I suppose it would be best to deal with the two facets of Argentina that would spring unstoppably to the mind of we plucky Brits at the mere mention of the country’s name:  the Falkland Islands and the World Cup.

The Falklands first, then...

To do this day I have never understood why anyone possessed of an IQ anywhere above that of a horseradish should wish to fight - let alone die - in order to maintain their authority over a few faraway, windswept and almost totally barren outcrops of rock.  But that’s exactly what we did in 1982.

Which means that, ever since, we’ve been able to bask in the sure and certain knowledge that the Union Flag still flies gloriously unimpeded above these worthless scraps of penguin-infested wilderness.  And that several hundred men and women on both sides gave their lives for the noble cause of belligerent vanity.

As for the 1986 World Cup...all I can remember about it is the incredibly sexy shorts that the players wore for the competition - especially the Argentine players, and especially Maradona.  I actually watched his ‘hand of God’ goal but was not looking at his hands, worse luck.

Interestingly - and as a direct result of this ‘avenging angel’ goal - a formal and official religion has developed in Argentina.  The ‘Maradonians’ - and there are over 40,000 of them - worship his whole body but reserve special veneration for his left foot.  I am half-inclined to join them, though not, it must be said, for purposes that my fellow-believers would find altogether acceptable.


Argentina is the second-largest country in South America, and the 8th largest in the world.

Here are some awesomely random facts about it of which you may be unaware, and which may surprise you.

- Argentina has been one of the world’s leading producers of wine since the 16th century; there are over 1800 wineries there.
 - its highest mountain (and also the highest peak anywhere in the Americas) is Aconcagua, at a staggering 6,959m (22,841ft).
- its national language is Spanish; in fact, it’s the largest Spanish-speaking country on Earth (including, of course, Spain itself). It’s spoken with a very strong dialect, though, which is called Lumfardo and which many people think sounds more Italian than Spanish.  And they are right; between the two World Wars, there was mass immigration from the Naples area of Italy and it’s left its mark on Lumfardo.
- Argentina was one of the first countries to have radio broadcasting. The first relay was made on 27 August 1920, when only 20 people owned a radio receiver.
Hipolito Yrigoyen - the first Argentinian President elected by universal male suffrage.
I love this picture.
 - the world's first animated films were created and released in Argentina in 1917 by a man called Quirino Cristiani, thus beating Walt Disney’s earliest efforts into a cocked hat.
- the Teatro Colón, in Buenos Aires, is one of the most important and prestigious opera houses in the world.
- Argentina also has the highest rate of cinema-going in the world.
- although road traffic drives on the right, trains don’t.
- the southernmost town on Earth is in Argentina; it’s called Ushuaia.


A perhaps much better-known fact about Argentina is its conspicuous and prodigious production and consumption of beef.

It is the world’s third-largest producer of the stuff; and each Argentinian eats a humungous 70kgs of it every year - that’s the weight of a fully-grown teenager.  Unfortunately, this means that the beef tapeworm is still quite a problem there.  There isn’t room inside an Argentinian for it to grow to its optimum length of 20m; instead, it restricts itself to a more manageable 3m…

Reassuringly, the country manages to produce and export a lot of stuff apart from beef, including vast quantities of honey, sunflower seeds, soybeans, maize and wheat - its main export.


Where there are cows, there are cowboys…

In Argentina, they’re called gauchos, ‘comrades’ - one of an array of words used to describe this unique job, and its accompanying way of life, across the world.

In California, they are buckaroos; in Texas, cowpunches; in the French Camargue, they’re gardians, ‘guardians’; in Hungary, they’re gulyas, ‘herdsmen’ ( - this is where goulash comes from); they are huaso, ‘orphans’, in Chile; llanero, ‘plainsmen’, in Venezuela; paniolo, ‘Spaniards’, in Hawaii; stockmen in Australia and vaquero, ‘cowmen’, in Mexico.

So now you know.


In the mid-19th century, the Argentine government offered subsidies to Europeans who were prepared to up sticks and emigrate to its fertile but - at the time - unfarmed countryside.  Amongst the many who heard the call was a small group of Welsh people who, from 1865 onwards, settled parts of Patagonia (in the south).

This means that, incredibly, there now over 50,000 people of direct Welsh descent in Argentina, which thus has the highest number of native Welsh speakers outside Wales and the British Isles - although there are only about 5,000 of them.

When I was first told this, I simply didn’t believe it.  But it’s absolutely true.

(The Welsh for Argentina is Yr Ariannin.)


If seeking out the only colony of Welsh-speakers in the world isn’t a good enough reason to visit Argentina, here are two more…
Firstly...The mighty Iguazu Falls, on the border with Brazil, are one of the world’s most neglected natural wonders.  The Falls are actually a linear cascade of 275 separate drops that dwarf Niagara.
And secondly... The even more spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier - all 97 sq miles of it.  It’s said that, when a tower-block sized chunk of ice breaks off the end of the glacier, the crack can be heard 50 miles away.


Argentina can lay claim to be the sexiest nation on Earth, depending on your point of view.
There are, for example, more breast implants there per woman than anywhere else. Originally they would have been made of ivory, glass beads, ox cartilage, polythene chips, wool or epoxy resin - a mind-boggling list of ingredients.  These days they’re made of silicone.

The country’s actively liberal attitude to all things sexual is reflected in two more aspects of its life.

As I mentioned in posting 254, Argentina is the first South American country to completely liberalise its law on gay rights.  Gay people now have more rights there than they have here - including the right to marry.

Historically, though, Argentina’s sexiest gift to the world is the tango.

Even at this distance in time, it’s not difficult to see why Europe was taken by storm when the openly intimate and sexy Argentine tango arrived here in the early 1900s.  Berlin and London were obsessed with it - the 5-shilling ‘Tango Teas’ at the London Waldorf Hotel were ‘the place to be seen’.

It’s easily pastiched, of course, and has been, many times.  But if you’d like to take it seriously,  here is an almost pornographic description of it sent by a truckshunter…

‘The tango is danced in very close full upper body contact in a wide and strong frame, and features smooth horizontal movements that are very strong and determined. Dancers are very low, allowing long steps without any up and down movement. Forward steps land heel first, and in backward steps dancers push from the heel. In basic steps, the passing leg moves quickly to rest for a moment close to the grounded leg.’

Quite so.

I was also sent this much less suggestive step-diagram.  I hope it is helpful.

Perhaps we should try it at the next AGM.

There’s a lot more to the tango than po-faced clutching and posing, though.

Someone sent me this cutting, culled (I think) from a dance magazine.

‘’Queer tango’ is a new way to dance Argentine tango free from traditional heteronormative codes. Its proposal is to dance the tango without pre-established roles according to the gender of the dancers and to exchange the roles of leader and follower.

Therefore it is also called ‘open role’ or ‘same-sex’ tango. The queer tango movement permits not only access to tango for the gay community but also opens new possibilities for heterosexual dancers: women learn the lead, men learn the follow.’

(Isn’t ‘heteronormative’ a brilliant word?)

And here’s another paragraph from the same source which I found even more surprising.

'The tango spread from the dominant urban dance form to become hugely popular across  Finland.  The melancholy tone of the music reflects the themes of Finnish folk poetry; Finnish tango is almost always in a minor key.

Every year, the Finnish tango festival, Tangomarkkinat, draws over 100,000 tangophiles to the central Finnish town of Seinäjoki, which also hosts the Tango Museum.'

We still have a very long way to go in this Truckshunter Geography but I will be genuinely surprised to find another fact quite as wayward and as unexpected as that one.  Just imagine:  100,000 ‘tangophiles’ flock to a little town in Finland (of all places) to celebrate their obsession - and to visit the Tango Museum there.

The Tango Museum.  I have to go!

One final word about the tango before we let it strut off into a Buenos Aires dawn.

Research seems to show that dancing the tango helps in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases and relieves depression and anxiety levels.  It really does make people feel sexier and more relaxed.  It also increases testosterone levels - which explains a lot.

As a result of all this, the First Tango-Therapy Congress was held in Buenos Aires in 2008 and there are now fortnightly tango therapy classes at the city’s main psychiatric hospital.


Another notable Argentine export - after a fashion - was Evita, the hideous musical based on the life of Eva Peron, the country’s post-war First Lady.  In a way, though, her story was even more interesting after she died in 1952.
 Evita (on the left)
The Army stole her embalmed body, which turned up 16 years later in Milan.  In 1971, it was exhumed and re-buried in Spain.  In 1974, it was dug up yet again and moved to the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires.  It now rests in the city’s Recoleta Cemetery, to where it was finally moved in 1976.


By now, you should have banked several reasons to visit Argentina.  But, in case your appetite isn’t sufficiently whetted…

How about going there to watch the world’s most important polo match - the Argentine Open?

Or even to watch a game or two of the country’s national sport - pato - which has been described as a cross between polo and basketball.  These days, it’s played with a 5-handled ball but originally it was a live duck sewn into a basket.
While you’re digesting that piece of surprisingly gruesome information, you might also like to digest a few Argentine food favourites.  Like empanadas (pastries stuffed with savoury fillings), alfajores (a very popular sweet), facturas (sweet pastries) - all washed down with maté - bitter tea, served in a decorative gourd with a metal straw and shared between friends.
A maté gourd

Argentina has proved to be one of the most fascinating and surprising countries we’ve visited so far.  And I haven’t even mentioned its unit of currency, its dialling code, its internet domain name, its National Anthem - or the infamous Argentine Vampire Duck.

I think perhaps, though, that we should end with the words of one of the country’s most unforgettably iconic figures.

This is the letter that Che Guevara wrote to his children in about 1965 - and only to be opened if he was killed.

'Your father has been a man who acted according to his beliefs and certainly has been faithful to his convictions.

Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard to be able to dominate the techniques that permit the domination of nature. Remember that the Revolution is what is important and that each of us, on our own, is worthless.

Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.

Until always, little children. I still hope to see you again. A really big kiss and a hug from Papa.’

He was killed in 1967.


A very big Thankyou to everyone who contributed to this stopover on our journey.

Your work has only just begun.  Our next port-of-call is to another extreme of nationhood:  Armenia.

Get cracking!


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