Ducks In: Argentina

Imagine a place filled with vibrancy – vibrancy of food, of art, of culture, of language, of people and of life in general. While I’ve witnessed this sort of liveness across many different communities in my life, Argentina stands above the rest.  

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Argentina flags line the streets of Rosario, a port city located in central Argentina with a population of more than a million people.

This past summer, I studied abroad in Rosario, Argentina through the University of Oregon’s Cross-Border Interviewing and Story Development program. The program inspired and motivated me to learn the stories of those around me, including an Argentine culinary chef and instructor, a painter who had been paralyzed, visitors at an abandoned hotel and more. These all revealed aspects of the Argentinian spirit and culture.

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The view of the city from the national monument.  

There were obvious barriers along the way – primarily linguistic and cultural – that made it difficult to feel comfortable communicating with others. Still, early on, I figured out a way to bridge the gap: compliments.

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Argentines socializing on the steps of The National Flag Memorial, located near the shore of the Paraná River.

Every day, I would challenge myself to approach a handful of strangers and compliment them with my strong American accent and vocabulary. And you know what? It led to me learning their stories and forming lasting connections. To some, style and outward appearance are only a surface level look into a person. But through my travels, I have learned that it can be so much more than that. In Argentina, as in most other parts of the world, individual style reflects community values and connection. When I stepped out of my comfort zone and showed people I was interested in learning about their lived experiences, be it a bakery employee or a local student wearing a “Walking Dead” t-shirt, they jumped at the opportunity, letting me into their world for a brief moment or more.

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Colorful clothes hang to dry in the wind.

One of the most common fashion trends I saw was people showing their athletic pride. Rosario’s sports culture and team fervor was reflected through the jerseys, t-shirts, sweats and beanies worn by locals and sold by vendors sitting on blankets down the pedestrian Córdoba street. The ground was covered in these goods – a ploy used to make it nearly impossible to avoid spending a few Argentine pesos on candied nuts, Messi jerseys and everything in-between.

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Walking the colorful streets of Argentina, in search of churros and discounted Copa America gear.

The history of the arts and artistic expression, especially tango dance and music, can be seen in modern trends of flowing garments and eye-catching prints. The tango was, and continues to be, a social dance that unites Argentines through its nostalgic lyrics and unique style.

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Colorful, bold looks line the racks of shops.

Argentina’s dynamic nightlife is evident in the long strides of young – and old – adults repping four to five-inch platform shoes day and night. The lines between night and day are blurred at times, as young adults can be seen wearing their same disco pants and platforms from class to the clubs.  

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Combined with cobblestone and Fernet Branca, the social drink of Argentina, the mixture proved disastrous.

All in all, Argentines dress a level above any other community I have ever been a part of. Whether they are headed to work, school, the produce market or a boliche (dance club) doesn’t change the fact that the people dress UP – and boy, do they do it well.

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Straight out of a California music festival.

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A dapper man stands on the edge of a busy street, rocking a trench coat, scarf and pensive gaze.

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Don’t get me started on the killer furs that were a “cold weather necessity” for Argentines who had never seen an Oregon winter.

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Exhibit A.

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Girl squad goals!

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This born and raised Argentine studied abroad in the United States on the East Coast last year! She couldn’t believe what a small world it was and expressed interest in returning to America again in the future, before gleefully posing for this photo.

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“My wife will not BELIEVE this” was all this man would say when I – “an American!” – asked for a photo.

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My stylish Argentine friends, Dolores and Luciana. Both students in their twenties that were born and raised in Argentina, Dolores and Luciana had Rosario figured OUT. They cooked for me, invited me to local previas (pregames) and dance clubs, helped me find the best deals on clothes (since I severely under-packed) and picnicked with me over pastries, Yerba Mate tea and dulce de leche.

Clothing can be looked at as a window into a person. And depending on your approach, it can be a window into a person’s story. So when you’re surrounded by vibrancy, take it from me: look for as many windows as possible, and knock on doors until someone lets you in.

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Words and photos by Kendra Siebert, @kendraesiebert
See more of  work from her trip on her website, 503kendra.com

 

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