Haverford College

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Coral Walker '12

The Cultural Anthropology major and Education minor spent the fall semester in Mendoza, Argentina, studying at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo and the Universidad de Congresso.

While there, she was an ambitious traveler, journeying to Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Jujuy, Salta, Tucuman, and through the Andes to Santiago, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar in Chile.

Why did you choose Argentina? I had learned a lot about the country’s political and historical background, and I was interested to see firsthand how those things played out in the present. I purposefully chose Mendoza because it is a smaller city: big enough to keep one entertained but small enough to feel homey.

What did you learn outside the classroom? It was interesting to compare my own experience growing up in a Puerto Rican culture in America with Argentinian culture. For example, traditional Puerto Rican food is way different from Argentinian food. While Puerto Rican food tends to be very flavorful and rich, Argentinian food is mostly based around simple meat and asados (barbecue). Also, Puerto Ricans tend to drink a lot of strong coffee, while in Argentina coffee is almost non-existent, but yerba mate (a strong herbal brew) is an essential part of everyday life—it’s the Argentinian cultural equivalent to coffee.

What is the most surprising thing that happened to you there? The most surprising thing was learning how Argentinians and most South Americans perceive the U.S. and the rest of the world. I generally think in very global terms, but it is a completely different thing to actually live in a different country. The difference between how Americans viewed certain events, like the Chilean mining accident, versus how Argentinians viewed those events was striking to me. In Argentina, there was a lot of sustained discussion about the Chilean mining towns themselves and how discrimination against indigenous groups and peasants living and working in those towns may have led to a failure to enforce regulations that could have prevented the mine collapse.

What did you bring back? I brought back an intense love for hiking and traveling. I plan on returning to Argentina and doing all the traveling and hiking and outdoor experiences I did not get to do this time around. I also brought back a mate—a hollow gourd for brewing yerba mate—that I bought in Cordoba during a particularly obstacle-ridden day of exploring. I used that mate for the rest of my time in Argentina and it represents a lovely encapsulation of Argentinian culture and my experience there.

Originally posted at: http://www.haverford.edu/news/stories/50461/301