It has definitely been a while since my last post. In my defense, last week I had a final group paper due Monday, a midterm on Wednesday, and a final presentation on Friday. It’s been busy. This past week also marked three months since I got to Buenos Aires, and I thought I would take the time to talk about a few things that came as a little bit of a surprise to me:
- One of the hardest things to get used to has been the concept of time. Time is very different here. It is completely normal for a class to start twenty minutes late. People tend to take their time and move about their days in a more relaxed manner.
- Ricardo Darín is in every movie. I’m in a class on Argentine cinema, and practically every movie has the same actor: Ricardo Darín. He’s most famous for the movie El secreto de sus ojos which won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2010. For some reason, he appears in films more than any other actor (in my limited experience).
- Even though the majority of the Argentinian population is Catholic there are two other major religions: football (soccer) and mate.
- You don’t need to watch a football game to know what’s going on. For those who don’t know, Argentina was doing very poorly in the World Cup qualifiers (as in many were worried that they weren’t going to qualify). On October 5th, they tied with Peru which meant that they would have to win their October 10th game. On that night my host mom and I were eating dinner when we heard yelling and cheering outside. Turns out Argentina, more specifically Messi, had just scored, had just tied the game 1-1. When Messi scored again, there was more cheering. And when Messi scored a third time, you guessed it, there was more yelling. Finally, when Argentina won, the fanáticos went wild.
- If I had to tack on another “official” religion, it would be politics. I knew that Argentina was a very politically active population, but I could have never guessed the extent. As an international relations, major, I find this aspect incredibly interesting. The midterm elections were on October 22. Needless to say, there were plenty of political ads and discussion, especially since Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was running for senate (to earn immunity and evade trial for corruption). In the end, current president Mauricio Macri’s party swept the election, winning the five most populous cities in Argentina (something that hasn’t been done is the 1980s). However, he still does not have the majority in either chamber of Congress. Cristina also ended up winning a senate seat for the Province of Buenos Aires although her party came in second there. Some have argued that this election marks a split in Peronismo (Argentina’s populist movement since the 1940s) between the Peronists who support Cristina and those who don’t.
- The musical Evita has been stuck in my head more often than I thought it would be. It doesn’t help that my internship is by the Río de la Plata, the study abroad office is on Av. Corrientes, and my subte stop to get to the office is Nueve de Julio. I’m always thinking about the song “Buenos Aires.”
- News is very US-centric and very dramatic. My host mom and I always have the news on during dinner, and the vast majority of the time, it’s news about the US or, currently, about Barcelona. For breaking news, there will be big titles with patriotic American music playing in the background.
- Pedestrians don’t get right of way.
- Ice cream and helado are two very different things. Buenos Aires has a large Italian immigrant population, but there isn’t a lot of gelato. Instead we have a delicious middle ground between what we think of as ice cream and gelato. Helado is everywhere, and it is delicious.
- The last little surprise isn’t really specific to Argentina. I’m in this class called Comparative Latin American Political Systems. This was the class I had the midterm in this past week and had to memorize the entire political histories of five Latin American countries for it. I’m learning a ton in this class, and it really is interesting. Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve learned in this class is how similar Latin American countries are. I was a bit skeptical of this when we first talked about it, but it is how the region is studied. We evaluate everything on a macro scale. For instance, most, not all of course, Latin American countries had populist movements in the 1940s (Perón and Peronismo in Argentina, Vargas in Brazil), the vast majority had dictatorships at some point in the 1970s and 1980s, and the 1980s was also a decade of economic crisis. We talk about Latin American always reacting to the rest of the world. We also talk a ton about the incredibly negative role that the U.S. had in the dictatorships and the region in general (just Google “Operation Condor”). Of course, there are countless variations amongst Latin American countries, but it is so interesting to see how easily comparable they are.
There are definitely more things that come as a surprise while studying abroad, but these are just a few of the more interesting ones. We’ll see what the next few weeks hold.