Traveling around the world with El Mate
The story I intend to tell begins at night in an airport while I waited to board a plane on March 14, 2016. It also end at night, 20 months later, on October 14, 2017. It ends with my lying on my back, on the sand of the Thar Desert in India, with my eyes fixed on the starry sky at one in the morning. Throughout the past year and a half of traveling around the world, El Mate, one of the symbolic customs of my country, the Argentine Republic, accompanied me.
What for foreigners can simply mean a drink or infusion – some even look at you with contempt or a bit too much curiosity – is for the Argentines a social attitude that unites us beyond political differences, causing supporters of Boca or River fútbol clubs to not kill each other, and bridging the gaps between the rich and poor, old and young and, among many others, summer and winter. When drinking mate, your leitmotiv is to relax and converse, let yourself be carried away by a tradition that embodies Argentine culture and friendship.
Want to get together and drink some mates?
The customs are complex. There are specific materials, words that come from an unknown lunfardo, even odd to the rest of South America, and diverse preparations despite the fact that there is no manual; what really matters is the end of the question: “Want to get together and drink some mates?”
It may be sweet or bitter (I am in favor of NOT carrying sugar, but mate’s ideal complement is a croissant), vary the flavor of the herb, and you can add bits of lemon or orange, or even honey or coffee. But it is sufficient to heat the water (80%, not boiling), add the herb and serve it. In its simple recipe is the other triumph of this tradition.
Mate doesn’t wear a watch
“And what is the time of Mate?” Well, I’d think this is the mystery I hear most – it’s often repeated in a train, at an airport, or in some park – on my way out. And my effort to answer this question is in vain. Lord, mate does not wear a watch. My modus operandi is to take it every at all times, although I recognize that it is popular in the office (mid-morning is ideal), it crowds the weekend breakfast table (it’s ideal with the Sunday newspaper), and so many believe that it is to be drank during snack time in order to recharge energy. However, every Argentinian has his favorite time; mine is, without a doubt, at the time of sunset on a beach.
Love is never imposed
If I look back, mate came into my life when I was 6 or 7 years old. I remember seeing it as something “big” and preferred to reject a certain invitation. But it was my old man who, little by little, tried to convince me. And I think in his tired step he discovered the formula because I firmly believe that what someone loves isn’t imposed on them. What someone love is definitely that which they opt for.
Convincing me would not have been easy, though. I remember the mornings, when visiting his house, he’d approach me slowly with a mate and a big piece of buttered toast with dulce de leche (another Argentine classic). I think it was the scent of my lips half asleep when I ended up singing The Promise of Eternal Fidelity to Mate.
On the road with Mate
Up to today, we have visited 53 countries together. We traveled looking for each day to be different than the last, which we both needed. I do not have a number, but I am convinced that a thousand people from all over the world have tried Mate after I offered it to them. And, you know what? At first, almost nobody likes it! But then, as if by magic, they yearn for it again, and again, and chatting, new friendships and new memories flow automatically.
These are just a few of the results of being carried along the road with Mate.