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Snapshot of Argentina – The official language of Argentina is Spanish; Argentine Spanish is distinct in that it uses voseo instead of the pronoun tú. The indigenous language Guaraní is also spoken in the northeastern part of the country. Argentina’s population descends from immigrants that 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. The country has several universities that are run by the Catholic church. However, Protestant churches have been growing in popularity in recent years while participation in the Catholic church has been decreasing. Argentina has 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 more popular. Many regions also have their own traditional folk music and dance styles. The most popular sport in Argentina is soccer, though basketball is also somewhat popular. One of the most popular meals in Argentina is asado, the Argentine barbecue. Beef is the most commonly-used meat, and the barbecues are also social events used to gather friends and family. Pork sausages are also commonly cooked at asados. Pizza, pasta, and salads are other common dishes, a result of Italian influences. Empanadas are popular snack items, and dulce de leche is used in many dessert dishes. Mate is a traditional drink in Argentina. A mate gourd or a cup is 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.
A few years ago, the focus of the mission was on baptisms, and the missionaries were trying to do all the work by themselves. Now the focus has switched to retention and true conversion, not just high baptism numbers. The missionaries focus on bringing the Spirit to every lesson–offering a prayer before and after each lesson so that investigators understand that the purpose of each visit is to spiritually strengthen them. The missionaries are also working on building relationships with the members, so that members can be involved in every conversion process. The Church is growing stronger every day.
There is a temple in Buenos Aires, but you may only go there to take investigators to see it, or to attend a sealing. The temple is closed on P-Days (Mondays).
The people of Argentina eat a lot of rice and pasta. The food in Argentina has a lot of Italian influence. They mainly eat rice and pasta dishes, but they also eat hot dogs (panchos), meat slow cooked over coals (asado), sausage on bread kind of like a hot dog (choripan), and canelones filled with cheese and vegetables or meat of some sort (similar to crepes). Their beverages include tea and postum, but missionaries should be careful not to drink the teas that aren’t herbal teas. Study out the brands when you go to the grocery store. They also drink mate (hot water poured over herbs), and they will invite you to drink it with them, but it is against mission rules to drink it since the unfamiliar herbs can make foreigners sick, and it wastes a lot of time.
Missionaries in Argentina get around in buses and trains. The next most-common mode of transportation is the taxi, but they areas that should be avoided whenever possible.
Just be smart about who you approach and where you are at certain times of the day. The mission isn’t especially dangerous, and Sisters are generally put in safer areas. Robbery is a common concern, as are aggressive dogs, but as long as you don’t make yourself a target, you have nothing to worry about.
To greet each other, Argentinians give a kiss on the cheek (besos). Elders should never give besos, and Sisters should only give besos to other women.
The people are friendly and social, and they love to talk with new and old acquaintances. Be careful to not let them waste your time. They will quickly be your friend and let you into their house, but they aren’t so quick to love the gospel. They will listen to what you have to say, but they don’t keep commitments readily. If an investigator keeps commitments, that is a great indicator of lasting conversion in the making.
The people of Argentina speak Spanish, but they will call it castellano. Castellano is the dialect they use where the double-L makes a shh sound, and the Y makes a J sound.
Also, they use the vos form in Argentina–a form that in other Spanish-speaking countries is considered so informal as to be crude. You most likely haven’t been taught to use vos, so that will be something you’ll learn in the field.
Good shoes are a must. Ecco brand shoes are recommended, as they have thick soles for navigating hard-paved streets, and they have straps that will allow you to move quickly when you need to.
Be sure to bring everything that it says to in your mission packet.-weight clothing is best for summer, but you may also need thick clothing for the winter, as well as scarves, gloves, and a good water-proof jacket.
The mail in Argentina is very similar to U.S. mail, except that you have to go to the post office to mail anything. You don’t buy stamps beforehand, but just pay for shipping there at the post office. It can be pretty pricey to mail to the States, so save your pennies if you want to mail things home. Packages usually take longer than a month to arrive in Argentina.
Know your purpose and stick to it. Don’t let friendships distract you from your purpose as a missionary. Numbers aren’t everything. The Church needs true converts who will stay active and help the work progress. Work with the members. Serve them. Plan activities with them and your investigators. This is the best–and often the only–way to help the people make lasting changes in their lives. Invite the members to help you as often as possible, and give them sincere thanks for what they have done for you. The work couldn’t progress so well without them.
C.C. No. 92
Straight from the Argentina Buenos Aires West Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Candy Bars, Cream Cheese, peanut butter, bacon, cookies (like chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, etc..)”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Beef and chicken”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Live Ants – but that’s not common there. Most common crazy thing is Blood Sausage”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Places called a villa (pronounced “veesha”. People here live with their entire family in a house consisting of maybe 2 rooms, and the walls are made of old posters and cardboard. They are extremely poor, but they are also the most humble and faithful people I’ve ever taught.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Argentina Buenos Aires West Mission?
“Learn to love the people before you try to fix their problems. If you only try to problem solve, they won’t listen to you, or they’ll only listen for the sake of being polite, but won’t actually be interested.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“Argentines are a very proud people (especially the ones in the province of Buenos Aires) and they love to argue and bible bash – don’t play that game with them. It’s completely counterproductive”
“If you are going to this country, you will fall in love with it. The people there become very attached to their missionaries – so make sure you communicate with them once you come home! Argentina is also a very modern place. The only thing they really need to fix is health care. Just don’t take advice from the locals about how to cure a stomach ache. They think any sickness you have is your liver attacking you, when really it’s probably the water. DON’T DRINK WATER FROM THE TAP!”