“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil they throw flowers at you. In Argentina they throw themselves!”
…according to Marlene Dietrich.
The Argentinians are an extremely passionate hot blooded bunch with their own unique style of Spanish, spoken with a strong Italian-like charisma. They will instantly embrace you into their lives and in return you will no doubt quickly fall in love with them. We sure did after spending 2 months with them and here’s our 5 interesting facts about Argentina.
1. EXTREME PASSION FOR FOOTBALL
The Argentinians are CRAZY for football/soccer. Nothing quite ignites the Argentinian passion, or so dramatically unites the country than a big soccer match – particularly with big rivals Brazil.
The king of all is of course Diego Maradona. Forget the Pope – over here, Maradona IS God. There’s even a Church and a religion set up in his honour. The Iglesia Maradoniana was founded in 1998 by his fans in Rosario and now have over 80,000 members spread across 55 countries. To them, he is their D10S (Dios in Spanish means God and Maradona’s shirt was #10).
2. THE NATIONAL SPORT: EL PATO
Hold up…WTF?! This is Argentina we’re talking about, land of Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero etc, surely the national sport is football!?
Think again. In 1953, President Juan Perón decreed El Pato to be the national sport.
Pato has been played in Argentina since the 1600s. It is traditionally a game played by gauchos on horseback, which combines elements of polo and basketball. However, instead of a ball, a basket is used, which historically contained a live duck inside, hence the name. Today a ball is used in place of the duck, but the same rules apply.
Bizarre? The Argentinian parliament thought so in 2010 and tried to introduce a bill to elevate football to national sport status and reduce pato to a traditional sport. Defenders of pato argued that despite soccer’s popularity in the country, pato is 100% Argentinian whereas football is a sport imported from England!
3. QUEER TANGO
Nothing evokes the passionate spirit of the Argentinians better than this very famous sensual and seductive dance. Tango is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Argentina.
At its inception in the 1880s, it was danced between 2 men, but very quickly the concept of same sex tango dancing got lost…. Until 2002 when it became fashionable again with queer tango schools popping up across the country.
This speaks volumes in a country with such strong influence from the Catholic Church. It also shows how incredibly gay friendly it is – Argentina was the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage in July 2010 (and the 10th in the world). In addition, the right to change legal gender has been in place since 2012 and anti discrimination laws are in full force in Rosario and Buenos Aires.
We took a queer tango class in Buenos Aires which was one of our favourite memories from our travels in Argentina. It is not only a romantic way to express the passion and fire with your (same sex) partner, but a true representation of the Argentinian spirit, which is why we love them!
4. PASSION FOR MEAT
Argentinians are passionate about their meat and their steak is world famous. This is largely due to the abundance of cows. According to the Cattle Network, Argentina is 1 of 5 countries in the world (along with Uruguay, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia), which has more cows than people.
The place to enjoy a beautifully prepared steak is at one of the many steakhouses, called parillas (pronounced parisha in the Argentinian dialect). The parilla is the name of the large iron grill in which the meat is barbecued and an asado is the name given to the gathering with a group of family/friends for a large barbecue with plenty of meat, wine and laughter.
Meat lovers will love eating out in Argentina!
5. THE PORTEÑO ACCENT
Argentinian Spanish has a unique pronunciation with a strong Italian influence (think strong hand gestures).
The most distinct thing you will notice, particularly in Buenos Aires, is the change of the ll (lye) to a sh sound. So for example, the word for street, calle will instead be pronounced cashe, or if you’re asking someone’s name, you would say “como se shama” (instead of llama).
Another very unique aspect of Argentinian Spanish is using the word Che to ask how someone is or more literally “what’s up?” The famous Argentinian revolutionary, Ernesto Guevara was nicknamed Che because of his frequent use of this expression.