Mate is not a drink. Well, yes…it is. It’s a liquid, and it goes right through the mouth.
But, it’s not a drink. In this country nobody drinks mate because that person is “thirsty.”
It’s more of a habit, like scratching yourself.
Mate is exactly the opposite of television: It makes you chat if you’re with someone, and it makes you think when you’re alone.
Whenever somebody arrives at your house, the first thing that is said is, “Hello,” and the second is “¿unos mates?” (Would you like to drink some mates?).
This happens in everyone’s house. In the house of the rich and of the poor.
This happens among chatty and curious women and also among serious and immature men, as well.
This happens among the old people who live in nursing homes and among the adolescents while they study or get high.
It’s the only thing that parents and children share without having arguments about it.
Peronists and radicals, they share mate without hesitating an instant.
In winter or in summer.
It’s the only thing in which is similar to victims and murderers; the good and the bad.
When you have a child, you immediately give them a mate when they ask for it. You give it to them rather warm, with lots of sugar and as soon as they receive it they feel as if they are also adults. You feel such a tremendous pride when a little fellow who shares your blood starts to drink mate. It almost makes your heart beat harder, so hard that you feel afraid it will come out of your chest.
Then they with the years, he/she will chose whether to drink amargo or dulce; hot or tereré; with some tangerine peel or with different herbs, or even perhaps with a little lemon.
When you meet someone for the first time, you drink some mates with that person. People ask, when there’s not much confidence with each other: “Dulce or amargo? And the other answers: “como tomes vos,” (As you wish).
Keyboards in Argentina have their words full of yerba mate.
Yerba is probably the only thing that is always in every home. Always. With inflation, or hunger, during military coup d’états or while democratic governments, during every of our pests and eternal curses. And if one day, we run out of Yerba, a neighbor won’t hesitate to give you some; because Yerba Mate can’t be denied to anyone.
This is the only country in the world in which the decision to stop being a kid and start being a man happens on one particular day.
It has nothing to do with long trousers, circumcision, university or living far away from your parents. Here we start being adults when we feel the necessity of drinking some mates by ourselves, alone. It’s not a coincidence.
The day the child puts the kettle in the fire and drinks his first mate without anyone being at home, in that minute; that means he just found that he has a soul. Or he’s dead of fright, or incredibly in love, or something else; but it’s not an average day. None of us remember the day we drank mate all by ourselves for the first time. But that day was probably a very important day for us, because inside us there’s some kind of a revolution going on.
Mate is nothing more and nothing less than a demonstration of values…
It’s the solidarity to keep on drinking those mates lavados because the chat is good.
The chat, not the mate.
It’s the respect for the times of speaking and the times of listening, you speak while the other drinks (i.e. listens).
It’s also the sincerity of saying: “enough, let’s change this yerba!”
It’s a boiling water sensibility.
It’s the tenderness of stupidly asking, “it’s really hot, isn’t it?”
It’s the modesty of whom makes the best mate.
The generosity of drinking it to the last drop.
It’s the hospitality of an invitation.
The justice of one by one.
It’s the obligation of saying “gracias” (thank you), at least once a day. Note: When you say “thank you” to the cebador that means you don’t want to drink mate anymore.
It’s the moral attitude, and loyalty of finding each other with no more expectations than that of sharing.
By: Lalo Mir
Translated by: Victor Thea & Mateo Askaripour
One thought on “Mate is Not a Drink [Poem]”
I did a first sip of mate while travleing in Argentina. After that I had to write finakl thesis for university and cup full of mate was with me always. And now I drink it every day. I can totally see to write a poem about mate on my own one day. I love it.