Argentina - Culture
European influences permeate Argentina's art, architecture, literature and lifestyle. However, in the field of literature in particular, this has been a cross-cultural transaction, with Argentina producing writers of international stature such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Ernesto Sábasto, Manuel Puig and Osvaldo Soriano. With the education of many Argentines taking place in Europe, Buenos Aires in particular has self-consciously emulated European cultural trends in art, music and architecture. As a result, there are many important art museums and galleries in the city, and it has a vigorous theater community. Argentine cinema has also achieved international stature, and has been used as a vehicle to exorcise the horrors of the Dirty War.
Probably the best known manifestation of Argentine popular culture is the tango - a dance and music which has captured the imagination of romantics worldwide. Folk music is also thriving. Sport is extremely important to the Argentines and soccer is more of a national obsession than a game. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, and the exploits of Diego Maradona (the most famous Argentine since Che Guevara), have kept soccer fans, paparazzi and columnists busy for the past 10 years.
Argentine Roman Catholicism, the official state religion, is riddled with popular beliefs which diverge from official doctrine. Spiritualism and veneration of the dead are deep-seated, with pilgrimages to the resting places of relations and of the famous dead a common sight. Spanish is the official language, but some immigrant communities retain their language as a badge of identity. Italian is widely understood, reflecting the influence of the country's single largest immigrant group, and BBC English is the preserve of the Anglo community. There are 17 native languages, including Quechua, Mapuche, Guaraní, Tobas and Matacos.
Meat dominates Argentina's menus, and 'meat' means beef. Mixed grills (parrillada) are apparently the way to go, serving up a cut of just about every part of the animal: tripe, intestines, udders - the lot. In this vegetarian's nightmare, Italian favorites, such as gnocchi (ñoquis), are a welcome alternative. Exquisite Argentine ice cream (helado) deserves a special mention - again reflecting Italian influences. The sharing of mate, Paraguayan tea, is a ritual more than a beverage, and if offered is a special expression of acceptance. The leaves, a relation to holly, are elaborately prepared and the mixture is drunk from a shared gourd.