It’s daybreak. You stretch your arms out and squint at the sun peeking in at you through your window and check the time. It’s 11 am, and you wouldn’t even dream of getting up earlier than that.
After moseying your way downstairs and outside, the still silent air stuns with its sharp contrast between its present stillness and the rowdy commotion only a few hours earlier. The unruly din of young adults giddily ambling through the streets with their Pritty lemon after a long night at the boliches has but recently dissipated. The only sign of life now are the political fliers twisting about in the breeze and a few pigeons feasting on empanada crusts.
A few hours later, a pleasant aroma tantalizes your senses. Gradually the air becomes imbued with a subtle smoky, peppery essence. All around you, families and friends are gathering to prepare and enjoy a mouthwatering asado, with no shortage of succulent and seasoned-to-perfection cuts of meat to go around. This fragrance saturates your lungs and pores and your stomach growls indignantly as if to say, “You’d better be getting me some of that”. The whole country increasingly fills with the fragrance of asado, with subtle red, cherry notes of Malbec wine.
It is Sunday in Argentina.
I’ve always loved Sundays. There is some enigmatic air about it that strikes me as purifying, carefree, and relaxing. Most people have the day off and it’s the last day of the weekend to unwind before getting back to the grind on Monday. Families come together, friends reunite and laughter is abundant. I must say though, that Argentina has effectively confirmed my fondness of Sundays because they know how to truly live them.
Storefronts are padlocked, except for the meat markets and bakeries causing the once bustling streets to come to a standstill. Loved ones get together to catch up and share music, great food, wine and mate, and somehow the weather is always inexplicably favorable. The entire ambiance possesses a curious persona of its own that encompasses what a Sunday should be.
As the late afternoon starts to set in and people caress their protruding food babies, the only thing there is room for is a little bit of mate and some good conversation. At this time, a leisurely stroll works good medicine for their ailing “panzas” as well as their hearts. People play music, sing, go for a swim, play games—any activity that strikes their fancy at that moment, for the afternoon hours.
Go for a walk through the park and you’ll see hordes of people sprawled out in clusters on the lawn. Children are running about and giggling as they romp around with their friends. Adults chitchat as they pass around mate and criollos. Vendors wander about looking for patrons to whom they can sell a towering cotton candy cone or some homemade alfajores.
In the evening if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a heated game of fútbol, the only time you’ll ever see an Argentine’s eyes glued to a television screen. Everyone will hoot and holler in harmony as their home players get a “GOOOOOOLLLLLL!!!!”, or they will irately shout insults of disapproval, most certainly with a few strewn in “BOLUDO!”’s when a play doesn’t quite go as planned. The passion for their home team radiates from their eyes more than the images from the monitor.
It is on Sunday when I truly feel like I am taking in everything “Argentina” about this country. It is a day when I feel an unequivocal sense of fascination, belonging and tranquility.
Sunday is more than just another day off. It’s about surrounding yourself with those you love and celebrating life, a skill that Argentinians understand and embrace.