Tag Archives: Argentina

Huffington Post Blog on Soccer in Argentina

Earlier this week, an essay I wrote titled  “An Outsider’s Perspective on River’s Relegation and Soccer in Argentina” was published in the Huffington Post sports section. The text is extracted below, or you can click the link to read it in full in its original home.

On Sunday, the River Plate soccer club, a giant of national soccer, tied a game that demoted them from primera división to the second-tier B nacional and profoundly changed the Argentine soccer world.

In River’s 110 years in existence, the club, which claims more national titles than any other club and one of the highest percentage of fans in the country, has always been an “A” team. The red and white jerseys are a fixture in the top level, the club lures some of the country’s best talent and the stadium in Nuñez, Buenos Aires is the largest venue in the country, where touring international stars like Paul McCartney perform and the Copa América final is slated to be played. That River is out of primera is unfathomable to most of the Argentine populace.

One of the greatest losses to come with River’s relegation is that of the Superclásico. The Superclásico is the term for any match between the country’s two superpower clubs and fierce rivals, the scrappy Boca Juniors, where Diego Maradona was more or less born and raised, and River. The two teams are the most popular and successful Argentine fútbol teams.

River’s inglorious drop from primera means the two teams will not meet again until at least another year, when fans are praying they earn a return to primera. Thus, for at least the next year, one of the greatest sporting events in the world, number one on the Observer‘s “50 sporting things you must do before you die,” will not happen. Though the two have a chance of facing off in a “friendly” January summer match, it does not officially count, and most categorize such games separately from league matches. Boca remains in primera, where River always has been and, as many fervently believe, always should be.

After losing by two to Belgrano de Córdoba on Wednesday, River Plate needed to win by two in Sunday’s game to hold their position in primera. River was up by one at halftime, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw. The conclusion of the game, subsequent realization that River had lost its “A” position and the aftermath of it all was revelatory for many tourists, outsiders and non-native residents. It exposed deeper levels of the Argentine psyche, that of the ardent passion of a culture where, for many, soccer is life and supporting one’s team, religion.

To see broadcasted on television the pained screams of fans at the field, the incessant sobbing of the River players and the riotous aftermath, tear gas, fires, spewing hoses and flying rocks, few would dare to write it all off as “just a game.” It was a moment not lost on six “Yankee” girls, watching the game together on television from an apartment in Palermo, Buenos Aires.

For a foreigner living here, the whole event was insightful and, at the same time, strangely alienating. It was more apparent than ever the importance of soccer in Argentina, but also, for me, that the culture is something I will never truly understand. That zealous love for a team does not course through my veins like it does for so many Argentines. For them, their team identification, the team of which they are hinchas (fans), is a vital part of who they are.

The 2010 Oscar foreign film winner El Secreto de sus Ojos contains a quote that alludes to the fanaticism of hinchas in Argentina. It loosely translates to, “A person can change names, streets, faces, but there is one thing he cannot change. He cannot change passions.” Hinchas are fans of their team for life, often generations. “Me llamo _____ y soy hincha de _______.” (“My name is _____ and I am a fan of ______.”) When they introduce themselves to others, it is one of the first things they share or ask.

Even after nine months of living in Argentina and making close Argentine friends, many of whom are hinchas of either Boca or River, I still feel undeserving of the opportunity to choose and identify with a certain team. It is because I can understand that I might never really understand the passion of a hincha. Though I in no way condone the violent manifestations of fury, sorrow and shock that followed yesterday’s game outside the stadium, I respect and appreciate the love a hincha, such as the friends who Tweeted and posted Facebook statuses akin to, “I will follow you forever, River!!!!”

Instead, I declare myself in support of keeping alive the greatest tradition and rivalry in the world of Argentine sports, the must-see event for sports fans and tourists to the city: the Superclásico. I hope to one day have a chance to attend a Boca-River match, matches where nobody ever sits, where the music and screaming last the full 90 minutes of play and the energy of the impassioned fans can make a concrete stadium shake and vibrate.

Karina

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Visiting El Chaltén, Argentina

A three-hour bus ride from El Calafate is the teeny hikers’ and climbers’ town of El Chaltén. While very (very very) small, the town of El Chaltén with the jagged Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains rising up behind is an iconic image of Argentine Patagonia.

Welcome to El Chaltén!

Getting there

The most common way to arrive in town is to take three-hour bus ride from El Calafate. Some people choose to stay overnight, but if you are a more casual hiker—file me under that—it is very doable to just go for the day. Catch the first bus of the day out of El Calafate and then last one out of Chaltén back to Calafate at the end of the day, and you will have had time for some scenic hikes and relaxing meals.

My shot of the playground in El Chaltén

In fact, unless you are planning some intense climbing or trekking expeditions, I would not recommend staying overnight, as the town is even smaller and more quiet than El Calafate. Still, it is gorgeous and I do recommend scheduling a day to visit.

Residences in El Chaltén

What to do

Stop in the town’s tourism office to grab a trail map and get hike recommendations. My mom and I did about two hours of hiking total, which took us to two different, yet equally stunning, viewpoints.

Made it up to Mirador Las Águilas in Chaltén

Bus ride from Chaltén to Calafate, by Karina

Mom hiking back to town, with Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in El Chaltén

Also, grab a meal at La Cervecería, an artesanal beer/food joint in town that was one of the tastiest and most comforting meals I had had in some time. (The Argentine stew locro is the house specialty.) Be warned, though, that because this is almost exclusively a tourist town—tourists being the hikers and climbers—many establishments close for the low-season months beginning in April, the Cervecería included.

Our lunch at La Cervecería in Chaltén

Otherwise, wander town, grab some Patagonian chocolates and take lots of pictures!

See more for Argentina’s Santa Cruz province in this TKGO post about visiting El Calafate and Perito Moreno glacier.

Karina

Buenos Aires Carnaval Murgas and Corsos

This year was an important one for Carnaval in Argentina. In 1976, the Argentine military dictatorship, the same one responsible for the country’s devastating Dirty War during which thousands disappeared, eliminated the nationwide Monday and Tuesday Carnaval holidays. La Presidenta Cristina Kirchner re-instituted them as public holidays at the end of 2010 to take effect this year, so March 7 and 8 were days off. Party!

Below is a clip of the Palermo corso, complete with murga, that took place on March 7, 2011.

Now, to explain the related tensions and complicated side of the all the dancing, drumming, singing and celebrating, I bring in Elena Pinsky’s expertise once more.

While murga as an art exists as a form of popular expression, and of parody and celebration (à la most celebrations of Carnaval in the world), the reality of murga, as with so many other things, is that it is a vehicle for exploring other social and political tensions in the city. Because murga in Buenos Aires is not highly institutionalized the way it is in New Orleans or in Brazil (nor is it as popular, in the English sense of the word, among porteños), there are some interesting class implications about murga, best highlighted by the fact that murgas do not form in the [upper class] Recoleta or Puerto Madero [neighborhoods], though Palermo does have a few. The navigation of murgas in the city is rife with drama — groups that think that murgas should be organized by some entity and groups that don’t, and the relationship between the murga community and the government is tenuous.

Additional information and resources Elena recommends:

One group of organized murgas

More background

Soy Murguero

City of Buenos Aires Carnaval site

Plus: The first TKGO Buenos Aires Carnaval post

-Karina, again with the contributions of Elena Pinsky. Additional thanks/credit to my friend’s novio, Maxi, and this Expanish blog post for the history.

Shot of the Week

I couldn’t resist.

camel salta argentinacamel salta argentina

This camel hails from El Cayafate, a region just outside Salta, in Argentina.

Tara for TKGO

The Bolivian Army

Training recruits, that is.

bolivia army training

bolivia army training

Bolivian army recruits ran through the streets just after sunrise in the border town of Villazón, just steps from Argentina. Everyone pauses to greet them as they jog past.

bolivia army training

bolivia army training

We walked across the border to Villazón before jumping on the train to Uyuni to explore the famous salar, or salt flat.

la quiaca villazon bolivia argentina border

At the border between Argentina and Bolivia, crossing from La Quiaca to Villazón

Tara for TKGO

Gauchos in Argentina

The above video is a performance at Rodizio Campo in Luján, Argentina. As I mentioned in the last post, estancias in Argentina pay homage to the gaucho lifestyle and culture in Argentina. Gauchos, which are something of a bygone character (19th century was their heyday; sorry, guys) was the name give to the horse-riding residents of the pampas, the grassy plains in South America.

The gaucho can be considered the Argentine equivalent of the American cowboy, (or vice versa) and they both have similar qualities and representations. Rugged, anti-establishment, romanticized national symbols and all-around bad-ass; that’s the gaucho.

Gaucho is a term that extends beyond Argentina, though it is closely and most notably tied to nationalist sentiment in Argentina, mostly thanks to the 2,316-line epic poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández.

If you’re interested in learning more about gaucho culture, I suggest going right to the source of symbolism and picking up a copy of Martín Fierro, which is one of the most culturally important and respected pieces of literature in Argentina. Best to read in Spanish (if you can) to capture the full lyricism of the poem, although I’m sure some English translations handle it well.

Karina for TKGO

Asado in Ushuaia, Argentina

Before setting off for Antarctica in December 2006, we expeditioners spent a few days in our port city, Ushuaia—the southernmost city in Argentina, and the closest in the world to Antarctica via the Drake Passage.

Ushuaia, asado, Argentina, lamb

It was here I had my first introduction to a lifelong obsession: the Argentinian asado. The traditional asado is a four-hour method for grilling meat that locks in the succulent flavor and moisture without adding much additional seasoning except salt. Here, they made lamb in an upright position, but most at-home asados take place horizontally, over a three-foot long grill, out of convenience. The one thing they always have in common? Open fire.

asado de cordero, lamb, Argentina, Ushuaia

The typical side dishes at an asado are other meats, such as chorizo or morcilla (blood sausage). Salad consists of chopped lettuce, cubed tomatoes and sometimes onions—in three separate bowls—each with vegetable oil drizzled over the top. Though potatoes aren’t as common, they were an accoutrement at this asado, likely to satisfy the tourists’ palate.

asado, Ushuaia, Argentina, cordero, lamb

Serve your asado with red wine or a stiff drink (may I recommend Fernet Branca and Coca Cola?) and spend all day at the table enjoying the company. (It will take that long to consume all that cordero!)

Tara for TKGO