Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A question for my readers

Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, people from other countries know (or think they know) a lot about the U.S. It's impossible to say I'm estadounidense or yanqui without people showing some sort of reaction or having a series of mostly predictable questions or dissertations about the U.S. I've become accustomed to it and don't consider it good or bad (though it is sometimes annoying). I try to be the best ambassador I can for the U.S.

Meanwhile, last Thursday night I was out on the town with Claudio, my dear friend and old neighbor. We had just left the cinema and were walking home when he asked me a very interesting question to which I did not have a good answer. The question was: what do we, as Americans, think of Argentina or Argentineans?

This stopped me in my tracks for a moment as I realized that I am more Americancentric than I ever knew; the truth was, I had never thought about it. So before I could answer him, I had to think about why I had never thought about it. The simplest answer was because I can't think of a single Argentinean I've ever met in the U.S. It's not a normal travel destination for a culture that prefers to go back to its Italian or Spanish roots on vacation, or for those who can't afford to make a long trip stay local to the country or at least the continent.

I replied that we don't meet many Argentineans so our inclination is probably to romanticize it as a country of gauchos and tango, and Buenos Aires itself as a chic and historic city filled with good-looking people.

"But how would you react if you did meet one of us?" he insisted. "Would you think our customs were weird, or the way we dressed, or...?"

I told him that in general I think we are very gracious to tourists and would probably express interest in Argentina and provide any information or help they were asking for and then some. I told him that Argentina's fashion and customs aren't so different or weird and that in the U.S. anything goes anyway, and that it probably would not be an issue.

But then I realized that I have totally cloudy judgment on the issue since I live here and am acquainted with what's normal.

So I open the question to you, dear readers: What do you think of Argentina? That is, when you hear "Argentina" what comes to mind? Have you ever met an Argentinean tourist? If so, how did they seem and how did you react? If not, how do you think you'd react upon meeting one in your native streets?

Comments, commence! Remember, you can post anonymously without having to create an account.


Desomniac said...

Never met anyone from Argentina before here in Seattle. However the first thing of when I think of Argentina is cattle and images of vast landscapes with cows. The second would be beautiful Spanish-inspired architect. The last thing I think of is probably half stereo type and half true but I think of oppressive regimes and a huge separation between the classes where most of the people live in shanty towns while the rich have giant mansions that look over said shanty towns. I guess that might be more Brazil, but being they are so close together and I've never been to or met anyone from either country in my mind they lump together. I know that last part might make me sound like an ignorant American, I guess that's what I am regarding this one.

Renée said...

I'd only really met one Argentine before coming to South America but for reasons I'd rather not mention, he wasn't the typical Argentine.

But yeah, before arriving here, I always thought of the sprawling pampas, tango, beef and Evita. I'd heard that they were similar to Italians, which I think does have some truth to it.

Meagan said...

I think my opinion is a bit biased as I've travelled through Argentina in the past. That being said, however, I think what I typically associate with the country and the people is futbol -- really great amazing futbol. And beautiful people. Those two may also be correlated somewhere in my head but that's a whole other story.

So there you have it. Everyone in Argentina is hot and excels at soccer. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

My view of Argentines is totally warped, seeing as I picked up all my stereotypes about them from the Chileans. I think that before that my main impressions of them were that they were one of the countries that a lot of Nazis (and Jews) fled to after WWII, and that they were in the grips of post-collapse economic chaos. Also gauchos and Borges.

Mr. Quick said...

3 words


Anonymous said...

I've never met an Argentinian in the states. But when I think of Argentina:

I think of massive mountains covered in glaciers plunging into the sea. I think of colonial architecture and plazas filled with flowers and beautiful people. I think of beef and wine and Gauchos. Then I sprinkle in a dash of futbol and the strings of tango. I've never been and obviously romanticize a bit.


Lydia said...

Thanks to Gov. Mark Sanford, I think of "hiking the Appallacian trial."

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