Spanish word of the day: merienda

Translation: snack…but that doesn’t do it justice.

Merienda is one of the best parts of the day. While it’s not an “official” meal, it is common practice to have a snack and a drink around four or five in the afternoon. Sweets are definitely the most popular during merienda. Croissants, pastries, maybe a savory empanada or two. But, the beverage that you will always see, without a doubt, is called mate.

Mate (mat-eh) is a tea-like drink that is basically the coffee of Argentina. It’s a caffeinated drink that takes a little more effort than just stopping at a café. In order to make mate, you need a specific kind of cup (also called a mate), a bombilla (mate straw), yerba (the tea leaves) and a thermos, because you’re going to want to drink it wherever you end up.

Mate originated here in Argentina and is meant to be shared. People typically make one cup of mate, drink all of the water out of the cup, fill it up again, and then pass it to the next person. It’s a drink that you share with friends, coworkers, or new faces. It’s a moment of community. This, unfortunately, isn’t quite as common since the pandemic began. But people will still sit in parks with loved ones, sharing mate, every single day.

It’s a tradition that emphasizes the importance of connection in this culture, as well as relaxing and enjoying life’s little moments. It’s nice to have a daily activity that does so. It slows life down and allows everyone to take in every second, which I think we could all do more of.

Published by Maggie Gillich

Class of 2023 Psychology and Spanish Double Major IES Buenos Aires, Argentina

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