Porteños and their Identity Crisis

9 Mar

Hola Amigos,

Well, I’m almost officially two weeks in to my Buenos Aires adventure- crazy! Life has flown by, but at the same time I feel that I have seen and done so much. However, reality hits tomorrow; classes at one of my universities start, which at the moment includes seven courses. Because of how unorganized academics are here, I’m sure my stress will be out the roof (I still don’t even know the schedule for three of my classes and probably won’t until a couple hours before). However, I’m taking everything with a grain of salt- I am in Argentina after all. Aside from that, everything is great. Every day I try to take advantage of new experiences and meet new people. Like I mentioned before I left, it’s difficult to make sleep a huge priority here. I know I can’t keep up this sprint-like pace for my entire five month marathon, but right now I have “runner’s high,” and I’m not stopping until I lose it.

With that, I wanted to focus the rest of this post on a major aspect of the city I’ve already noticed- its blend of backgrounds and cultures. I believe a new phrase should be coined to describe Buenos Aires and its inhabitants; a “melting pot” ( of cultures) just isn’t fitting enough. The best description of these people I’ve encountered so far came from one of my travel books: “A Porteno is an Italian who speaks Spanish, lives like a Frenchman, and wants to be English.” Kudos to that author because his assessment couldn’t be more accurate in my opinion. Here’s a quick breakdown. 1) Nearly half the population can trace at least one grandparent to Italy. Caverllini, Randazzo, Muggeri- I see different last names and feel like I’m reading through a phonebook in Rome. 2) Rather self-explanatory, although the accent is one of the most unique I’ve ever heard. Most noticeable is “seismo,” the pronunciation of “ll” and “y” as the ‘sh’ sound of the word “shoes” instead of the ‘y’ sound in “yet.” I’m currently trying to hold on to the conservative Spanish I’ve learned in the US, but I feel myself slowly giving in. I suppose assimilating is better (although it’s not like locals don’t know I’m foreign from a million other give-aways…). 3) From strikes to quaint cafes , this city’s nickname of being the “Paris of South America” is very appropriate. Additionally, it’s obvious from the architecture that those who designed the city attempted to mirror France, especially the capital. Having no artistic background and being limited in my “descriptive” abilities, it’s hard for me to say much more than that, but take my word for it…or just Google pictures of Buenos Aires and Paris and prove it for yourself. 4) This reference is probably the hardest to clarify. While Argentina and Great Britain openly dislike each other (eg, Falkland Islands is still very much a controversial topic), I feel a subtle fascination by Portenos for the Brits, as if their country were on a sort of pedestal. For instance, when I ask people here where they would like to travel, they often mention London, but with a wishful tone, as if to imply that it’s an impossible dream or something. However, I mention Paris, and people are much more “optimistic,” so to speak. Financially, Great Britain with its pound does cost a decent amount more than the rest of the European continent, but I still feel there is more to it than that. Aside from those four countries, there also exists influence from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, etc- the list goes on and on. This city can also boast about having numerous indigenous people from interior portions of the country, adding another interesting facet. Now I know I have only been here two weeks and haven’t traveled to many places in the world. Regardless, I have a hard time believing any city could be more diverse than Buenos Aires. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to elaborate more throughout my stay! For now, it’s good night because I need some sleep- tomorrow IS my first day of school after all…

Hasta pronto!


2 Responses to “Porteños and their Identity Crisis”

  1. Bailee Brown March 9, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Buenos Aires sounds absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to go there myself in the fall! Classes, however, seem as if they are going to be a huge pain. You really won’t know the times until right up until they start? Dios mio! I am so jealous that you are already there, and please keep the blog coming because I’m counting on you to let me know how my semester will be in the fall!

    Buena suerte en sus clases!

  2. Joe March 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm #


    The Falklands skirmish was unfortunate for all…especially as it let Maggie Thatcher hold onto power even longer. Bloody hell! But as soon as I land at Heathrow tomorrow, I will run down the walkway to immigration waving my hands in the air screaming ‘Argentina hates you Argentina hates you!’

    Well..maybe not. 😉 Your description of the people is top notch…I see travel writing in your future mon ami. x Can u facebook me your address asap??

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