Travel Reports

KWF '14 in Argentina

KWF '14 in Argentina.

South America: A Study In Contrasts

— By Craig Gilbert ’10
KWF ’10 cheers at a soccer
game in Buenos Aires.

KWF ’10 cheers at a soccer game in Buenos Aires. Photo by Brad Tyner

The addition of Brazil to the itinerary gave the Fellows’ annual South America trip a neat duality. Argentina: the continent’s most European nation. Brazil: its biggest melting pot. Argentina: mature but troubled economy. Brazil: rising powerhouse. Argentina: governed by the polarizing Kirchners. Brazil: governed by the popular Lula.

The list goes on. At a pre-trip briefing at Wallace House, two U-M professors used dance to contrast the two cultures. In the more Europeaninfluenced tango of Argentina, the tempo is deliberate, faces are largely impassive, footwork is highly synchronized, and the songs have a thematic tradition of deep, bitter melancholy.

In the more African influenced samba of Brazil, the dance is more rhythmic and pelvic, the attitude more celebratory and flirtatious. The tango/samba divide is real, our briefers suggested, but a lot less simple than it sounds (as we’d come to appreciate in our travels).

Our days in Buenos Aires had a rhythm familiar to past Fellows: regular immersions in beef, wine and flan, punctuated by seminars and explorations.

There was a neat duality in that, too: glimpses of a brilliant and seductive culture on the one hand, and a famously stormy, adversarial and sometimes dysfunctional political economy on the other. The combination — good at living, worse at politics — may be as Argentine as the tango. ... read more >>