2018-02-19 17:54:00

Argentina from Outside


How It Lives Up to and
Defies Its Stereotypes.

By Jackson Vaughan and
Kristine Vaivode


In addition to wanting
to help the projects in the organization, many VG volunteers seek to know “the
real Argentina.” While it’s impossible to distill the “truth” of a city into a
single blogpost, there are a few popular outsider notions of Argentina that,
upon living here for a while, have proved to have varying degrees of
truth/pervasiveness for us. Below you’ll find a list of 7 things Argentina is
known for and how we feel they live up to the reputation



Out of all the things
Buenos Aires is known for, chief among them might be Tango. Yet it also seems
to have the least bearing on most Porte
ños’ lives. Rather than being an integrated part of the
culture that many practice, as it perhaps was in the 1920s, Tango has largely
been relegated to tourist activity status today rarely pursued by locals.
Though there may be relevant modern dance studios or tango communities, they
are evidently far and few between. It is telling that most of the tango
clubs/workshops seem beholden to an image of 20s folks performing the dance to
represent the “Golden Age of Tango.” It implies that the golden age has passed,
and that while it is celebrated in the annals of Argentine culture, it hasn’t
been a particularly vibrant aspect of the culture for some time.



In almost polar opposite
to Tango, mate lived up to expectations and more, proving its ubiquity time and
again. Nearly every argentine person we’ve come into contact with has a thermos
filled with hot water and a cup filled with mate on hand. They drink it like coffee,
more frequently, even. One common question people ask when you “reveal” you’re
foreign is if you’ve had mate, so important is it to the culture. It does have
a bitter taste, but no worse than coffee. If you aren’t interested in
bitterness it might pay to come during their summer months where they borrow a
paraguayan variant of mate called “Tereré” made instead of hot water and yerba
with cold juice and yerba or juice poured over iced yerba. In addition to the
juice balancing out the bitterness of the yerba, it also doesn’t absorb as much
of the bitterness because it isn’t hot: very refreshing on a hot day.


Paris of Latin-America

If you’re planning to
stay in Buenos Aires, you are most likely to come across and learn about the
history of this diverse city. And upon finding out about the European
influences, you’ll see a bit of France, Spain or Italy embedded in the city’s
architecture. But why exactly Paris of Latin-America? Well, during the end of
the 19th/beginning of the 20th century - the golden era of Argentina - Buenos
Aires was a canvas to be filled in by European architects, mostly inspired by
Parisian aesthetics. So there are a few similarities between BA and Paris,
although the lifestyle and people are truly Latin - the warm hearted Porte
ños greeting you with the friendliest smile,
the biggest hug and a kiss on a cheek (another concept we’ll talk about in this
post). All that in conjunction with the inviting rhythms of cumbia, samba or
salsa coming from clubs in Palermo, where the locals are willing to teach you a
step or two. So to conclude, you are not very likely to catch the vibes of
Paris in Buenos Aires, despite what the architecture might suggest.



Typically, when
researching the traditional Argentinian cuisine, asado (~barbeque) pops up in
every article, which can be slightly intimidating for someone whos diet doesn’t
involve eating meat. Rest assured, carnivores, they do eat a lot of meat
and “la parrilla” is a very important part of Argentine gatherings and life,
but for all you non-meat eaters coming to Argentina - their love of meat
doesn’t preclude the availability of fruits and veggies. Locally grown fruit
and vegetable filled stores are on every block as well vegetarian restaurants
and weigh-by-kilo asian fusion places are not difficult to find. In addition
there are plenty of “dietetica” stores full of natural fare such as nuts, dried
fruits, spices, herbs and other organic produce. And, of course, this section
wouldn’t be complete without a mention of empanadas - there’re plenty of
fillings to cater to your vegetarian taste buds, just be sure to master
vegetable names in Spanish, so you know exactly what you order; some popular
ones - cebolla (onion), albahaca (basil), verdura (vegetable), espinaca
(spinach), tomate (tomato).



If you’re coming from a
generally hands-off place like the U.S. or the U.K. it might be difficult to
fathom a place where people kiss each other on the cheeks upon meeting each
other for the first or second time, but yes, it does exist here in Argentina.
Not only does it happen, but it’s important to make sure you “get” every person
you are meeting with either a peck on the cheek or handshake as the situation
requires. It’s rare that a meek “hey everyone” or some similar mass greeting
cuts the mustard. It’s almost a laborious process at times to go down the line
or circle of people and individually say hello or goodbye each time. That said,
it’s a very sweet tradition, and is emblematic of the friendliness you’ll often


City on the Sea

Geographically this one should just be true, and yet
it manages to elude the city in practice. The nearest actual beach is about 4-5
hours away, unless you take a 1h ferry to Colonia in Uruguay, where the beach
scene is a tad better than in Buenos Aires. In BA it’s actually somewhat
difficult to find a spot to see the ocean at all. Down in Puerto Madero
there’s a big lock but it lies in between the mainland and another sizable
strip of land. Compounding the lack of visual ocean presence is the fact that
there’s not much of a sea food scene in the city either, or seemingly about as
much as a land-locked city. All of this adds together to make the alleged ocean
that BA lies upon irrelevant in most people’s daily lives.