Argentina: Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards

Published: June 12th 2009
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The Argentine infatuation with their beef is quite amazing, but as beef-along with tango-is perhaps Argentina’s most recognizable product abroad, it is logical. But at my mother’s family’s house, I recently got insight into the perspective of young Argentines with respect to beef in relation to their other passions. At their house in the province, they have a guesthouse of sorts that is dedicated entirely to the parilla. The kitchen table, the sitting room, and even the garage all focus towards the grill. But now a counter-balancing force is making it presence felt in that house opposite the grill: the computer and sound system.
I feel that this phenomenon epitomizes the nature of Argentine youth. With one of the best educational systems in South America as well as one of highest literacy rates, it is not uncommon to find tech-savvy Argentine youth who have taught themselves programming and highly value their technological ability. The children straddle the gap between cutting edge and traditional.
The young men learn to work the parilla, and feel honored to tend the fire and feed the family. This is a grounding family ritual for them; Norberto waxed nostalgic about the patriarchs of his family teaching him to grill on the asado, yet he still epitomizes the progressive intellectual student. Argentina is on the cutting edge of the information revolution; it has possessed nuclear reactor technology for over 50 years, has three Nobel Prizes in sciences and a Peace Prize in 2007 for work on climate change, pioneered medical procedures for the circulatory system, and has over 120 social science think tanks.
Conversely, gauchos are still admired as rugged heroes with a romance and charisma to them, still influencing in some ways the Argentine culture. And though Tango may not be as popular as it once was, Carlos Gardel is still a legend, and we can clearly see how new technology and pop culture is influencing the music through The Gotan Project.
Argentine youth find themselves in a very comfortable straddle; they are proud of their heritage, their history, and their legend, yet they still embrace their future as technological leaders. So maybe now there isn’t so much competition with the parilla as much as a balance for it.


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