March 13, 2013: The white smoke has risen and a new pope has been chosen. Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be called Francis, the first pope to be known by that name, and also the first from the Americas. No doubt this will cause fresh interest in Argentine culture — not that there is any shortage of reasons to be excited about Argentina at any time. In fact, here are five excellent reasons to take an interest in the land that brought us tango, and now the pope, previously published in August 2012.
"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints." – Robert Louis Stevenson
There are not many things in life that are better than a good journey. The exploration of "the other" and "the self" happen simultaneously while travelling.
Beyond the simple pleasures of seeing stunning natural beauty or tasting mysterious, delicious foods, I find music to be the gateway to culture. If you've heard a few songs from the place you're travelling and can share the joy that listening brings, you're likely to find greater connection and more rewarding experiences with the locals you meet.
Recently, I spent four months hitchhiking around Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Of course, I met countless people who live there. One of the easiest ways to connect with my new friends was through music, sport and literature.
Below is a list of five things to love about Argentina, all of which I knew before going, but my experience was so much richer after sharing these treasures with other Argentines.
1. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, "El Matador."
Without a doubt, one of the reasons has to be Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Here's the biggest hit from one of Argentina’s biggest bands. Try not to dance while listening to this.
I was invited to an asado (a barbecue feast), which turned into an evening-long celebration of beef, wine, music, dance and revelry, after striking up a conversation about Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.
2. Bajofondo, "Pa’ Bailar."
Bajofondo is a fantastic band from the Rio Plata area that mixes tango with electronica, rock and hip-hop. "Pa’ Bailar" is slang, meaning "To Dance."
I interviewed the leader of this band several years ago, and had a much richer understanding of the Rio Plata region for knowing and loving this music.
3. Mercedes Sosa, "Gracias a la Vida."
Mercedes Sosa was one of the best known voices in South America. She survived exile and outlasted the military regime that she defied through her music. This song is written by the Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra, but was one of Sosa’s biggest hits.
While hitchhiking in Patagonia, I spent several hours singing along to Mercedes Sosa with an Argentine evangelical minister and his family.
4. Club Atlético Boca Juniors.
Arguably the most popular soccer team in South America. Unarguably, Boca fans are the craziest fans in the world. See how crazy they are during this introduction – Boca Juniors insanity! Maradona, arguably the world's greatest soccer player, rose through the ranks with Boca, the team of the working class.
I risked my life walking through the Boca neighbourhood to see a game. (In fact, a few days earlier, I'd fought off three teenaged assailants trying to mug me in the Boca area.) The risk was worth the experience of being part of such a frenzied football experience. I now understand that football is a religion.
5. Jorge Luis Borges.
Jorge Luis Borges is one of Buenos Aires’s most famous citizens, and one of the last century’s greatest writers, in any language. His essays, short stories and poems open doors to a better understanding of Buenos Aires, Argentina and the world.
The video below is part one of a six-part documentary.
Bajofondo’s tango, Atari style: exclusive video premiere
Manu Chao serenades Maradona
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on Aug 29, 2012