Wealth and poverty, tradition versus the modern, cowboys and penguins—Argentina is a country full of contrasts. English Lecturer Henry Laufenberg offers an Exploration Seminar in Buenos Aires and shares one of his favorite experiences.
“My favorite moment was when we took a tango lesson at the home of a local faculty member, Gabriel Mason. We had read much about the complex matrix of Argentine history, culture, and arts, learned about hyperinflation and the dirty war, the persecution and literary rebirth of the gaucho , the identity crisis of a country that turns its back on Latin America by insisting it is still corded to Europe. We had studied the emergence of tango music and dance in the multiethnic slums of immigrant Buenos Aires. But now we were here, the students and I and two elegant local tangueros , in a beautiful, belle époque room in Palermo, in the orillas , the one-time city outskirts Borges so prophetically theorized as marginal and carefully memorialized. Here the students were witnessing modern Argentines feel their marginality and their blues and let these things go in a few moments of dignity, tradition, connection, and eroticism. That morning the students learned dance steps, but they also experienced just a little bit of the contradiction that is Argentina.”