Sunday, January 8, 2012

In a Word: Argentina

Wine and steak. Leather and tango.  “Evita” and Maradona.  No one can claim Argentina is a hidden place on the world stage, however, this intriguing country tucked under Brazil far into the southern hemisphere seems both worlds away from its fellow Latin American neighbors and yet familiar at the same time.

Reflecting on the past three weeks in Argentina during our last night in Buenos Aires my friends and I charged ourselves with coming up with one word to identify the country we had recently gotten to know. 

I chose “reincarnated.”

Book stall in Buenos Aires
During this trip we visited five different cities in four provinces, each with its own story and flavor, yet completely Argentine.  The people are incredibly kind and full of pride.  The landscape is at once breath-taking and unassuming.  Wherever you go – geographically or historically – this is a country that has reinvented itself numerous times, had to pick itself up on occasion, and each time managed to be reborn better all while holding true to its identity.

As large as it is, and as proportionately little of it as we were able to see in just twenty days, Argentina welcomed us with open arms. I found this country to be a tapestry of warmth, flavor, style, class, and heart. 

Yes, the stereotypes I opened with are alive and well.  I frequently ate some of the best steak I have ever tasted, but also discovered gelato shops on seemingly ever corner and a divine cookie dessert called an “alfajore” which I couldn’t get enough of.  I learned more about wine than I ever thought possible – even visited a wine museum! – and sampled many a malbec and cabernet literally at the source from growers who care for each grape as it was their own child.  I heard plenty of tango music and attended a tango show which told the history of a dance which was created by immigrants to stand apart and now defines a people and their country.  And Eva Perón is still alive in Buenos Aires; it is impossible not to notice the love Argentines still have for the former first lady as her image and legacy adorn countless buildings and pieces of propaganda.

Spanish tortilla, goat empanadas, & locally grown red wine in Cafayate.

I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to experience a small part of Argentina and look forward to revisiting it again and continue my love affair.  But for now, the memories of trekking in Iguazú, wine-tasting in Mendoza, taking countless jump-shots in the salt-flats outside of Salta, biking in Cafayate, and wandering without purpose in Buenos Aires will have to suffice.

More to come…


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