Argentines are not an easy people to pin down, not at all. – Sophie (AKA “El Jabon”)
We’re sharing a cerveza with our cousin Sophie on a rooftop bar at an impossibly cool University hangout in Cordoba. While we wait on the pizza, she gives us a crash course on Argentine identity. Nearing the end of five months of study in this vibrant city, Sophie’s viewpoint is invaluable to us. We have only just skimmed the surface of all that she has absorbed here. Our combined experiences form a unique contrast and one hell of a cocktail conversation.
Although it was a quick overland border crossing from Bolivia to Argentina, culturally it seems we’ve crossed the Atlantic.
The city lights dim the stars overhead but the place is overflowing with a crowd so alive they infiltrate every corner with the rare illumination of youth. Tackling the Argentine identity issue surrounded by stylish young students feels entirely appropriate.
95% of the the country’s population have a European (mostly Italian) background. Sophie’s attempts at digging into the heritage of her various host families proved to be a frustratingly fruitless endeavor. Almost every Argentine we’ve met has been quick to reference their Italian background. Having passed through so many countries with an overwhelming national pride, Argentina appears more cautious and reserved in this regard.
With such a turbulent national history (the dirty war, the disappeared, the Peronistas, protection of Nazi war criminals, the indigenous genocide) it seems understandable for Argentines to distance themselves from their embittered past. Furthermore, much like the United States, this really is a country of immigrants with a surprisingly meager indigenous population mixed in.
The campground outside of town was less than spectacular. So we moved the Beast to a parking garage and set up in a hostel downtown. Sophie was in the midst of finals during our visit so we did our best to ensure her last week was more memorable than academic. We shared our evenings dissecting Argentina, learning the mate tradition, and eating midnight sushi dinners. Our time in Cordoba was intoxicating, also, intoxicated.