Is Argentina part of Latin America? and other ramblings…

Lyrics of “Latinoamerica” in Spanish and English

You really didn’t see much, if, any of Argentina in the above video of Calle 13 (Puerto Rico) and their hit “Latin America.”  (By the way, if you didn’t recognize them, the two women singing in the video are Toto La Momposina from Colombia, and Susana Baca of Peru. Check them out.)

I pose the question:  Is Argentina part of Latin America?  In large part, Argentina lacks the charismatic “color”, “tropical flavor”, “noble poverty”, and “racial diversity” of other regions of Latin America.  (This is, of course, a broad generalization).

After seeing this video, it struck me how some of the Mendocinos I have met are, themselves, unfamiliar with the Latin America seen in this video.  My teachers at the Instituto Intercultural have acknowledged that Argentines are often unaware, if not disinterested, in the rest of Latin America.  While residents of greater Argentina have a history of resenting the privileged position of the city and province of Buenos Aires, whose residents seem to take little interest in the goings on of their compatriots, the same can be said of Argentines and the rest of Latin America.

How are Argentines perceived by their Latin American neighbors?  “In Brazil and Uruguay, they are stereotyped as arrogant, proud, narcissistic, and racist.[1]  To this Argentines are also known for being gossipy, full of grandeur, liars (chantas), envious, quick and exagerated in Uruguay.[2] Chileans often depict them as arrogant.[3]“(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotypes_of_Argentines#cite_note-1)

My teachers acknowledged that there was a certain truth in these perceptions.  For one, there just is not the racial diversity that even Uruguay has, let alone Brazil.  What happened to those of African and Indigenous descent?  Well, in simple terms, the Indigenous were killed off in the wars of expansion/extermination (sound familiar?) and the blacks were conscripted to fight in the post-independence internecine battles that ravaged Argentina in the late 19th century.  And there were the waves of European settlement.

One thing I have noticed is the capacity to complain, to blame the government and functionaries for their problems.  I have also sensed a frustration with the willingness with which Argentines take advantage of other Argentines, and of course, foreigners.  A local woman recently told me about how, when she and her family were traveling, the gas station attendants twice ripped them off.  The trick is to not “zero out” the gas pump, so that when one asks for 80 pesos of gas, and the previous customer had filled up with 40-pesos worth, the attendant pumps out an additional 40 pesos, thus to the unsuspecting newly-arrived customer, the pump reads as if he/she has received 80-pesos worth.  “And”, she added, “Jon, we are humble middle class workers.  How can people do this kind of thing to us?”

Recently, I ran across an interesting critique of Argentines by a fellow Argentine.  The comments on You Tube reveal a mixed response to the video.  If you understand Spanish, take a look.  The video is entitled, “If you are Argentine, watch this, then take a look in the mirror.”

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About jdicus

I am a Spanish and social studies teacher on year-long sabbatical in Mendoza, Argentina. Our family consists of myself, wife Jenny Breen, and daughters Solana and Frances. With this blog we endeavor to chronicle our experience living abroad.
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5 Responses to Is Argentina part of Latin America? and other ramblings…

  1. natalia says:

    Wow! That’s harsh–the self critique; is it true, from what you’ve observed/are observing so far?
    BTW, who’s the Brazilian singer on Calle 13’s “Latin America”?
    Love your updates. Keep it up!
    natalia

    • jdicus says:

      Is it true? Well I can tell you that several Argentines with whom I have spoken, who live here but are not from Mendoza, feel that Mendocinos are very difficult to deal with regarding money issues. They are supposedly excessively sly and cunning in their dealings. Yes, some Argentines would agree that indeed they do complain a lot and blame the government for their situation. But so do we! Yes, litter is a problem. The video is quite harsh, but there is a grain of truth there. But the Argentines we have met have all been wonderful. The Brazilian singer is Maria Rita. Thanks for reading!

  2. diana hobart dicus says:

    I entered my comments. Then lost contact when attempted to add name. Commented that the characteristics you identify as Mendocinos are found among people every where. No? It is terrific that you are studying at the Instituto Intercultural. A wealth of knowledge to carry back to Blake, and to carry within yourself. We are just back from two months away and are struggling to catch up with a backlog of life. Thus, my short reply. I love being on the automatic list of receipt of your and Jenny’s blogging. Thank you! More soon. Much love to each of you. D

  3. Enbuenahora, Jon. Back at Blake, my level V kids are going to study this song this week in relation to presentations they finished last week on lesser-known indigenous groups. Perhaps we should plan a Skype session with you to get your perspective on Argentina’s sense or reality of belonging. Te mando saludos y abrazos fuertes.

  4. lojo says:

    Very interesting Jon. Really, I think every nation could use a dose of looking in the mirror more often. Lojo

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