Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lost in Translation: Argentine Culture

Sorry I haven't updated in so long, life has been crazy. This week is also midterms which means I'm halfway done. Crazy!!!

Now having spent over 2 months living the Argentine life there are somethings that are just incomparable to American culture. When trying to explain their significance I just can't think of anything that is as universally important in the United States. So I thought I would share a few of these things with you, because they're really quite interesting!


Mate (pronounce mah-tay) is a strong sort of herbal tea drink that is a defining feature of Argentine life. As my host Mom says, mate solves everyones problems. Essentially it's a cup filled with ground tea leaves that you pour hot, but not boiling (that's important) water over. Then you drink it through this straw/spoon contraption. Personally, it's a little bit on the bitter side for me. Though I like the dulce mate, which is sweet.

Mate Being Shared: Source

What makes mate so special is that it is a drink to be shared. Typically you make a cup of mate and then everyone drinks from the same one. It's not strange to share it like sharing a group cup would be in the US. You also drink it generally all day long. I think that mate is the reason that Argentines are also able to stay so thin while eating basically all carb meals. Drinking mate curbs your appetite and keeps you from snacking throughout the day between meals, like many Americans do.

It's common to see people walking around caring their thermoses of hot water and mate cup in the smaller towns, though not as common in Buenos Aires. It's a drink that has the power to bring people and families together and though I'm not a fan I think it's a really great tradition.


This one is a bit of a dead horse, in that most of us already know of Latin American's passion for soccer, so I won't go on long. But I don't think I realized how different their love of soccer here is then our love of say, American football in the United States. Sure we all sort of know that there are teams and a ball is involved, but chances are if you're not a sports person, like my mom, you don't know players, team names, or any actual facts. 

Lionel Messi: Source
But here you know who the players are like you would know who the President of your country is, regardless of if you like the sport or watch it. The players are treated like celebrities even long after they retire which is something that is pretty rare in the US. We just don't really have a single sport that has quite the same cult following. Even I can identify some of the players, which is more than I can say about most American athletes. Above is Lionel Messi, a player from Argentine who is supposedly the very best in the world. 

Eva Peron

I've briefly mentioned Evita Peron before when I posted about Recoleta Cemetery where she is famously buried. I would highly suggest you look this women up because her story is just extremely weird and fascinating. She was the wife of former President Juan Domingo Peron and has became all but a mythological person in Argentine history. Her supporters have claimed that she's a martyr, though she died of cancer, and said that she performed miracles after her death. 

Evita: Source

People today still have heated opinions on whether or not she was as great a person as they say. I can't really think of any woman that has had the same impact and causes as much emotion in American history. Essentially, she helped her husband start the Peronist political movement which was the party of the labor workers. She loved the people and would personally help all the labor workers with their financial and personal problems. She was loved like an idol by them and that power continued on after her death. 

Basically, her embalmed body was seen as a symbol of Peronism and therefore the opposing military regime that took over tried to dispose of it. But, everyone (no really) kept falling in love with the corpse and obsessing over it. She died in 1954 and was not returned to Argentina and laid to rest until the late 1970s. It's a pretty interesting story. 

But regardless, there is no person in US I can possibly think of that had that kind of influence over people, even after death. The fascination with her physical remains is a macabre, but really interesting part of Argentine history that is interesting to discuss with an Argentine person as they will have mixed opinions. 

So there you have it. Some of the many things that simply don't have equal counterparts in American culture. They're things you can read about, but you can't quite understand until you experience them first hand here in the country and I'm so lucky that I've been able to!


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