Posted on Nov 10, 2012 |

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Okay, “I will write an article about my country”, I said. I will tell you about Argentina, its geography, its people. And, of course, I will try to end with misconceptions of it. Then, I realized that it wouldn’t be an easy thing. Argentina is a country full of places, traditions, cultures, different people and different values all together in one big piece of land (it’s the 8° largest country in the world) and, honestly, I didn’t want to miss anything. So I asked a friend to help me, because most of the time, two heads are better than one. From now on, we will share with you the beauties of this amazing place and we will make our greatest effort so you can experience and feel a bit what living in Argentina is like. Well, I will introduce myself before continuing. My name is Giuliana, I’m 17 and I’m from a province named Mendoza. I lived in Argentina my first 8 years of life. In 2002, my mom and dad were fired from their jobs, almost at the same time.

Contents:

History

The country was going through an economic and political crisis, so we had to fly across the sea and move to Italy, where we lived for three and a half years. My grandfather was an Italian immigrant, so my father got help from that country and found a job there. I returned to Argentina in 2005, and I have been living here since then. My family wasn´t the only one to suffer the consequences from the crisis, but to help you understand how things ended up like that, I will start from the very beginning. Argentina was the land of many indigenous communities, each one with different lifestyles. With the discovery of America, it became a Spanish colony. In 1810, a revolution called “Revolución de Mayo” established the bases for the declaration of Independence, which occurred in 1816. José de San Martín was a very important figure in those times, because he not only contributed with the revolutionaries in Argentina, but also helped Chile and Perú to get their Independence.

From that moment on, we would take our own decisions. And as you can imagine, to organize a country is a very challenging thing. We have had civil wars, democratic governments, many many presidents (about 52), clean elections, very bad elections, and it goes on and on. Argentines have very opposed feelings about the politicians that have run this country, so I won’t give my opinion on someone in particular and I will keep this aspect as objective as I can. The important thing here is to know that we have lived years under the government of constitutional presidents, and years under “de facto” governments, which means they became presidents without people’s votes. Argentina has also survived a military government which ruled from 1976 to 1983. During this phase, a lot of persons considered subversive were arrested and disappeared. After the dictatorship the CONADEP (National Comission of the Disappereance of Persons) would be created to investigate the fate of this people and the violation of others human rights. Another relevant event that took place during this process was the Malvinas (or Falklands) War. This is the best example to see that because of bad decisions taken by a government that was not chosen by the people, Argentina officially lost the sovereignty of the Malvinas islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. This conflict, that remains unsolved nowadays, has created a state of tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina. But this doesn’t mean I hate British people, of course not! Personally, I think this political issue will come to an end at some point, but that’s what it is, a political issue. People’s beliefs and likes don’t necessarily have to be determinated by government choices. After those times, we had again constitutional presidencies. The crisis which I talked about before took place in 2001, when Argentina had to face several economic problems. The peso (our official currency) had to be devalued to pay the external debt. People started to withdraw their money from the banks, but the government froze their accounts. This was called “Corralito”. The economy was in a drastic position, the population was upset, and as I said, layoffs left a lot of persons without jobs. It seems like a very problematic history, right? We have had to face many problematic situations. However, we have managed to survive and improve our society through all this. We have excellent universities, a variety of touristic places, and a large list of achievements that we will mention later.

Geography and People

Now that you know how we’ve got here, I should describe what my country is like in the present. First, for those who don´t know, I will say that Argentina is located in South America. Our neighbors are: Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia. We are also bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Andes to the west. This mountain range has some of the tallest peaks of South America, including Cerro Aconcagua, the tallest peak of the entire continent. This mountain is in Mendoza, the province where I live. I will add the fact that it’s a really majestic place. Argentina is divided in 23 provinces and the autonomous city of Buenos Aires. They are: Buenos Aires (our capital), Catamarca, Chaco, Chubut, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Neuquén, Rio Negro, Salta, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego and Tucumán. Now, I will let my friend Flor tell you the rest… Hello! My name is Florencia (but please, call me Flor), I’m 17 years old, and I’m from Mendoza, like Giuliana. I was born in another province, though, called Buenos Aires, but in 2000 my father got a job here and our life has changed completely. It was like a movie, I’d moved from the big city to a smaller city, but for me Mendoza was like a desert at that time. Let me explain this to you. The “porteños” (the people who live in Buenos Aires) believe they are better and more advanced in every aspect than the rest of the country (not all the population, believes that, of course). There is a motto that says “Dios esta en todos lados, pero atiende en Buenos Aires”, which means, “God is everywhere but serves in Buenos Aires”. But it is not true. Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, so this means that most of the population is concentrated in this area. The province has large buildings, really big cities; it has a great cultural variety; the entertainment industries are settled there; you can party all night long; and it is connected with the whole world. In Mendoza, instead of seeing skyscraper all over the place (we don’t have them because it’s an earthquake zone), you can see the mountains. It has a beautiful landscape, with plenty of trees, rivers, heat in summer and snow in winter. Unlike Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Misiones, Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Formosa, Jujuy and Salta, which are very humid places, this province is very arid, like San Juan, San Luis, La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. An obvious consequence of the different weather is the presence of a huge diversity of ecosystems. You can find green plains in the central area, coniferous forests in western Patagonia, arid weather and mountains in the west, subtropical plants in the north, humidity near the coast… We are extremely lucky to have such mixed areas, just imagine the amount of resources, landscapes and biodiversity!

Places to Visit

We have three kinds of reliefs: • Mountains and hills in the northwest and west. • Plateaus in the south. • Plain in the southeast, east and center. Our country is rich in natural resources like water, oil, gas, wind power, mining and wildlife. And we also have beautiful landscapes such as the ones I’m going to mention right now: Cerro Aconcagua Cerro Aconcagua The cerro Aconcagua is the tallest peak in South America, with 6.959 metres over the sea level. It is in Mendoza, our province. It is a beautiful place for the ones who like mountains, the cold, snow, and climbing. When you are up there, you feel like all your problems disappear and you realize how perfect nature is.

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego It is a natural reserve, the only one in Argentina which has beaches, forests and mountains all together. It has a huge range in wildlife, with lots of different birds, foxes, sea otter, guanacos, fishes like the Puyén and the Peladilla, and I could go on and on. The activities you can do are: hiking, camping, fishing, bird and beaver watching, canoeing, cycling and water sports.

Cataratas del Iguazú

This place is AMAZING! Recently included as one of the new seven wonders of nature, it is located in the province of Misiones and Brazil. With its subtropical climate and vegetation, not to mention the 275 falls that can exceed 70 meters in height, and that form thousands of rainbows when they crash against the ground.

Glaciar Perito Moreno

Glaciar Perito Moreno Located in the province of Santa Cruz, this big mass of ice transforms nature in an incredible show. Its length is about five kilometers and its height reaches 80 meters above the water level. Pieces of ice break off the glacier, falling into the Argentine Lake and producing impressive loud sounds and big waves in the water. This spectacle is one to see.

Península Valdés This landform, which takes place in Chubut, is the main center of diversity in sea life in Argentina. You can see whales, orcas, sea lions, elephant seals, penguins and many seabirds. Here you can practice many aquatic sports such as diving and fishing.

Patagonia The Patagonia region includes the provinces of Neuquén, Chubut, Santa Rosa, Tierra del Fuego and Rio Negro. It has a great variety of wildlife and lots of resources. Its main attractions are: Bariloche, El Calafate, Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world), Puerto Madryn and Las Grutas. It’s characterized by its green ecosystem and the great amount of different animals, such as deer, pumas, Patagonian hares, guanacos, foxes, condors, black-necked swans, ostriches, sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, petrels, cormorants and whales.

Parque Nacional El Palmar This national park in Entre Ríos, aims to preserve a representative sample of the extensive palm trees in our country. Some of them are 200 years old! The trees grow up the 12 metres high and the leaves are 2 metres long with trunks of about 40 cm in diameter. El Obelisco Settled in Buenos Aires, The Obelisco represents the foundation of this province. On the site where it stands, long time ago there was a church, where, in 1812, Argentina’s flag was hoisted for the first time in Buenos Aires.

Tren a las nubes

It is one of the three world’s highest railway, which runs between the enormous mountains of The Andes through beautiful landscapes. It begins in the city of Salta, passes through Valle de Lerma and Quebrada Del Toro, to reach the Puna. It has a journey of nearly fifteen hours round trip. And, because of its height, you can see clouds beneath you and between the mountains.

Valle de la Luna y Talampaya The Valle de la Luna in San Juan and El Parque Nacional Tampalaya in La Rioja, are next to each other, and both have paleontological and archaeological sites of great importance. Here, dinosaur fossils have been found, petrified logs and objects of aboriginal civilizations before the colonization. The fauna consists of guanacos, hares, foxes, ferrets and squirrels. Beautiful right? Here in Argentina there are hundreds of sites like the ones that I have just mentioned. But let’s stop talking about the landscape and start talking about the people. Each province has its own way of living. This is the result of a large variety of cultures that coexist in our country. But this also means that they are highly centralized; each one takes care of its own people and sometimes this creates hatred between people from each province (not nice at all) but it also makes a strong feeling of love and friendship among the populations in their own provinces. Of course, we have things in common in our country, for example the fact that we can be very funny, friendly, expressive, generous, supportive and even hard-working. It is a lie that we are lazy. Argentines are very spontaneous and outgoing: everyone can be invited to eat the “Asado del domingo” (tipical barbecue), or have a wonderful afternoon drinking “mate” and eating “alfajores de maizena”. We love to spend time with friends and family, we care a lot about them and we have no problems showing our affection.

Achievements

I almost forgot to mention that Argentina is considered a multiethnic country. The European immigration that occurred between 1850 and 1950 brought to us mostly Italian and Spanish workers. Indigenous civilizations also lived here in the colonial times, and although a huge part was exterminated, there is still a reduced population in the present. You can also find small communities such as: Jewish, French, Polacs, Bolivians, Peruvian, etc. Unfortunately, I have to say that there are two big problems in Argentina: poverty and insecurity. Each day, the prices are getting higher and higher (we have what is called inflation). The middle class is disappearing and the breach between rich and poor people is increasing every day. Yes, we have problems to solve, like every country. We do not think that we are better than other countries, or that we know everything about everything. In fact, we can be our worst critics. But it’s true we are proud of our accomplishments, and we like to talk about them. We have a lot of argentine achievements, and some of them have made a difference in the world: • Nobel prize winners: o Carlos Saavedra Lamas: he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936 for his role as a mediator in the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay. o Bernardo Alberto Houssay: Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1947 for the discovery of the role of the anterior pituitary lobe hormone in the metabolism of sugar in blood. o Luis Federico Leloir: he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970 by discovering sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates. o Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, for his work in defense of the human rights based solely on non-violent means through the Peace and Justice Service Organization since 1974. o César Milstein: he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1984 for the development of the hybridoma technique for producing monoclonal antibodies. • Inventions: o The heart bypass, invented by René Favaloro o Fir efficient fingerprint system to identify people, invented by Juan Vucetich o The white cane for blind people, invented by José Mario Fallótico o The ballpoint pen, invented by Ladislao Biró. He was born in Hungary, then moved to Argentina and become an Argentine citizen. o Blood transfusion, invented by Luis Agote. o The bus, invented by Angel Di Cesare. • Argentine national heroes o José de San Martín: a military, whose campaigns were crucial to the independence of Argentina, Chile and Peru. o Manuel Belgrano: he was an intellectual, economist, journalist, politician, lawyer and military who participated in the Revolución de Mayo and in our Independence war, and he was the creator of the Argentinean’s flag. • Writers: o José Hernández o Jorge Luis Borges o Julio Cortázar o Ernesto Sabato • Musicians: o Soda Stereo o Charly García o Fito Páez o Mercedes Sosa o Soledad Pastorutti, “La Sole” o Carlos Gardel • Music: o Tango o Rock Nacional • Oscar winners movies: o El secreto de sus ojos (2010) o La historia oficial (1985) • Food (yummy!): o Asado (barbecue) o Empanadas o Alfajores o El Mate o Dulce de leche o Sándwich de miga We want to let you know that despite the fact that we included mate, alfajores and dulce de leche here, it doesn’t mean that we actually invented it. Their origin is not completely clear and there are different versions from different countries. However, we feel they identify us and we felt that they deserved to be mentioned. Sports: o Diego Maradona (football) o Lionel Messi (football) o Los pumas (rugby) o Emanuel Ginóbili (basquetball) o Juan Martín Del Potro (tennis) o Las leonas (hockey)

 

Misconceptions

To conclude, and although we have been talking about some typical misconceptions of Argentines throughout the article, I will make a list of them, explaining how things really are:

1. Argentines are arrogant and think they are better than the rest of the world  No, no and no. We have just a strong feeling of pride for what is ours, and we show it. But it would be impossible to think that no one is better than us, considering the many unsolved issues that other countries have already solved.

2. Argentines are lazy and carefree about everything. We are very hard-working people. We often have to be. It’s not easy to maintain a family and it is common for both parents to work if they want to have a decent lifestyle and for example, provide their children with a good education.

3. Argentines are liars and scammers. Hey, people like that exist all around the world. It’s true that here is quite common to avoid the rules, but not all the population is dishonest. There is still a part which believes that honesty and truth are essential values for a good society.

4. Argentines are never satisfied with their life. I think that there is a little bit of truth here. I constantly hear people who always need something else to be truly happy. But I also think that this is a result of something bigger, which is the consumer society. People in the present don’t value what they have because they are surrounded by many material achievements, and almost no spiritual ones. Things don’t give you happiness in the long term. And this happens here, in China, or in the USA in the same way. I would like to end this article saying that misconceptions and stereotypes are created by generalizations. Every human is different from the rest, so it’s kind of useless to categorize them based on the country they live in, or the religion they have, or their sexual orientation, etc. We should accept and embrace each one’s uniqueness and focus on creating unity to live in a better world.

This article has been written by Giuliana De Polo and Florencia Kubat, they are the Argentinian Ambassadors for Project Unify. Read about them and other ambassadors here.

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