Cultural Quirks

One of the themes for a blog that I’ve wanted to write is how things that have been part of Argentina’s history and culture, like tango and Eva Peron, influence the modern daily life of Argentineans. After an extensive amount of time here, I actually began to see the similarities between dancing tango and daily life. I will explain this to you shortly, but first I will explain the dance. If you’ve ever watched or danced the Argentine tango, you will know that it is a unique dance. It is unique because you never really know what will happen next. It is almost like surfing on the waves where the surfers just go moment to moment, caught somewhere between the past and the present. The man leads the steps and the woman has to feel what comes next and although he leads the direction, she is welcome to do what we call “adornments” or do a little improvisation.

Tango symbolizes life in Argentina because in Argentina, you literally have to live moment to moment. It has taken months of living here to finally see this. Things in Buenos Aires can change in an instant. It’s happened one time when I took the subway to visit somewhere and then when I made my return trip, I found that they had closed it for cleaning and repairs but without giving any notice at all. A girl I know told me the story of how she went to the place where she volunteers. It takes her an hour to go there and back and she found on this particular day that it was closed. Nobody had given her any warning about this so she just decided to go back into town and do something else.

This may sound a little barbaric to some of you reading this who live in a society where schedules and appointments are important. This girl at the residence is actually from Luxembourg so she has Germanic roots. Anyone who is of Germanic roots or knows about people from that culture knows that being on time is of upmost importance. I have had several friends here from Austria or Germany who told me that this is how they show respect in those countries – by arriving on time and no minute later. But this girl had such a good spirit about what happened because she knew that this was not Europe and this was very acceptable in this country. I told her that stuff like this would drive people from Germanic backgrounds nuts – they would have a very hard time accepting this type of thing happening in this country!

The idea here in Argentina is that if something doesn’t work out, you just find something else to do with your day. This is why if you are making plans with a friend and they tell you that they are going to call or text you and they don’t, it is acceptable in this country. Indeed, in the matter of a few hours or even minutes, things can change a lot in this country. Every Argentinean would have an enormous phone bill if they had to send a text message for every single time that their plans were going to change! Schedules and plans are good and people in this country plan as best as they can, but if something changes (which is highly likely) they are very good at on the spot creative problem solving.

The other factor that I couldn’t help but notice is that in this country women are viewed with respect. Some days here, I can’t help but feel like the spirit of Eva Peron still lingers in the atmosphere of Argentina. Though her time in office was short lived, her influence stretches far beyond the length of her life and her era. Maybe it was because of her that here in this country, there seems to be such respect towards women. This is not a country where you will see much of an issue with the subjugation of women or having the idea that women should be in the kitchen. In fact, if you get a chance to visit the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, you will actually see a room that is dedicated to all the heroines in the Argentinian history. How can the church or state downplay the role of women when one of the greatest liberators in the history of this country was one? In my opinion Eva Peron’s legacy is the reason that here in this country, women aren’t seen as only being homemakers but rather leaders who can champion causes in every aspect of their world, just like Eva Peron…

“More and more I am finding that tango is not just a dance, it is a way of life in this city even for those that don’t dance the tango. The city has a way of wrapping its feathers around me to comfort and ease all loneliness and thoughts of home and the people there. Like a mother hen, it soothes me safe and & warm under its wing.”

Angelina Khoo

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