The culture of Argentina is as varied as the country's geography or its ethnic mix.
Modern Argentine culture, albeit primarily Latin American, has been formed and influenced by European immigration. Buenos Aires is undeniably the most European city in South America, due both to the prevalence of people of European descent (mostly Italian and Spanish) and to conscious imitation. There are also some Amerindian influences, particularly in the fields of music and art.
Buenos Aires and other cities show a mixture of architectural styles imported from Europe. In the case of older settlements (and of older preserved neighborhoods within cities), modern styles appear mixed with colonial features, relics from the Spanish-ruled past.
Museums, cinemas and galleries are abundant in all the large urban centers, as well as traditional establishments such as literary bars, or bars offering live music of a variety of genres.
Cinema and theater
Argentine cinema has achieved international recognition with films such as The Official Story and 9 Queens, though it has only rarely been taken into account by mainstream popular viewers who prefer Hollywood-type movies. Even low-budget productions, however, have obtained prizes in cinema festivals (such as Cannes). The city of Mar del Plata organizes its own festival dedicated to this art.
A study in August 2005 found that about one third of Argentinians had attended the cinema in the previous three months, particularly people younger than 35. Argentinians choose films first based on their particular genre, rather than on advertising, and show a marked interest in national films, which, according to most opinions, have improved lately.
By contrast, theater is not nearly as popular, and it is considered elitist; only about 10% of Argentinians attend plays regularly or frequently, and they focus on lighter comedy and musical shows.
The best-known element of Argentine culture is probably their music and dance, particularly tango. In modern Argentina, tango music is enjoyed in its own right, especially since the radical Ástor Piazzolla redefined the music of Carlos Gardel. It must be noted that while tango refers mostly to a particular dancing music for foreigners, the music together with the lyrics (often sung in a kind of slang called lunfardo) are what most Argentinians primarily mean by tango. Tango lyrics can be considered a kind of poetry.
Folk music and dance are popular in provincial Argentina, whether blends of European and pre-Columbian styles, like the chamamé of Mesopotamia, or European folk-style like Basque or Welsh dance.
Since the 1970s rock and roll is also widely appreciated in Argentina. First during the 1970s and then again at the mid 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, national rock and roll and pop music experienced bursts of popularity, with many new bands (such as Soda Stereo and Sumo) and composers (like Charly García and Fito Páez) becoming important referents of national culture. National rock and pop then gave way to other genres, like the Argentine version of cumbia, together with ska, reggae, and variations of techno, Eurodance, electronica and the like. The variety of the musical outlook of today's Argentina is impossible to summarize in a short article; the opening up of the local market to international trade and the ready access to music downloaded from the Internet (most often illegally, through peer-to-peer networks) provide listeners with a diversity of choices.
European classical music is well-considered in Argentina, with the Colón Theater one of the best opera houses in the world. Musicians such as Martha Argerich and composers like Lalo Schifrin have become internationally famous.
Argentines are extremely involved in sports. Fútbol (soccer) is more of a national obsession than a game. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics for men's soccer, and the exploits of Diego Maradona have kept fans, paparazzi and columnists busy for the past 20 years. Tennis, rugby and field hockey are also important and Argentina won gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens for men's basketball. The great Formula One driver, Juan Manuel Fangio was Argentinian. The rich, heavily influenced by English customs, have traditionally enjoyed polo and Argentina dominates this sport. During recent times, international polo player Adolfo Cambiasso has tried to get the middle and lower class of Argentina closer to polo. To do so he has adopted several football traditions to polo, like celebrating goals and the like. Cambiasso's strategy had a kind of success when different football fans went to see the final of the Argentinean Open. This has been critiziced by the rich class of course.
The official national sport of Argentina, though rarely played, is the polo-like pato. Pato literally translates to duck
More than half of the population practises some sport or at least performs some physical exercise, such as walking or jogging. Regular practice of football, going to a gym and riding a bicycle are the three most common activities of this kind.
Argentina's official language is Spanish (here usually named castellano). Most Argentines live in the area of the Río de la Plata basin (which extends north from Buenos Aires along the Paraná River), and the dialect spoken in this area (Rioplatense Spanish) is also recognized in the rest of the country.
Most Argentines can understand standard spoken Italian and Portuguese, due to their relatedness with Spanish.
Some immigrant communities retain their language as a badge of identity, such as the Welsh community of Patagonia who have even held an Eisteddfod, as well as the Basques, Arabs and even Ukrainians. Recent immigrants from China and South Korea, who have established in large cities like Buenos Aires and Rosario, also speak their language among themselves, and some communities even publish small-circulation newspapers in them.
There are about 23 native languages spoken in different parts of the country, including Quechua, Mapuche, Guaraní, Toba and Wichí.
Argentina is known for its asado of grilled beef. Meat (including entrails) is placed on the grill and cooked from below with natural wood and coal - barbecue. There are restaurants that serve asado only; a good local restaurant always has a place set up to prepare asado.
Argentines consume large amounts of beef. While the recent economic crisis made meat expensive for many, its price is still relatively low given its quality. Meat exports are usually regulated; the European Community has set up a quota of frozen meat imports that cannot be exceeded.
Traditional foods of the provinces such as locro hark back to the pre-Columbian period, with a reliance on maize, beans and squashes (in many places, locro is traditionally consumed only on national patriotic holidays). Another traditional food is the empanada, a circular piece of pastry folded in two around a filling (including chopped meat, olives, hard-boiled egg, potato cubes, raisins, ham and cheese, and many other variants), which can be baked or fried.
Italian staples like pizza and pasta are common. Many Argentines choose a simple pizza with tomato, cheese and ham, but many combinations are available. Pasta (in the local Spanish: pastas) is extremely common, either simple unadorned pasta with butter or oil, or accompanied by tomato or bechamel-based sauce.
Sweets, especially dulce de leche, are popular. Dulce de leche (a dark brown fluid paste, made from milk and sugar stirred at very high temperatures) is an essential ingredient of cakes, and shares the place of jelly and jam in breakfasts. It is used to top desserts and to fill alfajores and facturas (an alfajor consists of two round biscuits, often flavored, optionally coated with chocolate, joined by a layer of jelly; factura is the generic name for sweet baked pastry of different kinds, including but not limited to croissants and donuts).
Argentina is famous for its wine, most notably the red wine from the province of Mendoza, where weather conditions (dry, warm summers) are optimal. (Mendoza is in this respect similar to California in the United States.)
In terms of literature, Argentina's most famous authors are Jorge Luis Borges, considered one of the greatest 20th century writers of the world (he wrote poems, short stories and non-fiction essays), Adolfo Bioy Casares and Julio Cortázar. Bioy Casares wrote some books in collaboration with Borges. Cortázar was voluntarily exiled in Europe during the rule of Juan Domingo Perón; Borges had problems with Peronism too, and saluted its fall in 1955 with joy, though he later became disillusioned with the military dictators. Both Borges and Cortázar died abroad: Borges in Geneva in 1986, and Cortázar in Paris in 1984.
Argentine comics is best represented by Mafalda, a cartoon by Quino (Joaquín Lavado), which became a world-recognized Argentine icon soon after its publication. The series of comic strips shows the world's troubles through the eyes of a small girl, Mafalda, and her relatives and friends.
A cultural survey found that the most important spare time activity for almost 80% of Argentinians is visiting friends and relatives. Playing team sports and attending sports venues is also quite common. For younger people, going out to dance is prevalent, while older ones prefer dining outside the home.
An example of sociability can be found during the annual celebration of Friend's Day on 20 July. This informal holiday originated in Argentina and in later years it has gained such popularity, especially among the young, that the entertainment centers of the cities (bars, discos, cinemas, etc.) become crowded until dawn of the following day, similarly to what happens at Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Despite the mix of ancestries and languages, Argentines are fiercely nationalistic. Also place a high value on individuality.
Argentinians are commonly considered quite sociable and outgoing, and they view themselves this way too.
Argentines believe in being open, frank, and direct, but also take pride in being tactful and diplomatic. In both speech and writing, they may be indirect, elaborate, and complimentary. They can be almost poetic in the way they express themselves.
Argentines do have strong opinions on many issues, and although they can be circumspect and reserved, they can also voice their opinions forthrightly or publicly.
Argentines are generally well informed about politics and economic policies and they take great interest discussing them.