Monday, May 24, 2010

Mendoza - sociedad insular?

At a Mendoza Expats happy hour last week, I met a Scottish neurobiologist who told me he'd lived in Mendoza since 1996. I told him, "So you're a real Mendocino now," and he just laughed. Pointing to his half-Argentinian 12 year daughter, who was born here, he said, "Maybe her kids will be real Mendocinos." That's the reputation -- that for as friendly as Mendocinos are with foreigners, to really get into the culture takes generations.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a couple I met traveling in Oaxaca. When I asked where they were from, they responded, "Well, we've been living in New Orleans for 20 years now, but, you know, until you're third generation you're not really from there." (Maybe geraldinemander can inform on the truth of that.)

It's an odd contrast. La gente son tan amable -- see my last post for an example. Out for drinks the other night, the waiter asked where I was from and upon learning Texas (this is very interesting to Argentinos), he sat at our table, got us free drinks, and chatted for a half hour. Es típico aca. People are warm and welcoming. Except on Sundays.

Sundays are family day. Everything is closed save a few restaurants. The tradition is to have a big asado with your extended family. And to get invited to one, you've got to be in. I think married to an Argentina does it, but not sure.

As my boss, who's lived here for almost 5 years, put it, "On Sundays I walk around town and I feel like I'm an orphan." I felt the same sentiment today walking around Parque Cívico for the bicentennial celebration (tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of Argentina). Toting around my small bottle of malbec after destroying a plate of ribs (very reminiscent of the Houston Greek Festival crossed with 4th of July, btw), I felt a little orphaned too. It's a culture centered on the family. I know, what culture isn't? But there's a purity to the family group here. In Mexico, a pachanga might be family, friends, business associates of the father, etc, but it doesn't appear so here. Porqúe?

De todos modos, happy birthday Argentina! I'm happy to celebrate it with you, even if I'm only partly invited.


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