Greyhounds in Buenos Aires celebrate the pope in his hometown
March 26, 2013
When Sarah Nielsen heard the news of the election of Pope Francis, she was walking through his hometown, Buenos Aires.
In fact, the Loyola junior was showing a visitor the city when she noticed that the cars passing her were honking.
“I took that to be normal, crazy, Argentine traffic and paid little attention to it,” Nielsen says. “I walked into my favorite place in the city, el Ateneo Grand Spendid, one of the most incredible bookstores I have ever been to in my life.”
Inside the store, the Darien, Conn., resident glanced down at her phone and saw a message from her father.
“Pope from down there,” he wrote.
“Then I got a call from one of my friends screaming about it,” says Nielsen, a Spanish major with a writing minor. “I couldn’t contain myself, and I also felt like I couldn’t express my excitement at that moment in Spanish either.”
A City in Celebration
One of three Loyola students studying in Buenos Aires this semester, Nielsen tried to meet up with classmate Tommy Thompson, ’14, and realized the city was in happy chaos. What is typically a 15-minute bus ride took an hour because of all the public celebrations on the main roads.
“I don’t live near the Cathedral but one of my friends does and told me the Plaza de Mayo area were out of control—even more so than usual,” she says. “I don’t know if you know much about Argentine culture, but they’re always protesting or celebrating things almost every day in two specific locations, one of them being the Plaza de Mayo and the other being the Obelisco.”
Before moving to Buenos Aires for the spring semester, Thompson studied during the fall semester in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, where Pope Francis had also spent time. And, as it turns out, the pope is familiar with the university where the Loyola students are studying in Buenos Aires.
“One of the coolest coincidences that I know of is that Pope Francis, originally Jorge Bergoglio, taught at Universidad del Salvador, where we are currently doing our exchange,” Nielsen said. “When I asked the international office about it, they said there is an end-of-the-year party for all the professors and staff, which includes a Mass, and on multiple occasions Jorge Bergoglio was the priest saying Mass.”
A Taste of Argentina
Nielsen, who is spending two semesters in the Argentine capital, is enjoying experiencing the culture and food of such an “incredible” city.
“The best—most common—foods in Argentina are meat, meat, and meat. Argentina is known for its beef, and cooks them on parrillas, which is a type of barbeque. The event of eating all the meat—because there’s always so much—is called an asado, which also means barbeque,” she says.
“Other main things that people eat are empanadas, which are pastries filled with chicken, beef, or ham/cheese. Then there are milanesas, which are essentially thinly pounded chicken fried steak. Alfajores—shortbread cookies with dulce de leche in the middle (think of Haagen Dazs ice cream)—and are the main dessert anywhere.”
The main drink in Argentina is called mate, a type of tea that you put in a specific gourd and drink with a metal straw known locally as a bombilla. Typically a group of friends all drink from the same mate, sitting in a circle together.
Nielsen is following the first days of the new pope’s leadership with interest—and the perspective of someone familiar with Argentine culture.
“When Cristina Fernandez de Kichner, the Argentine president, went to have lunch with the pope, she offered him a mate gourd and bombilla,” Nielsen said.
For the pope, that drink must have been a taste of home—and the city Nielsen is enjoying getting to know.