Argentina has a completely different culture than other places I’ve been in Latin America. I am by no means an expert on Latin American culture, but I think I’m pretty well versed. I had always heard that Argentinians were different, but I wasn’t quite sure how. I knew they spoke differently, they use the term vos instead of tú (the word for the informal you, for those of you never took Spanish in highschool), they have a challenging accent, and their Spanish almost sounds Italian. Its been interesting trying to figure out things here, there is a more European feel to the city.
My first impression of Argentina was not that great. Coming over the Andes by land from Chile there was a marked difference in the quality of the road and then when we got out of the bus to wait a few hours at the border crossing we were struck by the amount of garbage strewn everywhere. We had to use one of the most disgusting bathrooms ever, the dumpsters and trashcans were all overflowing and there was trash all over the ground. Coming from Chile this was quite a shock, since I found Santiago to be incredibly clean. When we finally arrived at the bus station after our eight hour journey we were greeted by more trash. The bus station was about as dirty as the border crossing. I immediately started rethinking our decision to stay here for a month. Things started looking better during our hair-raising and expensive taxi ride through town.Thankfully we are staying in a clean area just outside the city proper.
Although we don’t enjoy city living, this one isn’t too bad. There’s an easy to use trolley and bus system that makes getting downtown fun (at least to the little boys).It is very hot at this time of year, like Houston in May. The streets are all lined with mature trees so this definitely helps with the heat, the trees not only provide shade but also add to the beauty of the city. It is a really pretty city and so green. The Spanish founded Mendoza in 1561, but there are no colonial buildings since the city was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1861. Mendoza was rebuilt with five central plazas laid out like the number five on a dice. It was redesigned with wide avenues and multiple plazas for refuge and a quick escape from future earthquakes.
The stores and restaurants take the Hispanic tradition of siesta very seriously. Most places are closed between 1-5 in the afternoon. The climate is arid the city’s trees rely on acequias, irrigation channels that run along all the streets for water. The dry climate makes it ideal for growing wine grapes and olives.
Parque General San Martin is a huge city park that has 11 miles of trails that we have not yet explored. I think it would be great to rent a bike to explore this park since it is just too big to do so on foot. Located inside the park is a lake and several small museums.
Mendoza is the wine capital of Argentina and is known for the Malbecs. We have been dutifully trying as many wines as we can, and beer too since there is also a local craft beer scene here as well. Unfortunately the kids cramp our style and we haven’t had a chance to go bar hopping.
My favorite part about being here is enjoying the café culture. Cafés and bars can be found everywhere. People will sit for hours drinking, coffee, tea, yerba mate, wine, or beer. And they actually talk with each other or with strangers, they have real lively discussions. I see very few people buried in their phones or other electronics at any restaurants. Its enlightening to see actual human interaction on a whole community level