People were angry.
After spending a month in Argentina leading a study-abroad group, I wrote a column about how Argentines flew their beautiful flag everywhere, wore their national pride on their chests like shiny medals, thought their country was the greatest country in the world.
That was before Argentina was known for having the greatest soccer player in the world in Lionel Messi, before Argentina was known as the home country of the first pope from the New World in Pope Francis I.
Some of my fellow Americans, though, didn’t want to hear that people in another country believed their country was the best place on the globe, they said in response to that column. Americans, they insisted, were the only people who had the right to believe their homeland was Earth’s greatest nation, and I should have spent my time as an American in Argentina correcting folks’ misconceptions.
I’ll be taking another student group to Argentina for nearly a month starting in late May. They will see for themselves what a wondrous country it is. I’ve been to various nations in Europe, and to Canada, Japan and Mexico. I loved those places, but I’ll take Argentina over all of those lands.
Buenos Aires is a breathtaking city, full of spectacular architecture. Cordoba is a lovely old town. The country’s countryside is breathtaking.
The women are breathtaking, and so are the men, at least from what I was told.
There are few fat people in Argentina because Argentines walk a lot. They smoke a lot, too, which also might play a part in their general thinness. The food, based around beef, sausages, French bread and great cookies, according to this cookie connoisseur, is scrumptious.
The people are passionate, maybe a bit too much so at times. Since many Argentines are of Italian descent, they don’t back down from heated discussions, with anyone.
They are prideful people, too. They love their great thinkers and writers, but they live for soccer, play it on every available green space and dirt lot, and believe their country produces the world’s best soccer players. There’s plenty of evidence they’re right.
The new pope is said to be a soccer aficionado. I joked with people after he was selected recently that he had selected as his papal name Pope Maradona I, in honor of Argentina’s greatest saint, retired soccer star Diego Maradona, known for his “Mano de Dios” that helped Argentina win a World Cup. I’m sure Argentines, being Argentines, are bursting at the seams about Pope Francis I.
So 17 students and I will be traveling to proud Argentina for nearly a month. They’ll study, travel and visit various places. They’ll meet new people. Some, no doubt, will hit the nightclubs.
More than anything, they’ll be immersed in a culture nowhere near their own. From what I’ve seen, that’s where the personal growth occurs for young people.
(The funniest thing during the previous trip was what my allegedly tremendously family-oriented Mexican-American students missed most in Argentina was not Mama but salsa. They searched everywhere, in vain, for salsa to spice up their food.)
When we arrived in Argentina, in Cordoba specifically, one student said after our bus had taken us into the city a few blocks, “Why did we come 6,000 miles for this? This looks just like the outskirts of Mexicali.”
Within a few blocks the vistas changed, and so did her mind. Within days she loved Argentina. Within weeks she was contemplating staying beyond our scheduled departure.
Ultimately she decided to go home. She had concluded, as I had, that Argentina was only her second-favorite country.
Bret Kofford teaches writing at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of SDSU or its employees or those of the Imperial Valley Press and its staff members. Kofford can be reached at Kofford@roadrunner.com
Life Out Here: Traveling down but up
People were angry.