It’s Semana Santa, or the week of Easter Sunday, and, feeding some need for custom and festivity that was inculcated in me in Catholic church pews (I can still smell them), I leave Uruguay.
Why? One reason is to see what its conceited, older cousin has to say about the canastas, conejitos y huevitos de chocolate — all the marketing around Easter, as well as any religiosity.
Uruguay is known as a progressive, liberal country. And yeah, there’s less religiosity. But that might not be the case in Argentina, so I’m visiting my friend in Tandil purely to orchestrate a comparative study for the benefit of you folks here on Slide Night. Not for pleasure or anything.
Before I return to report (writing this at 3:30pm on Saturday, April 20, 2019), here are a few things I have heard regarding the relationship between Argentina and Uruguay:
1.) Uruguay was formed as a tiny buffer state, or estado tapón (yes, related to tampon), between its vecinos grandotes, Argentina and Brazil. Since then, it’s kept that custom of being the humble one. The neutral one. The tranki (see “frases” below).*
2.) Argentinians (especially porteños, or people from Buenos Aires) are known to be egotistic; they think they’re the best at everything. You say they speak Spanish, they will laugh at and correct you with, erm, it’s actually el castellano. (Italics resound with their porteño ways.) You think the second-person conjugation of “ser” is “eres”, but they brag about regulating the jerga rioplatense and tell you that, erm, es sos y no tuteamos, no tenemos tú, es vos (click here for more on this topic). They even think their air is better than yours, hence the name of their capital.
Uruguayans speak the rioplatense tongue (see me lamenting having to relearn second-person Spanish), but they’re made out to be less bigheaded than Argentinians. If they brag about anything, it’s likely to regard just how humble they are.
Now, this friend I’m visiting: When we met and he told me he was Argentinian, an Argentine, I joked about how much up his ass he must be: qué tan orgulloso sos! It took him about .0003 microseconds to correct me and say that while porteños might be like that, he was not from Buenos Aires. Hence, Tandil.
See you soon, besos from a bus.
It’s 17:14 on Tuesday, April 23, and I’m traveling back to Montevideo to assist with an English camp. All in all, this weekend was lovely, unveiling the many similarities between Argentina and Uruguay: The food is still that exquisite marriage between Italy and empanadas; I swear the meat is from another world; I still urge you to put your vegetarianism on vacation. Tandil calls itself a lugar soñado, or a dreamed-up place, and I see why; a woman I met today (who owns a Sex Shop with her partner, click here) commented that it’s a city of almost 150,000 people, but still has the pueblito, or small-town feel.
But rather than keep everything in my words, I thought I’d leave you with a little interview. It’s ideal for listening if you’re looking to practice your Spanish, and even more so if you’re curious about regional vocal patterns.
This is how it happened, in a cabin in the mountains of Tandil, drinking mate while eating tostadas con mantequilla y mermelada de durazno (that’s the crunching you hear.) Que rica la combinación, siento que descubriera mantequilla yo acá. Como nunca la he saboreado antes. Les presento Mati y Franco. The dog se llama K’Sutra, para que no sea tan obvio. Have a listen and I explain below.
I love this interview, listening to it, because it sounds like life here feels: Constantly waking up from the dreams of the conquistadores, constantly trying to figure out how to continue. It’s lazy but beautiful, tired and reeling, profound and knowing.
I started by asking them about the differences between Argentina and Uruguay, since we had met each other in one and now found ourselves in the other. Mati starts by commenting on how much bigger Argentina is than Uruguay (seriously, just look at a map), and how the northerners tend to live more humble lives, conserving indigenous cultures that can also be found in Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s also hotter there (Tandil and Buenos Aires are around the middle of the territory, that much farther from the Equator). Note how he focuses on how everyone takes the siesta, that mid-afternoon nap; I guess that’s an indicator of how laid-back the people are.
Then there’s talk about the south (frío, pingüino, Patagonia — and I love how Franco says, “termina en Tierra del Fuego”). There’s joking about how the Malvinas (or Falklands, as you might know them) are no longer part of Argentina, sino en el corazón (existe el rencor). Then Mati asks for a Tostada con dulce de leche, y Franco asks, vos Sarah, ¿qué querés? I ask for the same, that combinación más rica del mundo. And in the South there’s a lot of oil money, the USA has bought land down there, and if you wanted to, you could divide the country into three regions: the north, middle, and south. Things change by territory, but maybe not so much by people
In the end, I did get my Easter custom fix: A chocolate egg from the woman who runs that sex shop with her partner in Tandil:
*frases que se usa en uruguay
Sarah Simon is currently based in Uruguay and will be writing more about her time there throughout the coming months. See more of her writing here.