My First Peña

August 24, 2011

This post originally appeared on July 10 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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Last night I had an entirely South American experience. My host mom’s brother, Sergio, invited my roommate, Stephanie, and I to a “recital” and dinner at his house. Sergio is a musician and music teacher so we knew the music would be wonderful. In South America, this type of gathering is called a Peña. I looked up the word online and found it described as “a grass-roots community meeting place where popular folklore and other artistic expressions accompanied by food and drink are showcased”. In other words, it was awesome.

At the Peña with Steph, Alex and Campbell (I'm the one on the far left)

We arrived to Sergio’s house, a beautiful home tucked away behind a garden (with a Lemon Tree!) in Belgrano, paid the 25 pesos (about $6) for the show and sat down at our table. Sergio’s living room, was filled with tables covered with colorful tablecloths and a cacophony of various chairs for guests to sit on. Sergio was surprised that we were “so punctual!” when in fact we were a few minutes late. But, in Argentina, if you aren’t 30 minutes late, you’re early.

My host brother, Nico, was the waiter for the night and he brought us locro, empanadas, bread, and, of course, Malbec. Locro is a hearty Argentine stew made with corn, white beans, beef, chorizo and veggies and it was as amazing as Carmen said it would be.

Some of the wonderful music. Sergio is the man playing guitar on the far left.

After chowing down for a while, we sat back and listened to about 3 hours of folk music. Since it was Argentina’s Independence Day, all the music was Argentine, although Sergio said they often play Peruvian, Bolivian and other South American styles of music. We also heard a little rock and roll style music. My favorite part of the night is that it was such a communal atmosphere; most people in the room seemed to know each other, so there were jokes being yelled about the room and we were encouraged to join in for many of the songs.

Apparently, we Americans managed to not embarrass Sergio too much because he invited us back for next month’s Peña. I can guarantee you that I’ll be there.

Argentine Locro (courtesy of Wikipedia)

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