and social climate. I talk to him about my commitment to being a warrior for social justice and he shares this passion. We have learned a lot from one another.

Photo Credit: Ty Acierto of Prudence Photography.
Art Work Design: theParentVoice,

Did your families approve/not approve of each other and what you did/didn’t do about it?

For more about Shavonne’s first meeting experiences, please see question 5.

Gaston: They approved.

Shavonne: I met Gaston’s family for the first time at an Argentinian restaurant near where he lived. His family was wonderful. Gaston was very nervous, though I would later find out that this is because I am the first lady that he brought to meet his family. It was cute.

I am the first lady that he brought to meet his family. It was cute. Click To Tweet

How did you/your partner propose? How is this similar to or different from your native culture?

Shavonne: Gaston was visiting me for the weekend in Pennsylvania. On the morning that I was due to take him to the airport to return to Chicago he asked me to go back to the upstairs of my townhouse to make sure he hadn’t left anything. When I came back down he said that he had something for me and got down on one knee and proposed. I was not expecting that and I laughed because I could not believe that he had got me so good. I was very happy. This is a typical proposal across both of our cultures.

What were your ideas of an ideal mate before you met your significant other and how have these evolved with your relationship?

Gaston: I thought that I would be with someone who had the exact same interests as me such as running, but as we started dating my thoughts about this changed.

Shavonne: I think that I bought a lot into what the media said that an ideal mate should be, basically a perfect person who always agrees with you. But this is not realistic nor would this be fun. Gaston challenges me and makes me think. I appreciate that about him.

A perfect person who always agrees with you is neither realistic nor fun. Click To Tweet

What kind of a wedding did you have? Any arguments about what traditions/customs would be followed or not?

Shavonne: Gaston and I vacationed in Jamaica two years ago in Ocho Rios at an all-inclusive resort. While we were there we went to the beach daily and happened to be de facto attendees at multiple beach weddings each day. I loved the scenery and the vibe of these weddings. I was automatically sold. At the time Gaston and I were planning to be engaged and we immediately went home and asked our friends and family if they would be able to afford to head to Jamaica in the future. They said yes.

On the day of our wedding it rained which is said to be a sign of blessing. Click To Tweet

Since Montego Bay is the same town that the airport is in, we decided to select it for convenience. Ocho Rios is a two and a half hour drive. On the day of our wedding, it rained which is said to be a sign of blessing. We had our wedding in a beautiful indoor space.

Our wedding featured a traditional Christian ceremony because this is our shared religion. It was beautiful.

Our reception was so much fun. I had never been at a wedding where all of the guests were on the dance floor the whole time until my own. It was the best night of my life! We did not have any arguments about any traditions or customs to be followed.

I had never been at a wedding where all of the guests were on the dance floor the whole time. Click To Tweet

Shavonne Gaston Wedding

Photo Credit: Kevin of Xcite Photos.

 

Your favorite memories that pertain to cultural integration (generally in your relationship and not just wedding related)

Gaston: Thanksgiving. I have never celebrated it before because it does not exist in Argentina.

I am looking forward to celebrating my first American Christmas soon because we celebrate it differently in Argentina.

The biggest celebrations for us happens on Christmas Eve. I also enjoyed celebrating the 4th of July. I loved the fireworks. In Argentina, we have fireworks to celebrate Christmas so this was very interesting.

Shavonne: For me, it has to be the delicious foods that I have been introduced to. I love Argentinian empanadas, arachera (skirt steak), bife de chorizo (ribeye steak), dulce de leche (caramel sauce), and so many other delicacies.

How do you (or don’t) try to integrate your different cultures/festivities/holidays/ into your everyday life?

Shavonne: We eat a lot of different foods from each other’s cultural backgrounds. We watch a lot of soccer. We have a favorite Spanish language Netflix show that we watch called “Club de Cuervos” (Gaston’s first language is Spanish and Shavonne also speaks Spanish). Gaston has educated me about a lot of holidays and historical occurrences in Argentina. I have done the same. I play my gospel music frequently. We both enjoy watching the television show Black’ish. Every Thanksgiving we take an annual trip to visit one of the Smithsonian museums to learn more about American culture. I am so excited that this year we can finally go and visit the Museum of African American History and Culture. 

He has educated me about a lot of holidays and historical occurrences in Argentina. Click To Tweet

We watch a Spanish show on Netflix, listen to gospel music, and enjoy Black'ish. Click To Tweet

Honeymoon

What have you learned as a multicultural couple, about each other/ about society’s perception of you as an interracial couple?

Gaston: I understand that some people out there may not like it but I don’t really care.

Shavonne: I learned that interracial dating is not as taboo as it once was. 

Many of my friends are in interracial relationships. The media also features far more interracial couples than ever before. I’ve learned that love is love. It does not matter who you find it with, so long as you find the best person out there for you. I have found mine.

I’ve learned that love is love. It does not matter with whom you find it. Click To Tweet

What are some pieces of advice you may want to pass on to those dating outside their own race/culture/religion/etc?

Gaston: Don’t focus on what other people think. Just do what makes you happy.

Shavonne: Learn from one another and appreciate each other. Be willing to compromise. Most of all have fun and enjoy all of the time that you spend with one another.





 

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Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.

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Beautiful article!

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