Argentina is the second largest country in South America, and eighth in the world. Its terrain is vast and diverse with La Pampa, the rich plains located in the central region, the jungles in the north, Patagonia plateau in the south, and the Andes to the west with the desert sitting at their base. The culture and way of life of Argentina varies as much as the landscape that it traverses. Argentine cuisine is a blend of indigenous and Mediterranean influence, often families and friends will gather to cook and eat meat grilled over an open fire. Other elements of the country such as the architecture and music follow this blending of culture, with influences from Italy and Spain.
The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is one of the largest cities in Latin America, its name means fair winds, and its fifteen and a half million inhabitants are known as porteños, “people from the port.” These signify that many of the people who live in Buenos Aires are immigrants, their families coming to the city during the Spanish colonisation in the 16th century and the European immigration during the 19th. Buenos Aires is therefore incredibly diverse, and its people especially humbling, understanding the mix of nations and influences that make up and influence them and the city they live in. The city itself is a blur of European architecture, old world grace and the contemporary trendiness of a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. It is a crowded concoction of colour and energy, and each of the 48 districts called Barrios reflect the diversity of its culture. La Boca is considered the most colourful Barrios, a palette of reds, greens and yellows give this district its picturesque elegance.
In the district of La Boca, Tango dancers can be seen practising their moves in the streets. Their feet falling in each other’s step as their partner swivels, and the pace speeds up and continues to change. Tango is the national dance of Argentina, and it is rooted deep in the country’s culture and history. The dance and its corresponding musical style began in Argentina, in the neighbourhoods such as La Boca. It contains influences from the city’s African community, such as the rhythm, and the music originating from Europe. These elements blended together in the working class immigrant neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires in the mid nineteenth century; it is then the dance and music of the porteños.
In Buenos Aires, and in other cities across Argentina, Tango dances take place in the Milongas, these gatherings go on all throughout the night, often finishing at around five or six in the morning. Locals are keen to offer to teach tourists the Tango, and these are the best places to go to learn. Tango in the city has seen massive growth in recent years, and in 2009 the importance of the Tango worldwide was stamped into history, as it was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This led to much increased popularity and funding of the Festival de Tango that takes place every year in Buenos Aires.
This annual event brings Tango to the forefront of the city, staging events across the entire city. The events range from professional performances at various beautiful venues, to beginners classes where anyone can join in and take the hand of a partner. Like all dance and art, the Tango is a form of expression, for the dancers themselves as they strut across the crisp floor to the jiving music of the band, and for the city, revealing itself to the world as the proud home of the Tango.
What other cultural gems in Argentina would you like to learn more about?