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How CEA CAPA Helped Me Connect With My Host Culture

November 06, 2023
by Lilly McCarthy

CEA CAPA Excursions in Buenos Aires Neighborhoods 

I captured photos all from excursions I participated in while studying abroad with CEA CAPA. I feel so lucky I got to experience and learn from these events in the pictures and places below.

Mate Tasting in Belgrano 

 The first event was a mate tasting at La Martina – La Casona, in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Mate is a caffeinated drink made from sticks and leaves from the yerba mate plant. It’s a traditional Argentine drink, and drinking mate plays a large role in Argentine culture as a social and bonding ritual. At this event, I learned about the proper way to prepare and drink mate. I also learned about the role mate plays in Argentinian culture and how it became much more accepted in recent years to drink mate, especially in public. 

a table filled with glasses and bottles

The mate tasting at La Martina – La Casona.

Mate is traditionally drunk from a hollowed-out gourd, called a mate. A special straw, called a bombilla, is used to drink it. The straw has a filter in it, so that when you drink the mate, you're only drinking the water, and not all the leaves, powder, and twigs. A special thermos (or termo) is used to add water to the mate, without getting all the leaves wet. It's important to ensure that the water in this thermos is not too hot, or it'll burn the mate. 

Dinner and Tango in San Selmo 

The second excursion I had the opportunity to participate in was a dinner and tango night at El Querandí in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

two couples dancing on stage

The dinner and tango show I attended at El Quarandí. The performers wore traditional tango outfits for this show. 

 At this show, I enjoyed a delicious dinner. I got chicken empanadas as a starter, fish as a main course, and chocolate and strawberry ice cream as a dessert. Then, the show started, and I experienced an authentic tango show, with a live band, and professional tango dancers and tango singers. It was an absolutely amazing experience! 


a single couple dancing with a band member in background
A different dance from the show at El Quarandí. In this dance, it's only a single couple dancing together. 


a person singing on a stage

A performer singing tango during the show at El Quarandí. 

Making Empanadas in San Telmo 

Most recently, I went to another CEA CAPA excursion at an authentic pulpería, called Pulpería Quilapán, also in the San Telmo neighborhood. Pulperías were traditionally gathering places where gauchos (nomadic horsemen from the Pampas of Argentina and Uruguay) would gather to do things like trade, get food and drinks, and sell and buy items.  I toured Pulpería Quilapán, which is one of the oldest pulperías in Buenos Aires, constructed in 1714. During this tour, I saw many of the traditional features of the building, like the metal bars around the bar, the original flooring of the building, and the original dumpster for the pulpería, which is a large hole outside that trash used to be burned in (many years ago).  

empanada ingredients

The process of making my empanadas. 

We made empanadas from scratch, so we made the dough from flour, water, oil, salt, and cumin, and we mixed up the ingredients to fill inside the empanadas. We each got one hard-boiled egg and part of a potato, and then we had the option to add green onions and beef to the empanadas. I made my empanadas with egg, potato, and green onions. 

After I made and rolled out my dough, I filled my empanadas and rolled the edges. 

2 doughs for empanadas

My completed empanadas before I cooked them. 

 In the background of the photo below, you can see the finished empanadas of one of my fellow students studying here with CEA CAPA, as well as the delicious lemonade we drank!

2 plates of empanadas and a drink

This photo is of my empanadas after being cooked.

These CEA CAPA excursions taught me more about and helped me connect to my host city’s culture here in Argentina


Lilly McCarthy is the Content Creator - Photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is currently studying at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.
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