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Culture of Argentina


The culture of Argentina is as varied as the country's geography and mix of ethnic groups. Modern Argentine culture has been largely influenced by European immigration although there are also some Amerindian and African influences, particularly in the fields of music and art. Buenos Aires and other cities show a mixture of architectural styles imported from Europe but in the case of older settlements, and of older preserved neighborhoods within cities, modern styles appear mixed with colonial features, relics from the Spanish-ruled past. Museums, cinemas and galleries are abundant in all the large urban centers, as well as traditional establishments such as literary bars, or bars offering live music of a variety of genres.

Cinema and theatre

Argentine cinema has been active since 1896 and has produced over 2,500 full-length titles, having in recent decades achieved international recognition with films such as The Official Story and 9 Queens, though it is often overshadowed in Argentine box offices by popular Hollywood titles. Local film-makers still premiere at least one title weekly, however, and even low-budget productions have obtained prizes in cinema festivals (such as Cannes). The city of Mar del Plata organizes its own festival dedicated to this art.

Argentine theatre traces its origins to Viceroy Juan Jose de Vertiz y Salcedo's creation of the colony's first comedy theatre (La Rancheria) in 1783. This development was complemented by the 1804 opening of the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires, the nation's longest-continuously operating stage. The musical creator of the Argentine National Anthem, Blas Parera, earned fame as a theatre score writer during the early 19th century. The genre suffered during the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas, though it flourished alongside the economy later in the century. The national government gave Argentine theatre its initial impulse with the establishment of the Colon Theatre in 1857, which hosted classical and operatic as well as stage performances. Antonio Petalardo's successful 1871 gambit on the opening of the Teatro Opera inspired others to fund the growing art in Argentina.

The 1874 murder of Juan Moreira, a persecuted troubadour, provided dramatists with a new hero. Possessing all the elements of tragedy, the anecdote inspired Eduardo Gutierrez's 1884 play Juan Moreira and the work made the gaucho the inspiration for the Argentine stage in subsequent years. Spanish literature began to overtake the gaucho following the 1897 relocation to Argentina of Spanish theatre producer Maria Guerrero and her company, who popularized professional stage theatre in the country. Making the Teatro Odeon a nerve center for the medium, her evolved stagecraft led to the creation of the national stage, the Cervantes Theatre, in 1921.

The wave of European Immigration in Argentina created a need for a cultural shift in theatre addressed by Florencio Sanchez, a pioneer in professional theater locally and in Uruguay. Local color became the primary inspiration for Roberto Arlt, Gregorio de Laferrere, Armando Discepolo, Antonio Cunill Cabanellas and Roberto Payro during the 1920s and 1930s, while also helping amateur theatre revive locally. The Teatro Independiente movement created a counterwight to professional theatre and inspired a new generation of young dramatists in this vein such as Copi, Agustin Cuzzani, Osvaldo Dragun and Carlos Gorostiza.

Gorostiza and other self-trained dramatists also popularized Realism in the Argentine theatre after 1950, a genre advanced by Ricardo Halac, Roberto Cossa and among others. Griselda Gambaro and [[w:es:Eduardo Pavlovsky|Eduardo Pavlovsky]] popularized the theatre of the absurd in Argentina after 1960, a genre that found local variant in the grotesque works of Julio Mauricio and Roberto Cossa, whose La Nona became an iconic character in the Argentine theatre in 1977.

Argentina's last dictatorship posed the greatest challenge to the development of local theatre since the Rosas era of the mid-19th century. Numerous actors, playwrights and technicians emigrated after 1976, though the dictators' own sense of the theatrical persuaded them to loosen pressures on artists around 1980. Seizing the opportunity, playwright Osvaldo Dragun marshalled colleagues to restore an abandoned sparkplug factory to organize the improvisational Argentine Open Theatre in 1981, a triumph dampened by their Picadero Theatre's fire-bombing a week later.

The theatre thrived before and after the 1983 return to democracy. Established playwrights and directors such as Norman Briski, Roberto Cossa, Lito Cruz, Carlos Gorostiza, Pacho O'Donnell and Pepe Soriano and younger dramatists such as [[w:es:Luis Agostoni|Luis Agostoni]], [[w:es:Carlos Maria Alsina|Carlos Maria Alsina]], [[w:es:Eduardo Rovner|Eduardo Rovner]] and [[w:es:Rafael Spregelburd|Rafael Spregelburd]]. Works by these and other local authors, as well as local productions of international works, are among the over 80 theater works presented every weekend in Buenos Aires, alone. The stage also plays host to well-known comedy acts, such as those of satirist Enrique Pinti, female impersonator Antonio Gasalla, storyteller Luis Landriscina and the musical comedy troupe, Les Luthiers.

Music

The best-known element of Argentine culture is the tango dance. In modern Argentina, tango music is enjoyed in its own right, especially since the radical Astor Piazzolla redefined the music of Carlos Gardel. It should be noted that foreigners usually think of tango as the dance music, whilst for Argentines the word refers to both the music and the lyrics , which are a form of poetry.

Folk music and dance are popular in provincial Argentina and are blends of various native and European styles. Examples include the chamame of Mesopotamia and the chacarera of Santiago del Estero.

Since the 1970s Rock music has been widely appreciated in Argentina. First during the 1970s and then again in the mid 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, national rock music and pop music experienced bursts of popularity, with many new bands (such as Soda Stereo and Sumo) and composers (like Charly Garcia and Fito Paez) becoming important exponents of national culture. National Rock and Pop then gave way to other genres, like Ska, Techno, Eurodance, Electronica and Argentine Cumbia. The wide variety of music to be heard in Argentina today is impossible to summarize in a short article; the opening up of the Argentine economy to international trade and the ready access to music downloaded from the Internet provide listeners with a diversity of choices. Rock music is currently the most popular form of music among younger Argentines.

A number of Argentine rock and jazz musicians have become well-known film score composers. Big band leader Lalo Schiffrin became internationally known after composing the ''theme in 1966. Emilio Kauderer has been composing for Argentine cinema since the 1970s and has created the film scores for Friends & Loversand the Dead Like Me'' series, among others. The most successful Argentine film score writer is probably Gustavo Santaolalla who, well-established in the local rock scene since 1970, has earned two Academy Awards for his compositions since 2004.

European classical music is also popular in Argentina. The Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires is considered to be one of the world's major opera houses. Musicians such as pianist Martha Argerich and classical composers like Alberto Ginastera have become internationally renowned. Most of the nation's larger cities and a number of smaller ones maintain concert halls, philharmonic orchestras and chamber music ensembles; among the best-known of these is [[w:es:Camerata Bariloche|Camerata Bariloche]], founded in 1967 by Alberto Lysy.

Painting and Sculpture

Argentine painters and sculptors have a rich history dating from both before and since the development of modern Argentina in the second half of the 19th century.

Though what today is Argentina was mostly frozen over during the last ice age and, thus, is less archaeologically rich than many of its neighbors, pre-historic pictographs can be found in caves throughout the Argentine territory, though Argentina's aboriginal art heritage is quite modest compared to Peru's, for instance.

Shortly after independence in 1816, landscape painters from Europe began exploring the spacious Argentine countryside, much as many did in the United States. In the 1830s, Carlos Morel became the first influential Argentine painter and Prilidiano Pueyrredon's naive, slice-of-life portraits made him among the few successful Argentine artists of those early days. Artistic production in Argentina, however, did not truly come into its own until after the 1852 overthrow of the repressive regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas. Immigrants like Eduardo Schiaffino, Eduardo Sivori, Reynaldo Giudici, Emilio Caraffa and Ernesto de la Carcova left behind a realist heritage influential to this day.

Impressionism did not make itself evident among Argentine artists until after 1900, however, and never acquired the kind of following it did in Europe, though it did inspire influential Argentine post-impressionists such as Martin Malharro, Ramon Silva, Fernando Fader, Pio Collivadino, Cesareo Bernaldo de Quiros, Realism and aestheticism continued to set the agenda in Argentine painting and sculpture, noteworthy during this era for the sudden fame of sculptor Lola Mora, a student of Auguste Rodin's.

As Lola Mora had been until she fell out of favor with local high society, monumental sculptors became in very high demand after 1900, particularly by municipal governments and wealthy families, who competed with each other in boasting the most evocative mausolea for their dearly departed. Though most preferred French and Italian sculptors, work by locals Erminio Blotta, Angel Maria de Rosa and Rogelio Yrurtia resulted in a proliferation of soulful monuments and memorials made them immortal. Not as realist as the work of some of his belle-epoque predecessors in sculpture, Yrurtia's subtle impressionism inspired Argentine students like Antonio Pujia, whose internationally prized female torsos always surprise admirers with their whimsical and surreal touches.

Becoming an intellectual, as well as artistic circle, painters like Antonio Berni, Lino Enea Spilimbergo and Juan Carlos Castagnino were friends as well as colleagues, going on to collaborate on masterpieces like the ceiling at the Galerias Pacifico arcade in Buenos Aires, towards 1933.

As in Mexico and elsewhere, muralism became increasingly popular among Argentine artists. Among the first to use his drab surroundings as a canvas was Benito Quinquela Martin, whose vaguely cubist pastel-colored walls painted in his Buenos Aires neighborhood of La Boca during the 1920s and 1930s have become historical monuments and Argentine cultural emblems, worldwide. Lithographs, likewise, found a following in Argentina some time after they had been made popular elsewhere. In Argentina, artists like Adolfo Bellocq used this medium to portray often harsh working conditions in Argentina's growing industrial sector, during the 1920s and 1930s. Bellocq's lithographs have become influential worldwide, since then.

The vanguard in culturally conservative Argentina, futurists and cubists like Xul Solar and Emilio Pettoruti earned a following as considerable as that of less abstract and more sentimental portrait and landscape painters, like Raul Soldi. Likewise, traditional abstract artists such as Romulo Maccio, Anselmo Piccoli, Eduardo Mac Entyre, Luis Felipe Noe and Luis Seoane coexisted with equal appeal as the most conceptual mobile art creators like the unpredictable Perez Celis, Gyula Kosice of the Argentine [[w:es:Movimiento Madi|Madi Movement]] and Marta Minujin, one of Andy Warhol's most esteemed fellow Conceptual artists. The emergence of avant-garde genres in Argentine sculpture also featured Pablo Curatella Manes and Roberto Aizenberg, and constructivists such as Nicolas Garcia Uriburu and Leon Ferrari, one of the world's foremost artists in his genre, today. In the 1960s and 1970s, many of these figures' abstract art found their way into popular advertising and even corporate logos.

Generally possessing of a strong sentimental streak, the Argentine public's taste for naive art and simple pottery cannot be overlooked. Since Prilidiano Pueyrredon's day, artists in the naive vein like Candido Lopez have captured the absurdity of war, Susana Aguirre and Aniko Szabo the idiosyncrasies of everyday neighborhoods and Gato Frias, childhood memories. Illustrator Florencio Molina Campos's tongue-in-cheek depictions of gaucho life have endured as collectors' items.

To help showcase Argentine and Latin American art and sculpture, local developer and art collector Eduardo Constantini set aside a significant portion of his personal collection and, in 1998, began construction on Buenos Aires' first major institution specializing in works by Latin American artists. His foundation opened the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA) in 2001.

Sports

Many Argentines are involved in sports. Futbol (soccer) is more of a national obsession than a game. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics for men's soccer, and the exploits of Diego Maradona have kept fans, paparazzi and columnists busy for the past 20 years. Recently, Lionel Messi has drawn comparisons to Maradona, and indeed Maradona himself named Messi his "successor". Tennis, rugby union and field hockey are also important and Argentina won a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens for men's basketball. The legendary Formula One driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, was Argentine. The rich, heavily influenced by English customs, have traditionally enjoyed polo and Argentina dominates this sport on the world scene. In recent times, the international polo player Adolfo Cambiasso has tried to broaden the appeal of polo by introducing several football traditions to polo, like celebrating goals and the like. Cambiasso's strategy has had some success when different football fans went to see the final of the Argentine Open, but has been criticized by the traditional supporters of Polo.

The official national sport of Argentina, though rarely played, is the polo-like pato. Pato literally translates to duck.

More than half of the population practices some sport or at least performs some physical exercise, such as walking or jogging. Regular practice of football, going to the gym and cycling are the three most common activities of this kind.

Language

[[Image:BorgesGuidoLynch.jpg|thumb|210px|Neorealist Argentine authors Jorge Luis Borges, Beatriz Guido and [[w:es:Marta Lynch|Marta Lynch]] enliven a Buenos Aires cafe in the 1960s.]]

Argentina's official language is Spanish (here usually named ''castellano' *Although Castellano is the form of Spanish spoken in Spain*'). There are many variations of Spanish in Argentina and every province has its own accent.

Rio de la Plata Spanish is the variation used in all cities near the Rio de la Plata river, the most well-known characteristic being the use of "vos" instead of "tu" ("Voseo").

Some immigrant communities retain their own language as a badge of identity and languages such as Italian, German, English and French are spoken. The Welsh community of Patagonia have held an Eisteddfod, as well as the Basques, Arabs and Ukrainians. Recent immigrants from China and South Korea, who have established themselves in large cities like Buenos Aires and Rosario, also speak their own language among themselves, and some communities publish small-circulation newspapers in them.

Most Argentines can understand simple spoken Italian and Portuguese, due to their similarity to Spanish.

There are about 23 native languages spoken in different parts of the country, including Quechua, Mapuche, Guarani, Toba and Wichi.

Food

Argentine cuisine is typically European. Due to the heavy influence of Italian, Spanish, French and other European cuisines the typical Argentine diet is a variation the Mediterranean diet. Argentina is known for its asado or grilled beef where meat, including entrails, is placed on a grill and barbecued over charcoal or wood embers. There are restaurants that serve only asado and many local restaurants always have asado on the menu.

Argentines consume large amounts of beef. While the recent economic crisis has made meat expensive for many, its price is still relatively low given its outstanding quality. Meat exports are usually regulated and the European Community has set up a quota of frozen meat imports that cannot be exceeded.

Traditional foods of the provinces such as locro hark back to the pre-Columbian period, with a reliance on maize, beans and squashes . Another traditional food is the empanada, a circular piece of pastry folded in two around a filling , which can be baked or fried.

Italian staple dishes like pizza and pasta are common and many Argentines choose a simple pizza with tomato, cheese and ham, although many combinations are available. Pasta is extremely common, either simple unadorned pasta with butter or oil, or accompanied by tomato or bechamel-based sauce.

Sweets, especially dulce de leche, are popular. Dulce de leche is an essential ingredient of cakes, and shares the place of jelly and jam at breakfast. It is used to top desserts and to fill alfajores and facturas (an alfajor consists of two round biscuits, often flavored, optionally coated with chocolate, joined by a layer of jelly; factura is the generic name for sweet baked pastry of different kinds, including but not limited to croissants and donuts.

Argentina is famous for its wine, most notably the red wine from the province of Mendoza, where weather conditions are optimal.

Literature

In terms of literature, Argentina's most famous authors are Jorge Luis Borges, considered to be one of the world's greatest 20th century writers, , Adolfo Bioy Casares and Julio Cortazar. Bioy Casares wrote some books in collaboration with Borges. Cortazar was voluntarily exiled in Europe during the rule of Juan Domingo Peron; Borges had problems with Peronism too, and celebrated its fall in 1955 with joy, though he later became disillusioned with the military dictators. Both Borges and Cortazar died abroad: Borges in Geneva in 1986, and Cortazar in Paris in 1984.

Argentine comics are best represented by Mafalda, a cartoon by Quino (Joaquin Lavado), which became a world-recognized Argentine icon soon after its first publication. The series of comic strips shows the world's troubles through the eyes of a small girl, Mafalda, and her relatives and friends.

Spare time

A cultural survey found that the most important spare time activity for almost 80% of Argentines is visiting friends and relatives. Playing team sports and attending sports venues is also quite common. For younger people clubbing is prevalent, while older ones prefer dining out.

An example of sociability can be found during the annual celebration of Friend's Day on 20 July. This informal holiday originated in Argentina and in recent years has gained such popularity, especially among the young, that the entertainment centers of the cities become crowded until dawn of the following day, as on Christmas and New Year's Eve.

See also

Cuisine of Argentina

Music of Argentina

Football in Argentina

Rugby union in Argentina

The Latin American Docta

Architecture of Argentina

Argentine humour

Cinema of Argentina

References

Sistema Nacional de Consumos Culturales ("National System of Cultural Consumption") - Official website. It contains a report of a comprehensive, nationwide statistical study of cultural mores, undertaken in August 2005.

Argentine Culture, Riches and Diversity

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