Argentine Aborigines

(Photo by canosadaniel1)

Argentine cultural identity is a mix of many influences stemming from the encounter of local aborigines with Europeans since the Colonization of America, and after the many migratory currents that the country underwent.

In Buenos Aires, the presence of European influences is more than evident: French architecture, Italian and Spanish food, language and gesticulation, and so on. The indigenous influence in the capital however is less apparent, although in many other provinces local tribes are still a significant part of society.

The Argentine aboriginal map is divided into three main regions: the Andean Northwest, which at a time was an outpost of the Inca Empire and the indigenous culture still thrives today; the Northeast, where some tribes, like the Wichis still exist today, related to the Tupí and Guaraní peoples, and finally the Pampa and Patagonia regions, populated by mainly nomadic tribes that are mostly extinct.

Within each of these regions and large generalized groups of indigenes there are many tribes, each with their own cultural characteristics, many which make up a part of the local identity today. Mate drinking for example, is a ritual that comes from the Guaraní who planted the mate herb over the burial ground of their loved ones and then shared the beverage made from the leaves to keep the spirit of their people alive.

The Rules of Mate Brewing

(Photo by juanpol)

The world of mate is full of tradition and there are many details to keep in mind for this typical beverage to come out just right.

1. The preparation stage of the mate is crucial. To do so properly fill ¾ of the gourd with ‘yerba’ and then place the palm of your hand over the gourd and shake it. You should find some fine mate powder covering your palm. Once you have done this one or two times insert the mate straw on one of the sides of the gourd and don’t move it.

2. Rule of thumb: never brew a mate with boiling water. The water should be hot, between 85-95 C. If the water is boiling it will burn the yerba and destroy its flavor. Plus, if you’re around experienced mate drinkers they will never look at you the same again!

3. One of the most annoying things that happens when a mate isn’t well prepared is that the straw gets clogged. This usually happens when the dust isn’t shaken out (step 1) or when the straw is moved around once its been placed. The straw should be still, in the same place from start to finish.

 4. Another thing to avoid is blowing on the straw to cool it or unclog it. This is inconsiderate to others in the mate round and not very hygienic. The same goes for salivating the straw. Placing your dry lips on it should be enough to enjoy the beverage.

5. Finally, change the ‘yerba’ once its lost its taste , don’t insist on drinking a washed out mate, and never pass a washed out mate on to the next person unless you wish to insult them!

A few things to keep in mind:

The mate gourd must be cured before it can be used or it will tinge the mate with a foul taste. To do so wash it out well with hot water until the water is clear and free of pigments from the wood. Then fill the gourd with yerba up to the top and pour hot water on it. Leave it overnight and wash again well.

When sharing mates with others a few basics must be taken into account; the mate brewer, who must brew the mates for everyone in the round, must drink the first mate to make sure it’s ok, the mate should never be passed on once water has gotten cold and everyone’s turn must be respected.