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Nick Taylor

Barbara Shelton
Music 1040
The Culture of Argentina
Argentina is a lively place with a dynamic culture behind it. It is a place where bars open
at midnight, and parties run until the morning. Music can be heard over the hustle and bustle of
the common crowd, and a place to dance is never too far from home. Teenagers are out
wreaking havoc, and crime runs rampant throughout the streets. Despite this fact, the people
of Argentina generally remain positive and upbeat, much like their music.
Paola Franco was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1971 into a lower class family. She
distinctly remembers her childhood being filled with good friends, loving family, and being
robbed quite a few times. She would always walk or take buses to get where she needed to be.
She remembers always being home in time for dinner, no matter what. She moved to the
United States at age 18 and still returns back home frequently to visit with family and friends.
She retains part of her culture by occasionally attending Tango clubs, and by inviting her family
and friends over frequently for dinner, or to watch a futbol (soccer) game.
Buenos Aires is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of South America”, as it contains
amazing architecture, the latest fashion trends, marvelous nightlife, and is riddled with roadside
café’s. Paola’s hometown, along with much of the city, looks quite a lot like Paris or Rome, with

many Italian influences in the architecture. The common homes are very simple in Buenos
Aires, and lots of people live in apartment complexes or rent a living space. It is extremely
common to have a housemaid in your home, and if you’re rich you would probably have a few
to help keep your large, lavish home in pristine condition year-round.
Family plays a huge role in Argentina’s culture. Family members look after each other
and are always inviting each other over for dinners or parties. Even housemaids are treated as
part of the family. If your housemaid had kids, they would often be invited over to play with
your family’s children. Kids will live at home up until they get married, unlike in the United
States where it’s common to move out around age 18 or so. It’s quite common to have older
children still living at home with their parents. Grandparents are taken very good care of when
they get too old by their children and grandchildren, and are sometimes even financially
supported by them.
Social Issues
The culture and history of Buenos Aires is rich and lively. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t had
its share of struggles and hardships. To this day, citizens of Argentina still face social issues such
as poverty, financial inequalities, and frequent crime in their cities. Even so, we share some of
these same issues in our own country in many of our cities.
Class Structure
There is a stark difference between classes of Buenos Aires. The middle class is nearly
non-existent, only an upper class and lower class can be found within the city, the lower class
vastly outnumbering the upper class.
“In Villa Lugano, on the southwestern edge of Buenos Aires, the wide Avenida
Fernández de la Cruz divides a complex that includes a golf course and a shopping centre to the

south, and a public park to the north. These two areas, despite being across the street from
each other, are socially a world apart.”1
This is a prime example of how harsh the divide between classes in Buenos Aires can be. The
extravagant complex that includes a golf course and shopping center is right next to a public
park that is inhabited by poor citizens living in makeshift Villas. It’s almost as if you belong to
one side or the other.
Much of this inequality is due to the vast amount of tourism in the city’s popular
regions. Tourists will come from all around the world to take in the sights and sounds of Buenos
Aires’ popular nightlife and bustling shopping centers which generates a large amount of
income for the city. The citizens lucky enough to get a job in these popular areas tend to do
quite well, while the unfortunate and underprivileged are forced to live well under the poverty
line just outside of the city’s borders.
Criminality/ Substance Abuse
Crime is frequent in Buenos Aires, as with any other large city. When more people
populate an area, more crime is bound to follow. Among the common types of crime such as
thefts, shoplifts, and household robberies, drug use and abuse is one of the city’s largest
problems. Teenagers and party-goers can often find their party drugs at dance clubs or raves,
usually including ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamines, etc. These types of drugs can usually get
expensive, as they are the higher quality drugs that are brought into the city.


Reed, Drew. “Buenos Aires: the poor fight to survive while across the road the wealthy shop”. The
Guardian. 3 July 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014

However, it is the drugs associated with the lower class population that brings about the
largest amount of crime in the city. A drug called Paco has overwhelmed the slums since 2001
and has turned these areas into living nightmares.
“A sickly yellow powder, paco is the byproduct of cocaine manufacturing. Derived from
the impure, chemical residue left over after the production of cocaine, it is often cut with any
number of toxins, including sulfuric acid, rat poison, glue and even shards of glass. Since paco is
essentially narco-waste, it is sold for very little, as low as one Argentine peso (about 0.23 U.S.
dollars) a hit. Hits are cheap and powerful. Each hit lasts only a minute or so, and serious
addicts can go through over 100 doses a day.”2
This drug is so addictive that addicts tend to turn to acts of stealing and violence to find the
money for their next fix. It’s easy to see how this can grow to be a significant problem in the
slums due to its incredibly cheap price, potent effects, and harsh side effects leading to most of
the crime that occurs in Buenos Aires.
Race Structure
Buenos Aires is a culturally diverse city that has built itself out of the traditions from
early pioneers, and new immigrants alike. An amazing portion of Buenos Aires’ heritage can be
traced back to early European settlers. This would explain where much of its architectural
influences came from. The rest of its population is made up from its neighboring nationalities
such as Asians, African Americans, Native Americans, and even people from the Middle East.
Discrimination between races in the city is miniscule, but existent. Equality in Buenos Aires has
made substantial progress in the 21st century.


LaFalce, Maggie. “City of the Living Dead”. The Chronicle. 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.

How These Issues Have Transferred to the US
A few of these social issues have somewhat dissipated upon transferring to the United
States. Class structure in the US is a little more dynamic, and includes a middle class as well as
upper and lower classes. The divide between classes isn’t nearly as blatant, and work can
usually be found by people in any three of these classes. As for the crime and drug use, any
large city will always have to deal with such things. However, Paola was able to state that most
people that come to the US from Buenos Aires that have previously been involved with illegal
activity will usually begin honest paying work to provide for themselves or their family. The race
structure and equality of the people of Argentina in the US remains nearly the same, as modern
laws and practices have made the United States quite equal in opportunities for all.
Argentina is best known for its traditional Tango music. Tango originated in Buenos
Aires in the early 19th century and is still very popular amongst dancers and traditional music
lovers. The Tango is a passionate form of music and will often have a medium-fast paced
tempo. A lot of Tango is in the minor key and is played very fervently. Instruments used vary
from one guitar, to an ensemble of guitars, flutes, bass, accordions, and violins. The tango has
undergone some major changes as new forms of music arise. Artists have begun to create
fusions between tango and other genres such as rock, electronica, and jazz.
As common as Tango is in Argentina, it’s the rock genre that’s made Argentine bands
world famous. The Rock and Roll movement during the 60’s was just as impressive in Argentina
as it was in the United States. Rock and Roll grew as time went by, and bolstered great
Argentine rock bands. Charly Garcia, best known for his two toned beard and moustache, wrote

many great songs that spoke to the Argentine youth. His song “Confesiones de Invierno”
became wildly popular in 1973. The song speaks about the hardships of living on the streets,
police brutality, and how the government isn’t doing much to help poor people. There is a
heavy Argentine influence on the vocals and tonal quality of the piece.
Although there were some great, original sounds and bands that formed during the
Rock and Roll movement in Argentina, the United States did have a large influence on the style
of the music. The culture started to move away from the traditional form of Tango, and brought
in a new wave of Rock and Roll that took off to become one of the defining parts of Argentina’s
musical culture.
Argentina is an amazing place with roots rich in ethnic diversity. Underlying the
immensely popular cities and tourist attractions though, serious issues with poverty, drug use,
and financial inequality litter the slums inhabited by underprivileged people. Although this huge
divide between classes is clear, they share a common appreciation for their culture’s music.

Reed, Drew. “Buenos Aires: the poor fight to survive while across the road the wealthy shop”.
The Guardian. 3 July 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014
LaFalce, Maggie. “City of the Living Dead”. The Chronicle. 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
Franco, Paola. Personal interview. 16 Oct. 2014.