I don’t really know what to say about Cordoba. It’s a town of about a million people, but its downtown area feels much more like New York City than it does Columbus, Ohio-—the streets are congested, the sidewalks full of people walking around at all hours of the day. I suspect white flight and the growth of the suburbs did not hit Argentina like it did the states, so the downtowns maintained their mixed residential/commercial character rather than turning into business districts that empty out at night. It's a lot nicer this way, and feels much more vibrant and enjoyable and alive.
Speaking of white flight, there are surprisingly few non-whites here in Argentina. We have seen maybe two Asian people, one black person, and no Samoans (oddly enough). This lack of diversity is reflected in the food options—-even the mall food court doesn’t have anything other than sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and lots and lots of beef, the same food we’ve been eating our entire time here. No Chinese food, no gyro shop, no hot dog on a stick (although there was a California burrito, which we had to try, and ended up eating at twice).
We haven’t even really seen the big divide between white Europeans and darker “natives” that you get in a lot of Central and South American countries. It could be because we haven’t spent time in poorer/minority neighborhoods, it could be because Argentina did a great job of murdering all of its native population, or maybe the races have done a better job here of integrating over time. Whatever it is, I’ve been surprised at the total whiteness of the population—-far more blond haired, blue eyed people than I imaged, far fewer swarthy Manu Ginobli look-alikes.
There are other details about Argentine life that I wanted to share, but I'm running out of time (more specifically, Laura is running out of patience). A few quick points:
--Everyone here loves mate, an herbal tea, to the point that they all carry around a mate gourd with a silver straw that has a strainer at one end and a thermos full of hot water. It's very strange to see a businessman with his suit and briefcase carrying around a thermos full of hot water, or a young couple sitting in each other's arms, each sipping their own gourd full of green leaves.
--We've enjoyed Cordoba, but it probably wouldn't be on our list of places to visit again, and we kind of wish we had gone to southern Patagonia instead. But that's ok, we've seen some cool missionary architecture here, done some Christmas shopping, watched a lot of bad American movies on late night TV (while everyone else is out having dinner). A relaxing way to end our trip.
--Speaking of TV, there's a weird mixture of dubbing and subtitles on TV here. In my entertainment law class (a class that has come in *very* handy during my career), our teacher told us that some countries prefer dubbing, some prefer subtitles; that it's just a weird cultural phenomenon as to which countries prefer which; and that if a country likes subtitles, they think dubbing is awful, and vice versa (which makes sense--think of how silly we find dubbing to be). Here, though, some movies and tv shows are dubbed, some are subtitled, and there doesn't seem to be much of a rhyme or reason to which it is. I don't know if the satellite system is continent-wide, and therefore must appeal to people from different countries, or if Argentina is a weird country that doesn't have a strong preference for dubbing or subtitles, or what.
--The music that gets played on the radio is another weird phenomenon. You'll hear more Queen and more Madonna than you thought possible, plus a lot of mid-80s British synth pop and some very mediocre American rock (think Counting Crows songs other than Mr. Jones). What's really weird, though, are the note-by-note remakes of famous songs, like Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. It's one thing to cover and old song; it's another to do something that sounds *exactly* the same, just not nearly as good. Why play the Cordoba Kings doing Stairway to Heaven when you can play the Led Zeppelin version? Although the English might say the same thing about The Office . . .