Buenos Aires vs. Atlanta

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Well, I am back in the states now.  And although I was a little homesick in Buenos Aires, I am also a little homesick in Atlanta.  I was astonished by how few people spoke English in Buenos Aires.  I spoke with a manager at a shoe store (in Spanish of course) and he told me that the Buenos Aires is just now starting to make it mandatory for young children to learn English, so if I wanted to speak English to someone, I should try talking to little kids.  And on my flight back, while speaking to the guy sitting next to me, he explained that speaking English was a privilege mostly for the elite, and that would explain why so few people my age spoke English.  Not being able to have a full conversation with someone was my biggest qualm with my time in Argentina, but I'm thankful because my Spanish improved tremendously because of it.  And now that I'm back... I have to remind myself to speak in English to people in store restaurant etc.

Also, I am reminded that people don't care about soccer here in Atlanta. lol.  My last night in Argentina, I went out with the other students who were left, and when I began singing "Dale Boca", the entire bar went into an uproar.  However, when I went out with a few former Argentina study abroad students my first night back, our chants of "Dale Boca" and "Ale, Ale, Ale, Ale" were met with confused looks and indifference.

One thing that Atlanta has on Buenos Aires is the weather.  I left gray skies and cold weather to find sunny, blue and HOT days!  I truly enjoyed my time in Argentina and feel that I know a lot more about that country than I ever could imagine.  I can't wait for my next trip to Argentina or Latin America in general!

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Argentina has its roots in European culture.  From any observation of the country you will see this indelible mix of European and Latin American culture.  This can best be seen in the intimate tie between Tango, soccer and politics.  The influence of tango and soccer on politics and vice versa can be seen by looking at both through a historical perspective and analyzing the current situation of Argentina culture and politics.

Tango, soccer and politics are intimately tied in Argentina. Obviously, the most tangible connection is that between the owners-affiliates of the large soccer clubs and politicians. Mauricio Macri is an executive with Boca Juniors, and the leading candidate entering into today’s ballotage. His opponent, Filmus, also has a strong association with another team. If soccer success is any indicator of political success, then Macri should have no trouble today.  Another connection between soccer and politics is the boisterous way in which is conducted. Soccer graffiti in neighborhoods like Boca is as common as anti-so-and-so graffiti in the politically sensitive areas of the city. And like soccer, everyone MUST participate in an election like they must have a preference for SOME team in the city. In the U.S., you don’t NEED to have a favorite baseball team but here -- even if you don’t watch sports -- you must pull for some team as you must go to vote.

The connections between tango and politics are not as straightforward. Tango evolved from the streets of poor areas of the town. I suppose all politicians around the world have to **dance** with their publics -- even the dictators. This can be elegant or profane. The current president, Kirchner, doesn’t have a very light touch when it comes to political rhetoric. He, and many of his supporters, accuse Macri of being equal to Menem or **gasp** George Bush. His ham-fisted remarks to the press don’t seem very smooth. Not very tango-like.

Still, the political culture in Argentina springs from uncertain roots. In this way it is similar to the tango. Somewhere between the ultra-conservative military regimes and populist Peronists comes the font of modern Argentina’s politics. It has only been a democracy since 1983, but now observers here note it is quite stable. The tango, too, springs from uncertain roots. It is a mix of the European, African and (to a lesser degree) indigenous cultures of the new world. Similarly, these groups had to find a path together to govern themselves.

Soccer has been intricately linked to Argentine since the early 1900s.  Even though the origins of the game have been debated over the years, its beginning evolved from primarily a sport of the lower class and to some extent the middle class.  From the public schools and the industrial workers to a national pastime, soccer is an identity in Argentina.  To some extent, the sport takes on similar popularity in Brazil and other countries in the Southern Cone.  The Caribbean and some northern countries of the continent, namely Venezuela, have generally preferred baseball, as its U.S. counterparts.  By contrast, Argentine soccer is comparable to levels shown in Europe.

The acceptance of blacks in the sport has mirrored the integration of the races throughout the societies, especially in Brazil and Paraguay.  While Peron’s admiration for the game is unclear, he sought to build multiple stadiums throughout Buenos Aires and put soccer on the national stage.  It can be argued that Peron sought to rally Argentines for purposes of nationalist spirit and pride.  Even when the economy was faltering, the fans could always rally around their favorite team to distract themselves from their misfortunes.

College football is a source of great rivalry in the U.S., especially in the South.  However, there is no match to the enthusiasm of the fans in Argentina.  While retired soccer player Maradona is revered throughout Argentina, no individual sports figure in the U.S. comes close to his status as a national idol.
Politics is also interconnected with soccer.  Mauricio Macri, the owner of the Boca team, came in first place in a three way race for mayor of Buenos Aires.  He will participate in a runoff election on June 28.  As in the U.S., teams are owned by multimillionaires and billionaires and are able to use their money to recruit great players.  However, in many ways, soccer transcends politics.  Many accept positions with European teams with the promise of more money to the chagrin of the Argentines.

In addition, soccer is played in many divisions and titles throughout the year.  Teams play for the World Cup, which is a source of intense pride for the participating country.  Teams in the U.S. do not have comparable playoffs in their teams.  By rallying around soccer verses many sports as in the U.S., the game takes on international dimensions.