I had another post planned for today, but then a pope was elected yesterday from Argentina and I thought I might share a few of my final thoughts about Argentina in honor of the occasion. I also figured I would take advantage of the excuse to write a bit of a “recap” of my experiences in Argentina because I don’t think I’ll be going back there for a while, as next month I plan on returning to the United States and then Canada. My South American travels will be put on hold until late this year… or perhaps even later than that… and I’d like to wrap up these next few weeks with some final posts about Chile.
So, yes, final thoughts on Argentina (at least for a while). I was still in shock after finding myself in South America in late 2011 when my husband suggested we visit Buenos Aires in October of that year. I wasn’t expecting anything, really… just another big city, and if I was lucky, I figured it might have some interesting shopping.
But it had so much more. I found inspiration that literally changed my life: it made me realize that I wanted to go back to school just so I could write about the discoveries I had stumbled upon in Buenos Aires. The stories, the history, the architecture, the politics, the people, all had inspired me in such a deep way. I had known I wanted to go back to school to get a master’s for years, but ever since I graduated from my bachelor’s I had been searching for what I really wanted to study. Finally, after my trip in 2011, I decided to study Community Development and write a history involving some research on Argentina. (Now you can find me at my desk 12-14 hours a day doing just that.)
I know I have spent relatively little time in Argentina and most certainly do not know it like someone who would have spent longer there – not to mention someone who grew up there or was from there. Other than that week in Buenos Aires (with a quick jaunt to the rural pampas), I spent a long weekend there in May 2012, a week in Cordoba, Argentina in October 2012 and a week in Buenos Aires again in January 2013. But – and this, you guys, is why everyone should travel – I inexplicably connected with the country, the land, the culture, the cities, the energy, the people and even the language. I have no idea why. Truly. I don’t know why. Maybe my enthusiasm will prompt someone to take a trip there someday and afterwords comment, “what in the world was she so obsessed over?” I have no idea and I am sorry if that ends up being you. But just as I have met people who have inexplicably connected with India, Polynesia, Ireland, Italy, etc., I have found that magical connection with Argentina. It will forever be one of my favorite places visited in the world.
Perhaps I connected with their land because of my own rural, agricultural upbringing. Many people there are very proud of their agriculture, as well they should be. Their grocery stores were overflowing with lovely produce in the summer, and their gelato – made with fresh milk and cream – is the best I’ve had in the world (don’t tell Italy). They will talk to you about the weather, and intense weather it is: I have grown accustomed to the thunderstorms that the plane will inevitably fly over when crossing the flat stretch of land of the Argentinean pampas between the Andes and the Atlantic, and the deluge of rain (and subsequent floods gushing down the cobblestone streets of Recoleta) I experienced my last morning in Buenos Aires in January was epic. But I love its intensity. On a random note, I also love the smell of the trees in their woods. I don’t know why but they smell great.
Then there is the aesthetic in Argentina. The beauty of the buildings in Buenos Aires, that draw their influences from throughout Europe and around the world, transforming them and making them into their own. There’s the harshness of a rural cabin in the vast landscapes of Buenos Aires or Cordoba province, and the pastoral beauty of old country homes and estancias, looking like something transported straight out of an ancient Roman landscape, in the mountains and plains of the country. Make no mistake, this is a country with a turbulent history, and their architectural features reflect all of the good and the bad. But I think there is an undeniable beauty in that, too. And then there is the fashion aesthetic: I find their sense of style, their eye for detail, color, form and function to be incredible. You can still find carefully handmade clothes, jewelry, and handwoven textiles, crocheted and knitted pieces, which in any other country would easily quality as luxury and well out of reach of the average person, made with care by experienced hands, for reasonable prices.
They are people with stories, most of whom I always found to be helpful and welcoming and pleasant especially compared to most places I’ve been to in the world. They seem involved and active. They seem to believe in something.
I also saw, on a national level, that they had a female president, which led me down all kinds of paths in my research. Ultimately, I wonder why in North America have we had all kinds of waves of “feminism” but never a woman who held the most prestigious position in our government? (And one who is also a mother, a wife to a former president, and impeccably stylish to boot?) I’ll leave you to form your own opinions, but I assure you, I’ve formed mine.
Their history is fascinating, and as an American I felt like I could connect to it in some familiar way. Our countries have had some similar experiences, and branched away from each other in other regards. Still, discovering a history of a “cousin country” to the U.S. in the Americas, like Argentina’s, is interesting and subsequently helped me to reflect more deeply on the United States’ history.
Need I say anything about their Malbec or Torrontes wine? So lovely, especially with a bowl of pasta or a few wood-fired empanadas, or, of course, their famous juicy steaks, fired in a wood oven, seasoned with just a tiny bit of salt and pepper, and served still sizzling on your plate. I’m not a meat person – I rarely eat red meat especially – but this is enough to make me hungry whenever I think of it.
Like the hot red sunrises and sunsets I’ve come to associate with the skies of Argentina (and are immortalized in a painting I bought from an artist in Buenos Aires last year), my time there was brief but it left an indelible impression. And while someone else may not feel at all the same as I do about Argentina, I hope that you all have the chance to travel and fall in love with an unexpected place like I have.