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The Culture of Argentina: Understanding Traditions, Customs & Values

Culture and SocietyCulture and Society

Argentinean culture and traditions

It should come as no surprise that Argentina’s varied geography is matched by its astoundingly diverse culture. With the country home to an ethnic mix of foreigners from Europe and beyond, Argentina’s culture is similarly eclectic, drawing on both European and South American roots.

Argentina history and culture

Immigration in the 19th and 20 th centuries of people from Italy, Germany, England, Spain, the Basque country, and Ireland contributed to Argentina become a multi-cultural society, with cultural traditions and customs reflecting the origins of these various ethnic groups.

However, this came at the expense of the pre-Columbian cultures and indigenous populations that inhabited Argentina before the Spanish reached Rio de la Plata – the location of modern-day Buenos Aires - in 1516.

Each European culture established their own role in the development of Argentina: the Basque and Irish controlled sheep farming, Germans and Italians established farms, and the British predominately invested in developing the country’s infrastructure.

Small populations of Japanese, Chileans, Bolivians, Paraguayans, and Uruguayans are also now found scattered throughout the country.

Argentine people and culture

Because of the cultural and ethnic diversity of Argentina, an expansive arts, crafts, and music scene exists, particularly in the capital of Buenos Aires.

There are many cinemas and galleries in major urban centers which are popular with richer, elite members of society and visiting them is regarded as something of a status symbol.

However, a prominent feature of the culture of Argentina is their beloved tango. An interesting fact about Argentine culture is that the dance is actually a blend of African, native American and European cultures and was actually brought to life by Argentinian people living in the working-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo - a city across the Rio de la Plata in neighboring Uruguay.

From there, it spread to the upper-class dance halls of the rest of the two cities and then across the oceans to the capital cities in Europe and north to New York.

This style of dance is believed to be one of the most amorous ways of expressing love in Argentina and it’s a feature of Argentina’s cultural traditions and musical history that you can’t help but notice: in Buenos Aires, it’s not uncommon to spy couples dancing the tango in a leafy square on a Sunday afternoon, while there are plenty of tango shows that you can visit for an evening’s entertainment.

Cinema is another key feature of Argentina’s culture, with historic film directors such as Luis Saslavsky and Luis Puenzo (the latter of whose film, “The Official Story”, documented the horrors of the Dirty War) receiving critical acclaim international.

A rebirth in Argentine cinema in the past few decades has seen Buenos Aires become an incubator for modern cinematic talent.

Football culture in Argentina

Football or soccer is the past-time of choice in Argentina and football games still draw huge crowds, while the World Cup is an event celebrated with much enthusiasm across the country, as Argentinians continue, each four years, to dare to hope that they can replicate their two wins, in 1978 and 1986.

The culture of Argentina revolves around this humble sport. El Monumental or the River Plate Stadium in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires is one of the country’s most important football stadiums, as it plays host to major sporting and other cultural events.

La Bombonera in the La Boca neighbourhood is another famous stadium where Boca Juniors play, one of the best-known Argentinian football teams whose most famous player was national hero, Diego Maradona.

Culture and Society

Family values and religion in Argentina

Roman Catholicism is the official religion of the country, where spiritualism and devotion to the dead are also deeply ingrained in society. Pilgrimages are not uncommon to the grave sites of relations and famous people who have since passed away, particularly on days such as El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Catholicism plays an important role in modern Argentine customs and traditions, particularly when it comes to issues concerning abortion, where the country has some of the strictest rules in the world, with pregnancy terminations banned except for when the mother’s life is at risk. In August 2018, a bill to allow changes to the abortion law was rejected by the Argentine Senate.

The structure of most Argentinian families reflects a belief in maintaining strong ties with your extended family, with events such as Christmas and birthdays being celebrated with large gatherings of family members. It’s also not uncommon for businesses to be run by several generations of the same family.

Food and dining traditions in Argentina

Dining plays an important role in Argentinean culture and the country is most acclaimed for its love of meat - predominately beef, which is cooked on mixed grills known as “parrilladas”. In Buenos Aires, classic steakhouses are an unmissable attraction, although if you’re ever offered to join an Argentinean family for a parrilla, don’t turn them down – it’s likely the meat will be among the best you’ve ever tasted!.

However, be aware that an important social custom in Argentina is not to arrive on time to any event. Instead, aim to be at least 45 minutes, if not more, late - and don’t be offended when your Argentinean friends do the same thing!.

Another important custom in Argentina is the drinking of mate, a caffeine-rich infusion of the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant infused in hot water and drunk from a gourd. A special metal straw called a bombilla is used for drinking the mixture, which is an important social event, where the gourd is passed one-by-one around the group.

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