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Argentina Culture, Traditions, and History (FSF Guide)



Argentina Overview

Argentina is a large, diverse, nation in South America, taking up most of the southern portion of the continent. Most Argentines are proud of their culture and its roots in European and indigenous traditions. They are also proud of their talents in many fields, ranging from chemistry to the arts, and their ability to overcome adversity.


Argentina’s History

Argentina was settled by the Spanish when they established a colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580. This led to the development of economically and culturally distinct regions based on environmental conditions and relations between natives and Europeans.The majority of the regions established strong ties with Latin American colonial centers, which directly connected them with Spain economically. This economic connection led to the influx of progressive European ideas

In 1816, Argentina formally declared independence from Spain when national hero General Jose de San Martin won a series of victories against the forces of European power. This was followed by a prolonged conflict to decide the future of the nation. A modern constitution was put into effect in 1853 and a unified government was established in 1861.

From 1880 to 1930, Argentina became one of the world’s 10 wealthiest nations due to the rapid expansion of agriculture and foreign investment in infrastructure. However, this period of prosperity was ended by the Great Depression. The economic bust combined with other social and political changes led to instability in the government. This eventually led to a military coup and the rise to power of then Colonel Juan Domingo Peron.

Peron soon became the government’s dominant figure as Minister of Labor and was elected president in 1946, but an economic downturn led to him being exiled by the military in 1955. He made a brief return to power in 1973 with broad popular support, but died soon after. Military rule continued throughout the 1970’s until mounting charges of corruption, human rights violations, and the country’s 1982 defeat by the British in a war over the Falklands Islands discredited the regime.

This allowed the country to once again democratize. It, however, again faced instability when the Asian financial crisis of 1998 mushroomed into a four-year depression for the country, culminating in their own financial panic in November 2001. After a prolonged period of political turmoil and several provisional presidents, the country has finally regained some semblance of social stability and seen slow, but steady growth.


Argentinian Culture

Societal Values

The turbulent political landscape has created a sense of solidarity among middle-class families. Many families and neighbors are willing to help one another during times of economic hardship through sharing food or exchanging gifts. One example is the concept of ‘la gauchada’, which refers to a special favor. It reflects the attitude one has when asking someone close to them to help with something outside their typical duties . This has led it to be common for people to depend on their social network to assist in seeking opportunities. This is reflected in the term ‘palanca’ (‘leverage’), which refers to knowing the right people to help you reach a goal.

The family is central to Argentinian life, with the extended families still having a prominent position. The heads of the strong families are highly respected, but bear the heavy responsibilities of caring for their family, ensuring its security, and preserving the family’s honor. Honor is everything and the most important thing in all the aspects of the life of the Argentinian family.

Although many Argentines are focused on building strong communities, a strain of individualism is also prevalent in the country. In 2018, Hofstede Insights classified it as the most individualist Latin American country. This individualism can often be seen in collective accomplishments or failures typically being seen as the efforts of a few individuals who are given most of the credit or blame. Moreover, some Argentines may place themselves or their family before the wider community or country.


Traditions

  • Each year, the country hosts the international book fair, where more than a million people attend



  • Dance performances and musical concerts take place in the gardens and sometimes stadiums, in case of broad-scale attendance




Religion

The majority of Argentines are Roman Catholics, though not all of them actively practice the religion, with a sizable Jewish minority and many who practice indigenous beliefs. The widespread acceptance of indigenous religion has led sorcerers and healers to be very popular. Some are immigrants from Brazil who carry their Afro-Brazilian beliefs, while others combine elements of popular Catholicism with indigenous beliefs, and a few urban men and women train themselves in the secrets of the Tarot or I-Ching. Some of these practitioners offer their services in craft fairs on weekends due to their incredible popularity.


Language and Communication Style

Spanish is the national language of Argentina, yet local dialects have absorbed many words from other European and indigenous languages. There are also a variety of accents associated with each region. One distinctive accent is the porteño accent, found in Buenos Aires, which has influences from Italian and incorporates many slang expressions known as ‘lunfardo’.


Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • People, regardless of their sex, greet each other by kissing on the cheek

  • It is rude to walk through/between people who are conversing

  • Hats are expected to be removed when entering buildings, houses, elevators and typically when in the presence of women.

  • It is expected for people to offer seats in public places and transit to the pregnant or elderly

  • When approaching someone of authority, one should always formally greet the official before asking questions.

  • Argentines will often prioritize people and relationships rather than strictly adhere to time frames


Visiting

  • It is common to visit friends and relatives without making prior arrangements.

  • Guests are usually expected to show up approximately half an hour to an hour after the set meeting time

  • If the gathering has roughly 20 guests or fewer, visitors are expected to greet everyone individually

  • Guests are not seated until the host indicates what the seating arrangements are

  • When leaving, a guest is also expected to bid farewell to every person individually

  • In urban areas, it is common for the host to open the door for departing guests


Eating

  • Argentines typically eat three meals a day, with the main meal being lunch.

  • Eat with a knife in the right hand and a fork in the left hand

  • Using a toothpick in public is considered bad manners.

  • Blowing one’s nose or clearing one’s throat at the table is taboo.

  • Acceptable to eating on public streets but not on public transport

  • During a toast, people typically raise their glasses, look at the person being toasted and then say “Salud” (“Cheers”).

  • Compliments to the host about their home or the meal are appreciated.


Gift Giving

  • If invited to an Argentine’s home, bring a gift of chocolate, flowers, candy, pastries or wine to show appreciation

  • Edible gifts are often shared with guests on the same day they are received

  • Gifts are usually nicely wrapped and are opened when received

  • Avoid giving anything that is obviously expensive as it might be interpreted as a bribe


Food

  • Many Argentines enjoy Yerba Mate tea along with coffee, a pastry, or slice of cake



  • Dulce de leche is a milk-and-sugar spread which appears on toast, pastries, and various confections



  • Argentine asado is a barbecue that is part of the gaucho heritage and strongly associated with manliness




Argentina Culture: Conclusion

Argentina is a diverse South American nation. Despite this, there is strong social cohesion, with many relying on one another in times of hardship. This cohesion is strongest in the family unit. However, Argentina’s collectivism is more personal than some countries and hides a strong individualist streak. Argentines are often highly individualistic when assigning thanks and blame. These converging aspects of society come together to create one of the most friendly and hospitable nations in the world.


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