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Argentina’s population descends from immigrants who came from many different countries (mostly Italy and Spain) primarily during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Roman Catholic church is the largest religious denomination in Argentina and continues to influence Argentine culture and politics. Pope Francis, elected March 13, 2013, is from Buenos Aires. However, Protestant churches have been growing in popularity in recent years while participation in the Catholic church has been decreasing.
Argentina is a very urban society, with very little of the population living in rural areas. The country has strong traditions in literature, art, film, and theater. Tango music is a unique musical style that began in Argentina, though today cumbia, Argentine rock, pop, and electronic music are popular. Many regions also have their own traditional folk music and dance styles which they continue to teach and perform in their elementary schools. Soccer is a passion for all Argentines alike, and one is often asked if he or she favors team Boca or team River–choose wisely.
The church is quite strong in some parts of the mission and yet not as strong in others. The Argentine members are wonderful people with a huge desire to help in the work. Therefore, missionaries play a large role both in helping them learn and providing opportunities to put their learning into action.
One of the most popular meals in Argentina is asado, the Argentine barbecue. Beef and pork sausages are the most commonly used meat for these barbecues which are geared towards gathering friends and family together, usually on Sundays or holidays. Simple pizza, pasta, and salads are other common dishes (a result of Italian influence). Empanadas are popular snack items, and dulce de leche is used in many dessert dishes. Also, to add variety, there are Peruvians and Bolivians who make delicious food from their differing cultures.
The main meal of the day is lunchtime, which falls around 1pm, and then Argentines enjoy taking a “siesta” (nap) afterwards should time allow. Breakfast is light, generally a few crackers, cereal, yogurt or mate. Supper, generally around 8 or 9 pm, is also relatively small.
Mate, the traditional drink of Argentina, is a mate gourd or cup filled with yerba mate. Hot water is added, and then the drink is sipped through a metal straw with a filter called a bombilla. While the bitter drink is often drunk plain, sometimes sugar, orange peel, or other herbs are added for flavoring. The Argentines can often be found drinking this at all hours of the day, even carrying around portable thermoses. Their custom is to share this with all visitors. However, for varying reasons, missionaries are prohibited from drinking mate and are generally given soda or Tang instead.
The most widely used form of transportation in Argentina is the public transit system. There are buses, trains and subways, taxis and remises. Remises are like taxis, except one generally is required to call or go to their station to get a ride. Taxis charge per minute and remises per kilometer.
As with most places, it is wise to not carry large amounts of money. Argentina is all-around very safe.. If you are in an area that is known for crime or that seems a bit questionable, do not stop for long periods of time, except to do contacts or ask for directions.
Argentines are well-known for being boisterous, fun-loving, generous people. They are very open and have no problem with showing their affection, even to complete strangers. They greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, sometimes both, and often by first name.
Argentine Spanish is distinct in that it uses voseo instead of the pronoun tú. Every province has differing accents- living in the capital, you will probably encounter most of these. Argentines are quite casual with their language, using a lot of slang and other local words and phrases like “Che” (Hey you) and “Como anda?” (How are you?). However, missionaries are encouraged to maintain a formalness with their vocabulary. Upon arriving, listen carefully and ask lots of questions.
The contrast between summer and winter is pretty extreme, and it rains a lot throughout the year. Bring a long, but thin, raincoat for the summer season and a long, thick raincoat for the winters. An umbrella would be useful as well.
Gral. Lavalle 1828
1646 San Fernando
What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut Butter, Root Beer, two-ply toilet paper”
What did you eat the most of?
“I ate a lot of Argentine barbeque, Peruvian food and pasta.”
“Steaks, Salads, Empanadas”
What is the craziest thing you ate?
“I ate blood sausage, cow stomach, cow intestines, cow tongue, heart and ceviche, which is a Peruvian dish made with raw fish.“
“Tongue Sandwich, Tripe Goulash, Hog Jaw with teeth and hair”
What was most surprising about the culture?
“I really did not expect so much of a European influence in Argentina. I knew that it was as much of a Hispanic influenced country as much of Latin America, but it was even more-so than I expected.”
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission?
“Don’t be afraid to express your personality. Argentines consider a reserved person a boring person or a person with very little personality and they probably won’t pay much attention to what you have to say. Also, you will probably hear rumors from other missionaries about different areas. Just remember, if you want to have success, you will have it, no matter what area you’re in. Just look for God’s help and you’ll find that success.”
“Argentine Castellano is not anybody else’s Spanish”
What do you wish you had known before you served?
“Honestly, the last thing that I mentioned in the last post. I feel that if we know how to look to God on how to achieve success in our areas, He will give us the way to do so.”
“Best two years!”
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