The following text is going to look at various things and elements I loved the most about Latin Americas, things I have found missing pretty much instantly upon my return to Europe after travelling in the region for 8 months. I’m talking about a wide range of various factors I’ve observed in this beautiful part of the world that are IMHO somewhat different from Europe, whether they are of the cultural origin or they are just simply connected to the local nature.
At the same time, every region, culture or nation has many things to improve and Latin World is no exception to that. In an attempt to find some positive points about going back to Europe upon ending my trip in Latin Americas, I’ve also compiled a list of things I wouldn’t miss from this part of this world, which turns out to be pretty much a nemesis of this piece. In case you were interested, you can find it here. But now, let’s get on the positive subject of things I loved the most about Latin Americas 🙂
I personally find Latin World to be very visually stimulating, especially when it comes to colours. To be honest, Latin Americas are actually the most colourful region I’ve ever seen. It’s like a visual concert of colours. The houses are painted with vibrant colours and if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is further boosted by the ever-present plants. It’s just amazing. I often wondered, if it all just illustrates the general way of life around here 😉
Furthermore, IMHO, Latin people are willing to spend some time to add little extra touches of care&love to their everyday surroundings. Just small things, like placing pots with plants here and there or they just simply sometimes cleaning up around the house, often including communal areas have an amazing effect on the overall picture.
2: Humanity & ❤️
Based on my own personal stats, I personally believe that in Latin World, there’s more of something that I would call “a common-sense empathy”. I’ve witnessed numerous situations of people helping strangers to push a car if it doesn’t start or with lifting heavy loads and so on, as opposed to witnessing such situations in early 21st century Europe.
I’m not saying that helping a stranger is considered to be a weird thing in Europe but in the same breath, I have to say that Europeans, especially in big cities, have learned to mind their own business up to the extent that it could be a bit too much sometimes if you know what I mean. In contrast, in Latin Americas people seem to be willing to help each other with little tasks a lot more, at least it is what I’ve been witnessing there on daily basis.
To be honest, it got me thinking a lot. I’ve been wondering why is it like that. Where does this willingness to help come from and why has it been on the steady decrease for the last few decades in the so-called First World? Perhaps I’ve been exposed to some freak stats. Maybe I was just unlucky not to witness many of such situations in Europe and overly lucky to see too many of them in Latin America but let’s be honest – what would be the odds of that?
Well, I also thought that it could be because of the fact that many people in Latin Americas still remember the conditions they’ve lived during the miserable parts of their recent history, such as various Civil Wars, Military rules or dictatorships and it makes them appreciate every moment of peace so they don’t take what they have for granted.
I don’t know what it is. All I know that small deeds are important for our humanity. And let’s be honest, such small acts of kindness aren’t a huge sacrifice. Sometimes it could mean just holding a door for someone who’s carrying something in both hands. I mean, just being a reasonable empathic human being, when it comes to common interactions between people should be normal, right?
Flip side of the coin
Not to sound overly romantic, let’s talk of the ‘things I loved the most about Latin Americas’ topic for a bit. Let’s also mention the flip side of the coin. Well, the empathy and humanity I’m talking about doesn’t apply everywhere, especially in some areas of the tourist industry. To be honest, the tourism industry in the Americas is not much different from tourism everywhere else in the world. I mean that it sometimes bears the same signs of toxicity, predatory sales-tactics and numerous scam, especially in the tourist hotspots.
And last but not least, there’s poverty and crime. Numerous areas are often dangerous to visit even for the locals, not to mention gringos. Speaking for myself, I haven’t seen or witnessed anything bad myself but I was mostly moving on the relatively safe “gringo trail”. I guess that I’ve therefore mostly witnessed and observed the safer and often perhaps even better off areas and their way of life if compared to what some people who are suffering from the economical challenges consider to be “the real-life”.
3: Rhythm and life-loving culture
Regardless of those economical challenges and the harsh reality of everyday life, I feel safe to deploy a stereotype about how many Latinos know how to enjoy their lives. It’s not just dancing moves you could spot pretty much on every occasion you look around in any random spot in Latin America if there are local people around you.
It’s also numerous community or family sessions where people sing, dance and have generally nice time together. Furthermore, there are always some street musicians and artists, not to mention various public events, ranging from various local cultural or religious ceremonies, up to large multi-day carnivals, the whole continent is quite famous for. IMHO, the joy from living appears to be in high concentration and in many places around Latin America. Even some political rallies look like mini carnivals for heaven’s sake.
There’s a lot of life that takes place on the streets in Latin Americas, if I allowed myself to generalise again, I’d say that Latinos are quite an outdoor people, they are. It’s a tradition and it’s a beautiful one because it brings families and community together 🙂 In Europe, I can only think of Spaniards and Italians to be able to compete with Latinos in this department.
4: No stress/laidback vibe
Connected to the previous points, the mañana attitude might not be easy for some visitors, especially when they are from countries where services work like a Swiss clock but when you think about it unless there’s a fire – why rush things? What happens to you if you wait for your bus 30 minutes longer?
For instance, the cues in Latin America weren’t as torturous as they often are in Europe. Over there, often a conversation would be going on. People would interact with each other and I personally find it really nice. After all, why not? There’s something to it when you’re not stressing out over few extra minutes.
5: Nature: landscapes, fauna, flora and fruits
OK, this is a tricky one. Generally, nature is pretty in many places around the world, regardless of what culture lives in and around it, right? So if I say that I found many natural spots in South America fascinating, I’m aware that I can only talk about my subjective opinion. You can not measure the beauty of nature, plus there is no competition anyway.
However, regardless of all that, I must say that I found some of the local natural beauty spots somehow more spectacular if compared to what I’ve ever seen before. Was it due to the dramatic shapes of the Patagonian Peaks, the mesmerising atmosphere of Iguazú Falls or perhaps the unique and surreal landscapes of Bolivian Salt Flats?
Furthermore, if I think of nature in connection to Latin America, I’m not only having landscapes on my mind. There are still many donkeys, llamas, alpacas, birds and plenty of wild animals around. I mean that Latin American nature is a proper nature – not just some sort of tourist attraction.
And last but not least, then there are the plants and trees. Except for the colours and often very strong and pleasant odours, many of them produce amazing fruits. A lot of amazing fruits. And those created an amazing juice culture around here. Similarly like in South East Asia, one could grab a fresh smoothie off the street vendor in plenty of places. They are so amazing, especially if you don’t forget to ask for no azúcar. And – don’t be shy – go for the combos, such as Mayan Water and so on, they are heavenly 🙂
6: History, traditions and multikulti
Latin America comes with a fascinating history on multiple levels. There is, of course, the native history, their civilisations and conflicts among each other. Then came the conquistadors and their wars with the natives and among each other. All that mess was followed by the independence wars, which unfortunately first led to more instability by producing numerous coups and terrible dictators before it delivered peace and democracy. The mix is rich and very bitter and it keeps spinning, with the last couple of decades adding harsh economic lessons from the globalisation to the lot…
Of course that I am not talking about the history one can only study in the library. There are many physical sites that remind us about those periods. I’m talking about the numerous ancient Mayan, Aztec and Inca ruins, as well as the Spanish Colonial architecture and perhaps also about the modern skyscraper structures to include the presence.
And so is the DNA code as well as the ethnic side of the region. Determined by huge immigration from pretty much from all around the world as well as the original surviving indigenous cultures – all this is reflected in many aspects of daily life as well as various cultural traditions. In other words, when it comes to culture, this mix makes Latin America a very very rich region.
Well, I must say that this doesn’t cover the whole Latin World. For example, in Chile, they have some sort of an obsession with instant coffee. Many places in Bolivia and Ecuador have also rather awful coffee habits but as soon as you enter Colombia, it gets fantastic. The coffee culture is in the blood. Central Americas as well. Not to mention the incredible cafés of Buenos Aires and other Argentinian cities.
To be honest, European coffee culture is not that bad, even if a large portion of its market has been swallowed by soulless chains. But – you know as soon as you enter Italy – you see that things can be taken to another level when it comes to how coffee could taste and where you drink it and that is the level of Latin World. After all, it is kind of an original home to coffee, right?
This point probably combines all of the above-mentioned elements of the Latin World. To be honest, I am not sure what it is with the Caribbean. The cliché crystal clear waters with palm trees and reggae attitude towards things? You can see those things in other places as well. Or is it the fact that after a night out everyone says hi?
I don’t know what it is. It’s just different. For instance, if you are in Panama, you are pretty much able to swing between the Pacific and the Caribbean in one day and somehow there is a difference between the two coasts. I don’t know what is it and why but the Caribbean just seems cooler somehow, it’s just like if it came with some added ingredient. If you have any idea what is it – would you let me know, please?
I am aware that quite a few of the above points about things I loved the most about Latin Americas I’ve mentioned above are interconnected just as well they are rather subjective. A cynic could argue that I could have just said that there’s a good coffee, tasty fresh juices, pretty nature and that Latinos are generally happier and warmer people with a bigger sense for community life.
Of course that things are no in such black&white mode and generalising the whole continent isn’t exactly a scientific approach to talk about culture, people or anything in fact. At the end of the day, we all know that every culture and place in the world has its portion of opportunists and ignorant arseholes just as well as every place has its own share of nice people and their margins might be smaller than we think, but that’s for another debate…
One thing is for sure – small things matter. You know. Good deeds. Small acts of humanity. Only if everyone made just a small effort from time to time. Just a tiny effort to be nice. It’s actually not that difficult. Just stop for a second and think about the bigger picture. What would happen if you’ve lost 30 seconds to hold the door for someone who’s carrying a heavy load in both arms?
Seriously, being nice or just a just bit a wee bit nicer is easier than we often think 😉 And if you’re having a really shitty day – at least try not being a dick – it might be often very helpful too 😉
Heading for an extended trip? Here some practical and potentially useful info
- Budget: in case you were interested, here‘s an article listing the country-by-country basic expenses for a traveller in Latin America
- Safety: Few safety tips on how to secure your valuables, what to watch out for and more could be found here
- Cheap Flights: advice on how to score a cheap/er flight
- Transport: Information, safety and some other practical advice regarding public transport in Latin America can be found here
- ATM withdrawal charges: Some practical info, including the list of free-of-charge ATMs in Latin America, can be found here
- Border fees: To find out how much will you have to pay to enter or exit certain countries in Latin America, please click here
- Pre-trip preparations: Few things you can do ahead of time before you’ll become frantically busy prior to your departure are listed here
- Packing list: What to take with you for an extended trip as well as some security tips could be found here
Locations covered on Quaint Planet
Santiago de Chile ► Valparaíso ► Santiago de Chile ►Punta Arenas – Ushuaia – Punta Arenas ► Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales ► El Calafate (Perito Moreno Glacier, Arg) ► El Chaltén (Los Glaciares National Park) ► Chile Chico (Ch) – Puerto Rio Tranquillo (Marble Caves) ► Coyhaique – Puyuhuapi – (Carretera Austral) ► Puerto Chacabuco – Quellón/Castro ► Puerto Varas – San Carlos de Bariloche (Arg) ► Buenos Aires ► Colonia (Ur) ► Montevideo ► Punta del Diablo – Cabo Polonio ► Montevideo ► Salto ► Concordia (Arg) ► Puerto Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) ► Salta ► San Salvador de Jujuy ► Tilcara ► San Pedro de Atacama (Ch) ► Uyuni Salt Flats Tour (Bol) ► Uyuni ► Sucre – La Paz (Death Road Tour) ► Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) – Isla del Sol – Copacabana ► Cusco (Per) ► Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) ► Cusco ► Lima ► Máncora – Montañita (Ecu) ► Puerto López ► Quito ► Ipiales (Col) – Pasto ► Tatacoa Desert ► Bogotá ► Medellín ► Villa de Lleyva ► Santa Marta – Cartagena – Rincón del Mar Necoclí ► Capurganá ► Puerto Obaldía (Pan) ► Panama City ► Las Lajas ► Cerro Punta ► David ► Bocas del Torro ► San José (Costa Rica) ► San Juan del Sur (Nic) – Ometepe ► Granada ► Managua – El Rama – Bluefields – Corn Islans ► Léon ► El Tunco (El Salvador) ► La Antigua Guatemala – Lake Atitlán ► Lanquín (Semuc Champey) – Flores (Tikal) ► Belize City ► Bacalar – Tulum – Playa del Carmen – Valladolid – Cancún.