Our New Music and Culture Editor Tried on Many Cultures Before Falling for Dallas

Our new music and culture editor, Eva Raggio, will probably be changing this photo every few months now that she can.
Mike Brooks
Our new music and culture editor, Eva Raggio, will probably be changing this photo every few months now that she can.
I was born in England, but my family is from Argentina, of Italian descent. In any of those places, I’d be deemed a foreigner. I like to think that those roots are still deep, no matter how neglected, and I never thought I’d do my true growing up in Dallas. Yet here I am, the Dallas Observer’s new music and arts editor, in a position to document and contribute to the molding of the city’s culture.

My parents were political refugees who fled to England from Argentina, where a dictatorship gained power in the late ‘70s. About 30,000 people, many college students, were murdered, raped, tortured and vanished. My father was advised via a threat to leave the country, so they fled to the U.K., where my mother had spent her own childhood. I grew up unaware of their troubles, in an idyllic village straight out of a storybook, which counted more sheep than people.

The town of Peasmarsh had only 1,000 residents, and one of them happened to be a Beatle. That is how I spent my childhood with Sir Paul McCartney as a frequent visitor in my home. His son James was best friends with my brother; his wife Linda took school play photos; their daughter Stella was mean to my sister; and James’ dad was a helpful neighbor who gave us rides back from the store as needed — an eccentric father with a big house with a room full of turtles, the guy who gave me a VHS copy of Rupert the Bear, the movie for which he’d once done the soundtrack. He had sung at my birthday with his guitar, though I couldn’t appreciate the significance until much later.

My academic father was unimpressed by pop musicians, and the Beatles weren’t played in my house, so I only knew Tchaikovsky’s concertos. My father was a philosophy professor who spoke seven languages and had no time for levity, whose idea of entertaining a small child was teaching her to recite every major philosopher chronologically. He had been raised by parents from the Victorian era, as he was 20 years older than my mom, and he still blamed Elvis for ruining music. He’d worked closely for presidents and the acclaimed writer Jorge Luis Borges. The last time he saw me before he died, I was a young mother and a hostess at a sleazy bar in North Dallas. He would’ve been very proud of my new position as the music and culture editor at the Observer.

My parents returned to their homeland when the political climate cooled off. Moving to a country with a new language on the other side of the world didn’t compare to the shock of going from living in an innocuous town with cottages separated by fields, to Buenos Aires, a loud city of 14 million bodies stacked atop into towering buildings, which would go louder, and collectively insane, anytime someone with the right jersey scored a goal on TV.

Kids made fun of my Spanish, so I refused to say a word for months, and was then accused of being a witch. Soon after, my mother took the three youngest of us to London for a year, for the duration of a trial to evict a squatter from our old house. We stayed in a Guy Ritchie sort of neighborhood, with fresh blood and bullet holes at my building’s door. That year, we rode double-decker buses to museums, and I did P.E in my underwear, which was the thing in London schools.

My father’s best friend was Argentina’s secretary of education, who owned a private school that the lot of us got to attend for free, because it otherwise cost $450 a month per child. By then, we were in Buenos Aires in the ’90s, so you do the math on my classmates’ wealth. My family had six kids, and my mom had spent the last few years picking strawberries on the countryside while my dad fought cancer and wrote a political book that won an award and little money, so I lied about going to Hawaii for the summer to keep up with my friends’ vacations.

After my parents divorced. My mom, a serial bride like her own mother, a novelist who also married four times, moved us to the U.S., first to Phoenix, where we didn’t know a soul except for my then-stepfather. I learned to pronounce the R's and un-pronounce the T's and the preferred mispronunciation of foreign words on menus. Also, that knowing how to quickly identify as either European or Latin was going to be very important, a frequent question in almost every document I was to sign henceforth.

We settled in the Dallas suburbs, though I occasionally got mad at either parent and asked the other to send me a plane ticket. So every year or two in my teens was spent alternatively on one side of the globe or another, forced to pick between missing friends or family. I spent my time here reading, among other things, the Observer, and looking for shows I couldn’t go to.

In Buenos Aires I studied makeup, and took acting lessons for years but refused to indulge my mediocrity in both disciplines.

Clubs stayed open until 8 a.m., and had no enforced age minimum. I went to avant-garde plays that took place in the dark, and picked up the habit of putting leftovers separately in a bag at the top of my trash bags, for the homeless people who dug through them at night looking for food.

I grew up surrounded by adult intellectuals while I was neither. I spent my time studying Rolling Stones mythology, planning my next piercing, trying to let Fiona Apple’s lyrical capacity influence me until my own outpouring of words could be weaved into nonsensical pompous poetry and plays that I wrote all night at cafes before being followed home by men three times my age.

Despite its toxicity, I am most connected to Argentina, although we never got to a first-name basis, so to speak, because none of the kids there grew up with BBC cartoons and a milk man knocking on their doors. I’d arrived post-Falkland Islands War, and my classmates held me personally responsible for the England-Argentina conflict whenever I beat them at running.

I lived in varying circumstances: running up my grandma’s marble staircase that went up for three stories, on the floor of crappy motels, in a boy’s dorm, and at a house in an Argentinian province, without electricity for months on end.

I eventually settled here and became a single mother day-dreaming of a parallel life out the window of small towns north of Dallas, where the drive-thru workers still smoked cigarettes at the window, with neighbors who looked at me like a creature as cartoonishly foreign as Hercule Poirot. I’ve been able to travel, and got to dance on the street in Mykonos, fly in a helicopter a few feet above sharks and, more dangerously, gotten to know other famous men.

But working at the Observer has been my preferred version of life. It’s where I found a place to contribute to a community, shaped by mentors who helped me conceive and deliver ideas that would’ve otherwise stayed in the womb. Since I first joined the marketing street team in 2012, where I worked different events and learned my way around Dallas, I was warmed by the solidarity among the art scene and became privy to the tragically little-known truth that Dallas is Texas’ superior music town.

For six years, I’ve covered topics as varied in length as in tone (from sardonic one-liners to somber long-form): body suspension, ethics in the art world, interviews in unorthodox settings. The Observer trusted me with cover stories and even had me pose for one with an intentionally pulpy personal essay. It’s given me a recurring series, and most dear to my heart, published both of my children’s writings, perpetuating my family’s tradition, uninterrupted now through seven generations of writers and journalists. I’m also honored to continue a recent streak of female music and culture editors.

North Texas has a competitive arts scene with a rich history, which I’ve been lucky enough to experience through research, mostly for this publication. Dallas itself is iconic. No matter what area of the world you’re in, its name begets a frame of reference, whether it’s cheerleaders or oil or absurd Scorsese-like violence. Say what you will about Lee Harvey Oswald, but he sure did a lot for local tourism. I suppose so did Bonnie and Clyde, and the guy who shot J.R. But there are residents more accomplished to boast of: Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Erykah Badu, T-Bone Walker and the painters known as the Dallas Nine, to name a few. These sections will continue finding the area’s luminaries and remain committed to making the term "DFW" a metonym for its art scene.