Southern Cone Cities: Santiago v. Buenos Aires

After completing a semester in Buenos Aires, I was “emocionada,” or very excited, to visit neighboring Chile. Once I arrived on holiday, I couldn’t help but compare it with my beloved Argentina.  How can two Southern Cone nations that share one of the world’s longest common borders be so similar in terms of geography, language, food and politics, yet so different?

1) Geography: Chile, as a country is “angosto,” or a long and skinny nation compared to its much larger Argentine neighbor. While the land mass of Chile is only 756,102 sq. km, that of Argentina is nearly four times that size at 2,780,400 sq. km. Aside from this actual physical size difference, life in Chile is centered on  “el mar” or the ocean, whereas Argentina is about “las pampas,” or the countryside.

2) Gastronomy: While Chilean repast is famous for its “mariscos,” or seafood, Argentina is known for its “carne,” or beef. In Santiago, most restaurants serve fish offering sea bass or salmon, while Buenos Aires boasts multiple “parrillas,” or steak restaurants on every block.  In Both Argentina and Chile, empanadas, or meat, vegetable, or cheese-filled turnovers, are popular as casual meals or snacks. The Chilean version has been supersized to look like a calzone and is the equivalent of at least three of its Argentine counterparts. As the Argentines would say, “¡Ojo!” or order with caution!

3) Military: After spending more than five months in Argentina where many citizens are wary of the “ejercito,” or military, since the end of the dictatorship in 1986, we noted a heightened military presence in Chile.  Rather than seeing customary police officers as law enforcement, we observed a preponderance of soldiers and weaponry. A Chilean friend attributed greater concentrations of military soldiers on the streets to the on-going student protests regarding the privatization of university education.

4) Literature: Pablo Neruda, renown throughout Chile as “El poeta,” is one of the most beloved literary figures of the 20th century. His three houses, which today operate as museums (we visited two of the three) serve as a physical tie to Chilean culture. In Argentina, Jorge Luis Borges stood out as one notable literary icon, especially in my Palermo neighborhood in which he lived.  While there are several historical plaques around Buenos Aires that mark the different places that he lived or worked, I never had an opportunity to enter any of these buildings.


These are just a few of the many comparisons between Argentina and Chile, you’ll have to take a trip to the Southern Cone to see the rest for yourself!




Melanie is a notorious swimmer and beach bum from Southern California who began a life of travel at the age of 12 after visiting Australia and New Zealand through an ambassador program. Since then, she has been to eleven more countries throughout Europe and the Americas. Each experience has taught her something new, but her next adventure will be the most exciting yet: spending the second semester of her junior year of college in Argentina where she can practice her Spanish and immerse myself in another culture, and, better yet, avoid the dreaded question, “What do you plan to do after you graduate?” Hopefully, she’ll figure that one out on the plane!

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