The University of Iowa

Starting my Uruguayzation

February 22nd, 2019
Me, a roommate, and a friend from the program at the game

Me, a roommate, and a friend from the program at the Uruguayan league national championship game

After living in Montevideo for three weeks, Ive had the chance to experience the culture a little bit. Firstly, Uruguayans love their mate. Mate is sort of like tea that people drink at all times of the day. It consists of the mate, the cup traditionally made from a gourd, the bombilla, a metal straw with a strainer built into the end, and the yerba, the actual plant matter that makes the drink. Along with the popularity of the drink comes the unwritten rules to know to avoid any uncomfortable or offensive situations. Drinking mate is a social activity, where all persons involved drink from the same mate and bombilla. The person who makes the drink usually drinks the first two or three mixes, because it is very bitter and could have particles floating around in it. Each mix that is made is given to one person to drink completely. The mate isnt very big and is mostly filled with the yerba anyway. When you return the mate to the person making the drink, you dont say thank you unless you dont want any more. Another important rule is to never touch somebody elses bombilla. Typically, Uruguayans will carry their mate filled with yerba and the bombilla in one hand and a thermos of hot water under the same arm. If there was a national posture, this would definitely be it as the streets are filled with mate-crazed, thermos wielding Uruguayans. I figured I couldnt miss out on the mate life, so I bought myself all the materials the second week I was here from a street vendor. Ive been drinking it most days since.

My mate setup

My roommates demonstrating proper mate carrying technique in front of MATE IN HAND

As most Latin American countries are, Uruguay is crazy about soccer. I had the chance to go to the Uruguayan league national championship game. It was sort of the equivalent of their Super Bowl, which, coincidentally, was played the same day in the States. The game was played in Estadio Centenario, the stadium where the first World Cup was held in 1930 (that Uruguay won). The two teams involved, Peñarol and Nacional, are by far the two best teams in the country and are both from Montevideo. Im sure you can imagine the rivalry that exists there. My host family supports Peñarol, so I had to do the same. Theyre also Hawkeye colors so that helps, too. $20 later, I had tickets to the biggest game in the country, and the fans showed it. They went insane. They didnt stop chanting the entire game and some even snuck in fireworks to launch after Peñarol scored. It could have been because of the caliber of the game, but these were the craziest fans I have ever seen in person. I remember looking down into another section and seeing this big dude with his shirt off and he had the team logo tattooed across his entire back. Now thats loyalty. The stadium was filled with fans of each team split between the two halves of the stadium with a couple empty sections between to buffer any possible fights. The game went into overtime, penalties, and, unfortunately, Peñarol ended up losing after 6 rounds.



Thank you for reading! I hope youll stick around for any other updates on the life down here in Uruguay.


Zane Johnson is a biomedical engineering major and Spanish minor at the University of Iowa. He is spending his semester in Uruguay on the USAC Montevideo program

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