03
Jun
2004
James

Mate in Montevideo

We spent Thursday walking around the Uruguayan capital city, of which I cant really think of anything for which it might be famous. This city and perhaps all of Uruguay in general have a distinct aire. I believe that the warmth of the people and their interesting cultural and social habits, mixed with the exceptionally calm temperate climate creates what I’m experiencing here as an overall buena onda. The people are very curteous and the mate (pronounced mah-teh) is more prolific and ten times as sociable than the Starbucks-on-every-corner coffee culture in the United States. People on the streets can be seen carrying a thermos under their arm and a mate gourde in their hand. The popular mateá , a small ornate leather “pic nic” bag, serves as the mate travel case, holding a thermos, the yerba, and a mate gourde.

Its an incredibly nice experience to be invited to share a friendship mate. The warm, bitter herbal infusion is an aquired taste but an invitation should never be turned down… especially for the opportunity to talk to some new and interesting people. I decided that here I would pick up some souveneirs of the mate culture and found a nice tanned leather mateá and thermos on the streets in Montevideo and the day before had picked up a nice mate gourde and bombilla (the cup and metal straw that filters out the leaves as you sip) in Punta del Este. The last thing was to purchase some yerba mate the herb. There are a multitude of diferent brands, and not knowing much of a difference betweent them, I went for a mid-ranged brand… man, this stuff is cheap here: 16 ounces of herb costs 22 pesos uruguayos (like US$.60 cents) whereas the imported package of the same size in the US costs $8 dollars.

We walked out to onto the large jetty that points out into the Rio De La Plata for an excellent view back upon the peninsular city perched on a small hill. There were many people fishing for what appeared to be their daily lunch from the jetty and almost no one catching anything sizeable. That night we headed up river for Colonia de Sacramento, another much smaller port town on the large rio.

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