Facts and Figures about this Fascinating Country, Argentina -Day 467
A bit different post for today, after learning something particular about the Argentinean language, I thought I would share some of the facts and figures about this Fascinating Country, #Argentina that we have learnt.
In our Spanish lesson this morning we learnt that in Argentina, they use ‘vos’ for the informal 2nd person ‘you’ instead of the typical Spanish ‘tú’. Our tutor Santiago said it’s like we wouldn’t say ‘flashlight’ as North Americans do, we would say ‘torch’ because we are English. Good point.
On our way back to our apartment, it got us thinking about what else we have learnt about Argentina. So here’s your lesson for today:
Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world with a population of 44.6m, the majority clustered in Buenos Aries with 13m, and the next most populated is here in #Córdoba with just 1.4m.
Putting this in context, Argentina has 16 pp km², less dense than New Zealand at 18 pp km² (the UK at 275 pp km²). I am sure this is mainly due to the wilderness of Patagonia. We flew over it with clear skies, and the plains go on forever with hardly any settlements. Mind you if you visit the windy east shores of Patagonia you may be greeted with “Yn falch o'ch cyfarfod” rather than “Encantado de conocerte”. Yes, there is actually a Welsh community in this area, established back in 1865.
We all know that Argentina wanted to own the Falklands Island, a subject we avoid talking about, but did you know that the government sent a pregnant woman to Antarctica specifically to give birth there, so helping their claim to own sovereignty. Emilio Palma was born in January 1978 at the Esperanza Base near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Many of us will remember Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 world cup. Argentina loves its football, so much so that in the city of Rosario, home of Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi, a resident named their child Messi and the authorities, concerned that they would have an overabundance of Messi boys have passed a law banning this first name.
Talking of famous people, Pope Francis I comes from Buenos Aires where he used to be a nightclub bouncer and loved dancing the Tango, the national dance which is often performed on the streets, lovely to watch.
And talking of the Pope, the Roman Catholic Church is extremely powerful and rich here. Many churches are covered in gold inside. Much of the gold the Spanish took to pay off its debts but left gold here for the church. Despite the country being secular, the church receives an annual contribution of 130m pesos and don’t pay any taxes. However, this may change as last November the church announced that they are committed to austerity and will “accept the gradual replacement of state contributions…” and rely on money from the faithful.
The economy is still in a sorry state with 47% inflation. We have noticed that the exchange rate against sterling has changed by 6% in the month we’ve been here. (Luckily the right way for us). As well as paying the church, all children are given free education from the age of 3. If students decide to go to University, that is another 5 years of free study. Even students from abroad are offered free education, it’s part of the country’s constitution. Crikey, that’s not helping the economy. I will say that the country seems passionate about learning and are very well read. Bookshops are everywhere (remember them?), and in Buenos Aires, we were informed that there is a bookshop for every 8,000 people (I’ve been wanting to put that fact in somewhere for weeks!)
Back to the economy, in 1913 Argentina was the 10th wealthiest nation per capita. Now it's the 54th. Most of this downturn was due to the political instability the country has had with military ruling and 14 dictators for 53 years until 1983. I am sure we will find out more about the 30,000 missing people between 1974 and 1983 when we visit the Memory Museum here this week. Even afterwards, the political scene was still volatile, having 5 presidents in 10 days in 2001.
On a lighter note, let me share with you the typical food here in Argentina. It has the highest consumption of red meat in the world, and as I discovered yesterday, I don’t think they class ham or chicken as meat!
I have already mentioned their Empanadas which are eaten everywhere and a great snack. They also eat Locro, a thick stew with corn, beans, potato or pumpkin and meat. And when I say meat, it can include any part of the animal. On Sunday one of the young travellers we met was eating this, and it had tripe in it.
The Argentinians do have a sweet tooth and seem surprised that we don’t have sugar in our tea or coffee. They like their pastries, which often is stuffed with dulce de leche. I bet the dentists do well here! Perhaps this is to counterbalance the strong bitter black tea called Yerba Mate they drink continuously. It’s drunk in a pot called Guampa, about the size of a large mug full of dried chopped Holly leaves and through a metal straw, often shared. You see people carrying their thermos flasks of hot water so that they can top up their Guampa. I don’t know if this is relevant, but most places we’ve stayed at don’t have electric kettles, just on the gas stoves of which we need to use matches. Just saying!
As well as drinking Mate, wine is important to the economy and Argentina is the 5th largest wine producer in the world with Mendoza, where we’ve just come from, producing 70% of this.
What other things have we noticed? There are many, many dogs roaming the streets. They don’t seem to walk in packs as we experienced in Sri Lanka. On walking tours, we have been joined by one or two dogs; quite nice in a way. The downside is that you need your wits about you to avoid the dog poo lying around.
And talking of poo, toilet paper cannot be put down the lavatories. Surprisingly this is the first country we’ve had to put used paper in a bin.
I hope you have found this interesting, a few facts and figures about this fascinating country.