Monday, 17 January 2011

cordobeses, just as we are...

(si prefieres leer esta entrada del blog en español, sigue este enlace)
The peatonal, or pedestrian shopping area in Córdoba, Argentina.
On occasion of the last elections that took place here in The Netherlands in June last year, the difficulties that had to be overcome in order to form a new Dutch government prompted me to think about my home country and how differently the Dutch and the Argentineans react to events that shape the way we live in. While in Argentina we tend to be more intense and make a big deal out of anything that happens to make the news at the moment, in the Netherlands people mostly listen,  discuss more or less extensively -albeit dispassionately- among family or friends, draw conclusions, and finally go on about their daily business.

I kept thinking about this later and I realised that being passionate and intense is a characteristic that all Argentineans share. We are passionate about politics, about football, about food, about our national heroes. But what about people from my home town -Córdoba- in particular? What are the things that make us stand out from the rest of our countrymen? How can a cordobés be recognised as such by other Argentineans? What are we like?
A very friendly cordobés taking a moment to pose for the photographer.  Photo: Claudia Gibson

Funny is the first thing that comes to mind. From the moment we open our mouths to speak, we put a smile on our interlocutor's face, for we speak Spanish with a very particular accent. The melody has a slow cadence that comes from a lengthening of the syllable preceding the stressed one, so that (to give an example that non-Spanish speakers will understand) mi amigo (my friend) becomes miaaaaaaamigo.
Argentineans from other parts of the country try to imitate or even mock us, especially when telling jokes; what they probably don't know is that they don't always succeed in copying our accent. This is mainly because sounding cordobés takes more than just getting the phonetics and the intonation right: it takes a certain cordobés quality. The nature of this cordobés quality is rather complex and a well-kept secret which I am not at a liberty to disclose so publicly...

Well, maybe just a little, or there would be no point at all in writing this post, would it?

Being funny, then, does not just imply speaking in a particular way, enlongating the words in the right place or even using typical cordobés jargon (which we naturally have) but also acting and reacting in a funny way.
Cordobeses have a special ability to make quick, witty and funny remarks in every situation and circumstance of everyday life, whether it is a relaxed moment with friends, while standing in line at the bank or in the middle of a serious and solemn occasion; and the melody with which they make such responses generally makes the remark sound even funnier.

Two cordobesas protest -and make fun at the same time- about the increase in the price of public transport in the city of Córdoba by wearing a bus token in a very creative way. Photo: Claudia Gibson.
Reflecting on this characteristic of the cordobés quality, I came to think of my own father. My dad is a cordobés through and through. He has a thick cordobés accent that not even living outside Córdoba for most of his yong adult life could take away.
He retired from the navy still young and returned to the Córdoba of his childhood to stay. He has been living now in the same house for the past 29 years and he is very friendly to all of his neighbours and they all seem to like him, too.
He likes talking a lot, so that every morning when he goes out for groceries it will take him at least three hours to be back home, simply because on the way to the supermarket and back, he stops at least a dozen times to talk to the neighbours... usually people he never bothers to mention by their real names to my mum or me when he reports what news he heard from señor R. or how señora M. is doing. As a true cordobés, he is good at making up funny names for every person he knows.
My dad, drinking mate by the river in Entre Ríos, Argentinia.
I normally find this habit of his amusing and I even make use myself of those funny names when it is my turn to mention some of the neighbours. These names are not meant to be derogative or uttered in a disrespectful way - it is just a trait that comes with our cordobés genes, I suppose.
My mum, on the other hand, thinks that this habit of his is quite annoying, since she claims to never know who he is really talking about. Surely is not that difficult to call people by their actual names? Why does señor G.  have to be Mr. Fridge-door Egg, or señor S., Mr. Neat Hen?
Well, señor G. seems to spend quite a large portion of the day standing at the door (just where you normally have a place for eggs in the fridge) of his house checking out what is going on in the neighbourhood; he is like the watchman on the street, if you know what I mean.
Then there is Mr. Neat Hen, a man who seems to have a habit that does not provoke the slightest blush on his part when he, (and I can't believe I am telling you this here) "arranges his eggs like a very neat hen would, while he's talking to you," my dad explained the first time he came up with the name. And there is also Mr. Badly-hidden Soldier, who is totally bald, what apparently makes my dad (who was in the military for 30+ years) think of a soldier whose "helmet" you can see, thus, he is unsuccessfully hidden behind the barricades or he has not camouflaged his helmet properly with leaves, like soldiers normally do.
Me with my mum and dad in Argentina.
This habit my dad has, has caused me more than one embarrassing moment during my yearly visits to Argentina, when I stay at my parents' house and the neighbours stop me on the street to welcome me back.
They all seem happy to see me again, and they are eager to know if I have had a good flight, how long I will be staying, if I am ok and things like that... I like engaging in small talk with my parents' neighbours -everyone is so friendly and genuinely interested; but I always feel panic seething in my head while I desperately scan my memory to remember the person's real name. After all, despite being a cordobesa myself, it would not be very polite to greet señor S.  with, "Heeeeey, Mr. Neat Hen, long time no see, how's the family doing?", while I try not to notice that he is actually, being neat again... And just for the record, in Argentina people normally kiss when they meet, for example, on the street - never shake hands!

22 comments:

buday said...

Your dad is such a character, Aledys! And very observant, too. Mr. Neat Hen, sheesh, I wouldn't know where to look if someone I was talking to kept doing "that" but I would surely be thanking the heavens too that I don't have to shake his hand, LOL.
In my hometown, it's not just individuals who have their "nicknames" but whole families or clans. You've somehow inspired me to write about them someday (maybe).
Oh, and I love these little glimpses of Cordoba that you're giving us. Seems like a very pleasant place to grow up in. :)

Aledys Ver said...

buday,
You said it right: my dad *is* quite a character!
I would love to hear your story about nicknames in your hometown!
Thanks for stopping by.

Presepio No Canal said...

:-) The same goes with my mother when she goes to the supermarket and take so many time to come back because of all the greetings along the way. I recognize all the same questions, and I like that so much...:-)
About kisses and no shake hands, as you know, the same goes with us, Portuguese. You know how I was sad here with all the handschakes...specially in my birthday.
This year I stand up and I asked to be kissed, oh yes! And they kissed me in the class!
Your sense of humor is priceless and I liked it so much. The Portuguese people are always making jokes, we like to laugh about ourselves, and sometimes I miss that so much...that's why I think you are so refreshing ;-)
I cannot forget when my collegues said that before I had arrived, everything was so serieus...
I think I would like to go to Cordoba. I'm sure I will like it because I like to joke and laugh "ate as lagrimas" ;-))
I would like to know your father ;-) He must be very funny. Mine was like that too, and that's why we have so many hilarious stories to remember... I guess that is one of the most beautiful gifts of all: smiles, laughs and funny memories...:-)
Beijinhos and never lose your Cordobes way! Never!! ;-)

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks, Sandrinha! I've shared many a laugh and an joke with you last year - let's hope more of that is in stock for us in 2011 ....

Mayfromlohr said...

It seems funny, but we too have the same situation of having 'nicknames' for our neighbors!! :D And I sometimes worry that we would call out loud to them using their nicknames and not the real ones!!! Thanks for sharing the link to Valkenburg castle, I loved your post very much and wish I too could write about my travel experiences like you. Unfortunately, the ruins we visited has no website, cause as I said, many of the ruins are not maintained by anybody. Will try to search it on google map and give you the link.

Aledys Ver said...

Pity that nobody is maintaining that beautiful castle! And it's so new, compared to that in Valkenburg!
Thanks for your comments here, May!

Ana O'Reilly said...

JAJAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!! I loooove this post so much! You should have heard my belly laughs! I can just see every neighbour you talk about. Mr Neat Hen grossed me out hahahaha!
My grandmother is from Cordoba too and although she's lived in Rosario and Bs As for most of her adult life (and she's 93), she still has a trace of the Cordobes accent, especially the r's. It cracked me up as a kid when she said things like “raso rosa”.
And it is true that Cordobeses are funny! That province has produced great comedians. And they’re very assertive too: when they want something, they go out and get it, think of El Cordobazo…

Aledys Ver said...

Actually I started writing this thinking of other cordobés traces, like "rebellious", for example, and thought of "Cordobazo" - then, because it'd be too long, I decided to talk just about being funny, for now. I'll go on talking about what cordobeses are like in future posts...

Nicolás said...

¡Qué fotazas! Una maravilla el enmarcado también. Besosss

Aledys Ver said...

Gracias, Nico! Las fotos de Claudia me vinieron de 10! (pero le pedí permiso.... tarde, pero se lo pedí jaja)

Miss Footloose said...

Cordoba sounds like a lovely place. Humor gives so much soul to life. I loved reading this and learning about the character of the people and the cultural atmosphere. Makes me wonder how difficult it must have been for you to adapt to the cooler climate in Holland (literally and culturally ;)

BLOGitse said...

What a post! Great!
Difficult to comment....so many things in one post and I'm just turning off my computer - traveling again.
I'd like to know how you would say about me from Helsinki like cordobesa? :) not easy!?
I'll be back when I have more time...Tsau!

Aledys Ver said...

In cordobés it'd be: "soy de Heeeeeeeeeeelsinki" Lol!
Have a nice trip!!

Aledys Ver said...

I guess it has been just as difficult as it had been the other way round... Probably when you move to a place where people are warm and ready to accept you in their circle from the beginning, it's easier to adapt and feel at home....
Thans for your comments!

Wendy said...

This is an excellent post! I find Argentinians passionate and boisterous, but Cordobese are hilarious (even if I don't get all the jokes yet) and after a year, I can tell the difference in a Cordobese accent and one from elsewhere in Argentina. Un beso!

Japra said...

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I think I love your father. He sounds like a wonderful and fun guy, Aledys. And it really made me laugh to think of you standing there trying to remember your parents' neighbours names. I can relate.

And now I know why you are so funny--because you are a cordobés, yes, but you are also your father's daughter :-)

Aledys Ver said...

:D I am, indeed, my father's daughter! But everywhere you go in Argentina, they'll tell you that cordobeses are funny people!
Thanks, JaPRA!

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks, Sandrinha! That was nice of you!!

Aledys Ver said...

Melissa,
From what I've read, heard and seen, people in the south of NL are closer in their ways to what I am used to. Here in the north they speak of "south of the rivers" as if it were a different country...
And yes, I don't think that you can change the way you are, just because you 're now living in a different country, can you? :D
Cheers!

Aledys Ver said...

Hi, Katie!
I guess that as you get more acquainted with differences within the country you'll be able to spot a cordobés when you listen to him say, on the beach! :D
Doña Moto sounds hilarious!!!! Qué vergüenza, indeed!!!

Nelieta said...

I find the Cordobes accent funny and sometimes very difficult to understand! But yes I agree with you about the "Passion". Argentinians are very passionate people and everything seems to be a BIG deal! But hey, it is life here :)

Aledys Ver said...

Hi, Nelieta!
I can imagine that it must be difficult to understand people with very strong accents, but you get used to it, right?
Everything IS a big deal, what do you mean? hehe
Cheers!