Tawdry. It’s tawdry. It’s like that older brother, that apparent “over-(but actually totally covertly superficial)-achiever.” That’s the relationship between Argentina and Uruguay, according to some. Here, you can read about the founding of Uruguay: A buffer, a buffer brother, even. Uruguay was formed as the neutral space between two giants, Brazil and Argentina. So let’s rework the entire metaphor that I began with. Uruguay doesn’t just have Argentina, the older brother; you could say it’s the middle child.
But in this article, we’re not focusing on Brazil. Instead, we’re looking at the relationship between the two countries I mentioned at the beginning. And it’s more accurate to boil Argentina down to Buenos Aires here, because the reputation of Argentinians as fanfarrones, engreídos, egoístas (loud-mouthed, stuck-up, conceited) belie the country’s complexity and diversity; after all, it’s a giant, and Argentinians outside of Buenos Aires don’t always view their capital compañeros as kin.
A few weeks ago, friends and I put the blessing of vacation to use: We spent a week in Buenos Aires. One of our first experiences there began like this:
Taxi driver: “Where are you all from?”
Imari: I’m Emilia from Canada!
Me: I’m Siobhan from Ireland!
Guillermina: And I’m Margoux from Luxembourg!
Yup, that’s right: We lie. When we go out, we like to put on our personalidades falsas, our fake personalities. Why? Just to play. If it comes to a point where we’re really getting to know each other, you’ll find out anyway, and we’ll all laugh at how gullible you were, while you quietly resolve simply to never trust us ever again…
Anyway. It was important to lie in this moment; we were investigating. You do see how I’m, like, a writer for this Slide Night thing? Yeah. That means I’m naturally curious, a journalist at heart.
It was important to lie then because – maybe without Imari and Guille knowing at first – I was set on asking this taxista what he thought of Uruguayans. I had heard that porteños (AKA the demonym of people from Buenos Aires) were that tawdry older brother, big and grand and always expecting praise. Meanwhile, Uruguay sat there, seeming neutral and chill, “tranki” (short for tranquilo), all the while resenting its shadow.
Me: ¿Qué opinas de uruguayos? What do you think of Uruguayans?
Taxi driver: ¿Qué opino yo?
Me: Claro, che.
Taxi driver: ¿Y me dijeron que ninguna de ustedes eran uruguayas? And you told me that none of you were Uruguayan?
The untruthful three: Mmmmm-hmmmm.
Taxi driver: ¿Y ninguna de ustedes tiene ningún pariente uruguayo? And none of you have any Uruguayan relatives?
The untruthful three: No, ninguno. ***Siobhan apreta la mano de Margoux***
Taxi driver: Bueno. Entonces, para mí, en mi opinión……………….son vagos y mentirosos. They’re lazy liars.
***The untruthful three try to hold in their emotions, mostly laughter***
Me: Ahhh. Interesante. ¿Y qué opinas vos de los porteños?
Taxi driver: Somos terrible. Fanfarrones, engreídos, egoístas.
Maybe this guy just didn’t have a good opinion of anybody J. But I do have to say: We had some abrasive brushes with various porteños; one lady in a health food store – I don’t even want to go into it. And those brushes license me to guardar mi rencor, to hoard rancor towards los argentinos, feeling now patriotic towards a country that I didn’t grow up in, but have come to love – love for its bizarreness, the warmth of its people, its simple beauties. And the next times we asked what people thought of Uruguayans (we did the whole fake identity thing many more times), we heard their reasons echoing that love.
Even though los uruguayos seem lazy, you probably think that because they just take more time for human things, whereas Buenos Aires, in the word of one friend, es hormiguero. Like an ant’s nest. All zombies marching to feed the queen.
Hormiguero may be a bit harsh; I enjoyed Buenos Aires, and hell, I’m a city girl. I grew up in New York City, the queen of them all. Due in part to this, I have a lot of characteristics that need reassessing. Patience is one.
Siobhan sends empathy to those porteños fanfarrones y engreídos, but I’ll still make fun of them. Gotta be true to your (host) country, right?
More of burlándome de Buenos Aires (making fun):
In the style of #UruguayUmbrage, of course
Sitios destacados (Highlights):
· El Subte (As a native New Yorker, I like to explore every subway system I can, criticize it and claim that NYC’s is the best in the world)
· Palermo (A neighborhood full of bars, clubs, and delicious food. Pricy, however)
· Recoleta (A famous cemetery. I know, why would you find a tourist attraction in a cemetery? I haven’t gone yet, but I’ve only heard marvels.)
· Mercado San Telmo (A Sunday market with local vendors, but the food court is open daily)
· Museo Evita (Take a look at Argentina’s darling – what some call obsession and others legendary. Immortal all the same)
Sarah Simon is a regular Slide Night contributor and currently based in Uruguay on a Fulbright scholarship. See more of her writing here.