By: Anthony Nash O. De Leon
11,054.4 miles have been conquered and almost 23 hours have been spent. Every mile and every hour that were used will all be worthwhile in just a few minutes after the plane lands on the runway.
A quick peek from the glass window will give you a vibe that emanates from the city below. There is that vibrant vigor that fills you from within and creates an unexplainable optimism towards the city. There is a sensual passion dipped in red powerful, strong, and enigmatic. There exists an unusual flavor enticing and spell bounding. Incomparable splendor radiates and captures your attention. Lastly, chronicles of its rich history enter your mind and encapsulates its long existence in a matter of few seconds as you descend from the blue skies.
Welcome to the valued jewel in the Western seas; a precious stone by its name, by its people, by its history, by its culture, by its food, and by its places. This is Argentina, the heart of Latin America.
Discover the Silver Mountains
The precious country that it is, Argentina’s name, derived from the Latin “argentum” or silver, fits it perfectly. Its extraordinary wines, exceptional biodiversity, homey natives, savory steak, fascinating gauchos, and sensuous tango make Argentina the country that it is.
Visitors who will wander around the country will experience warmth not from the tropical sun but from its hospitable natives, ever so welcoming. Bits and pieces of stories from the past are evident in every magnificent site, which was well taken care by time and by the Argentines. The aroma of the aged wine coupled by the well-seasoned taste of the grilled steak completes a sumptuous meal for all senses. The fervent music and dance of the Argentine tango will captivate you, make your eyes dilate, and push you to never blink even for just a millisecond. All of these, plus the breath taking view of different landscapes from a group of waterfalls to a unique glacier, will complete the Argentine experience.
Definitely, Argentina’s large land mass is worth the visit. It is not only a place for people, not only a place for buildings, nor only a place for nature. It is a location where everything meets at the center and creates something more valuable than wealth and antiques. It creates unity; and behind this unity is a story of how this large land mass became the heart of Latin America.
A Heart Discovered in the Western Seas
Thousands of years ago, Argentina was ruled by indigenous groups who were keen and fierce hunters, food gatherers, skilled potters, and green thumbed farmers. These groups were called the Diaguitas and the Guaranies. All of them co-existed in the large expanse of land and travelled across it until they all separated and inhabited different regions of the pure and unadulterated terrain.
All was well for the natives until the travellers in search for treasure, discovery, fame, and power came. Italian Amerigo Vespucci came into the picture but he did not last long. He was followed by a Spaniard who was in search of precious stones. Juan Diaz de Solis was on his way to a land unknown to many but is rumoured to have been gifted with silver mountains. De Solis came at 1516 and was later killed by natives to protect their land from being spoiled by European influence.
Various battles between natives and Spaniards occurred until the foreigners succeeded and established Buenos Aires in 1580. In 1776, Spain combined all their influences in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay and created the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata.
The Viceroyalty, however, did not last long but it created an opportunity for Buenos Aires to flourish and become a strong commercial center where products are exported.
In 1816, due to the fall of the Spanish Monarchy, Argentina declared independence after a war between the royal loyalists and the opposing group was won by the latter. The struggle for ultimate independence, unfortunately, was not yet achieved. The country underwent various scuffles and bloodshed until it was able to establish a unified government in 1861.
Heart, ardour, and hope to achieve independence was never absent among Argentines. All three manifested in the scrolls dictating the past of the Latin country.
Today, all three are apparent among its people with the added touch of tenderness, care, and love.
With Love, from Argentines
Argentines are a different blend of diverse and ethnic groups from Europe to the Middle East and to other parts of South America. Living in Argentina are Italians, Spaniards, Syrians Lebanese, Peruvians, Paraguayans, Bolivians, Ecuadorians, Romanians, and many more. They are also a merge of various religious orientations such as Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists.
Each one may be different because of his or her roots but all of them are one as Argentines. They will give you that warm smile and welcome you with open arms once you join them and celebrate life in their country. Love will always flourish from every Argentine and they will introduce you to what their culture is all about.
Remember Argentina for its tango dance, music, lyrics because no other Latin American music can be as soulful and as fervent as it is. The start of the music signals the step by step amalgamation of a man and a woman into one. Eyes are staring at one another. One of the man’s hands will clasp that of the woman’s as his other hands glides to her back and drags her closer than before. Every inhale and exhale of breath, deep and enticing, is felt. Each step, strong and powerful, coincides with every feeling. Each hand movement, unstoppable and irresistible, is intense. The pair glides as one and forms beautiful lines and a story for the audience.
Evident in its beat and rhythm are reflections of its European and African influences. Its sense of urgency plus vigor reflects that of the African region while its majesty, strength, and steam, all from the European region.
Tango is an explicit treat to one’s eyes but nothing beats a hearty meal of Argentine wine and steak, freshly roasted coffee and medialuna, or other cuisines.
La Familia Asado
Every Sunday, families in Argentina gather and prepare a sumptuous meal in their backyards. This Sunday gathering, a celebration of life and relationships, is what they call the Asado.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to one during your stay at Argentina, you will see different cuisines served on the table. There’s the carne (beef), chinchulines (small intestines), chorizo (sausage), costillas (ribs), molleja (thymus gland), morcilla (blood sausage), pollo (chicken), riñones (kidneys), tripa gorda (large intestine), and ubre (udder).
If you’re even luckier, you’ll also see different kinds of beef steaks and wines served on their table. There’s the bife de chorizo (sirloin), bife de costilla (T-bone), he bife de lomo (tenderloin), cuadril (rump steak), ojo de bife (rib eye), tira de asado (short ribs), and vacio (flank steak). If you want your steak to be cooked medium, say punto; if you want it medium rare, say jugoso; if you want it rare, say vuelta y vuelta; and bien cocido, if you want it well done.
The food is now served. What else is lacking but a nice drink to quench your thirst.
Nothing would taste better than wine to pair up with a nicely grilled steak. Argentine wine sparkles once poured on a drinking glass. Its lightness is evident when the glass is moved to a circular manner and its aromatic scent makes it charismatic satisfying all of one’s senses.
Talk about satisfaction and senses, Argentina has a lot of scenic views and places that are sure to satisfy your hunger for history, nature, and biodiversity.
Round, around You Go
Argentina houses plenty of awe-inspiring landscapes that make it one of the Meccas for photographers around the globe. It is home to wondrous national parks, humongous glaciers, glorious water forms, dark caves, and many more.
Starting the tour across Argentina’s beautiful sights is a National Park that seduces many tourists every year, the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
The Parque Nacional Los Glaciares boasts of four gigantic glaciers that float around a vast clear lake. Its centrepiece is the Perito Moreno which sometimes grants you the spectacle of witnessing an ice breaking phenomenon. The sight will bring you back to the Ice Age where large chunks of ice proliferated across the globe.
Another water-based sight in the heart of Latin America is a display of water rushing down fastidiously against the craggy edges of rocks. It’s the Parque Nacional Iguazu, which is home to 275 waterfalls including the regal Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) which is higher than the Niagara Falls. The sight of the water falling down from high places plus the wide blue skies in the heavens and greeneries growing out from the rocks complete a marvellous picture worth more than that of the opulent works of art by great painters and sculptors.
From Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and Parque Nacional Iguazu of the north, it is time to travel down to Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires where vibrancy is at its fullest bloom.
Buenos Aires’s title, the Paris of the South, fits perfectly as its European influence emanates from the rich history, vivacious culture, and colourful streets and boutiques of the city. The city is a great picture of cosmopolitan life and is the perfect blend of the old world and of modern times. Buenos Aires gloats of symbolic landmarks that are sure to spark your curiosity and fondness of the unknown. It has the La Boca, the Obelisk, the Puerto Madero, and the Plaza de Mayo.
La Boca is a place where the Argentine working class resides. A visit through its streets will give you the chance to see colourful houses sitting beside and atop one another. This street is called the Caminito. The houses in this street are 19th century made and are painted like the rainbow to give out strong and good vibes to its visitors.
Another beautiful sight in the city is Puerto Madero in which yachts and boats float and give color to the blue waters. The port is most beautiful at night when darkness covers the land and one by one the lights from each yacht and boat light up coupled by the lights from the city’s tall buildings. Definitely, stars are not only in the skies.
One will also see the well-designed Puente de la Mujer Bridge which took inspiration from a pair dancing tango. The 335 feet long bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava. It was originally built in Spain but was brought piece by piece to Argentina. The bridge symbolizes a man towering down a woman as they dance the Latin dance.
Apart from these two places is the Obelisk. The 220 feet tall structure symbolizes the 400th anniversary of the city. The structure, which was built in 1936, took 31 days to finish and is said to be a commemoration of students who were tortured during the last dictatorial rule in the country.
Adding to the many places to visit in Buenos Aires is the Plaza De Mayo, which is a historical site. It is a city square with buildings that remind natives of the country’s history. Founded by Juan De Garay, it also houses the Old City Hall and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Heading down south to the colder region of Argentina, there exists Patagonia. Patagonia does not have a lot of tourists annually but it does offer a stunning scene, making it a perfect place for reverie. Patagonia has the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, which is the threshold towards the Antarctic region. In this place. you can enjoy lakes and meadowlands plus penguins and whales to rectify your melancholy.
Living is at its finest at Argentina. The fusion of various elements which are poles apart create a wondrous celebration and glorification of life. The formula of delicious delicacies, hospitable people, knowledge-filling history, eye-dilating sceneries, and influential culture adds up to all the happiness that one needs to live life to the fullest. Viva Argentina! Que Viva Argentina!