Intercultural fAcT: EL MATE

I am from Argentina, a large country in South America with a variety of landscapes and peoples; even though we are all different, we all share a passion for drinking “mate”. Mate(pronounced mäte) is a beverage similar to tea. It is brewed with mate herbs (yerba mate) and it is drunk with a specific metal straw. The interesting thing about mate is that it is not intended for one person but to share. Friends get together to chat and drink mate; people approach others to share a mate and start a conversation for the first time.

There are many options to brew mate. Mate pots come in a great variety of size, forms and colors. In my case, I prefer the medium size mate pot, which makes it faster to drink and easier to share. I have a colorful pot which represents my personality; it was also my friend’s present before coming to the US so it also represents them and friendship. All day long is a perfect mate moment, I drink mate at any moment of the day. I share it with my family, my friends, my students and colleagues. As regards the beverage itself, it is a good source of energy and concentration because it contains “mateine” which is a similar component as caffeine but less harmful.

Mate is part of Argentine culture and tradition; it represents friendship. Even though we share the tradition of drinking it, it is brewed differently depending on the regions. Some people brew it bitter, others sweet; some people add herbs, others citric. The pot itself may change around the country; in some cultures, it is preferred a huge mate pot in others small or medium; originally, it was made of wood, but nowadays people can have plastic, glass or rubber mate.

“El mate” is an Argentine tradition that embeds personal and cultural relationship. Personally, the bitter taste I prefer represents simplicity; the colorful mate pot represents my cheerful personality and the fact that I drink it all the time represents that every moment is a good moment to enjoy. Mate also represents the connection and support Argentine people have with each other and the lack of personal space that characterizes us.

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