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. To this Argentines are also known for being gossipy, full of grandeur, liars (chantas), envious, quick and exagerated in Uruguay. Chileans often depict them as arrogant.“(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.”