I met Martin at the restaurant at La Casa de las Boyas, a beachside hostel nestled in a remote beach town in Uruguay called Punta del Diablo. Martin worked at the restaurant for lunch and dinner and received a small wage along with free accommodation at the hostel. What made this friendship different from many while solo traveling was the longevity; people in hostels typically stay for a couple days and move on, but he was there every day. I got ‘stuck’ in Punta del Diablo; the beach was gorgeous and I had finally made a long-term friend. I spent over two weeks in Punta del Diablo hanging out at the hostel and at the beach with him; we sat drinking mate and playing guitar for countless hours.
This past weekend, we met up at his apartment in Rosario, about a 4 hour bus ride Northwest of Buenos Aires. He let me sleep in his bed and he took a couple pillows and slept on the floor in his apartment. He truly showed me hospitality despite his unfortunate financial situation. He is working 2 jobs and is barely getting by; his apartment is small and basic, has a roommate, and is very careful about spending too much money on food and drink since his budget is extremely tight.
I met some of his friends as we stopped by when they were working; we hung out in a parking garage for a while. They were talking about their club soccer game and the horrible political situation in Argentina. After some chatting, I was able to sense their jealousy and envy of my travels, education, and place of residency. I felt so out of place hanging out here a first, but then realized that all of his friends are kind and great people simply struggling in these hard times.
Rosario is not a very touristic city; Buenos Aires is vastly more popular to visit for international travelers. Rosario doesn’t have anything that would attract tourists; visiting the city and staying with a local allowed my to gain a perspective that the average foreigner would not. When people only see the popular and wealthy areas of Argentina, they get an artificial sense of what life is really like in the nation.
I’ve seen so much, traveled without worrying about money, and am fortunate enough to be taking classes and living in one of the most sought after areas of Argentina. It’s incredible how apparent the wealth gap is here; so many people struggle while the elite upper class controls most of the wealth.
Martin is smart, kind, and one of my best friends in Argentina and I have grown sympathetic after experiencing first hand what he has to go through just to get by. I’ve broadened my horizons to meet people from different backgrounds; understanding what living “just to get by” encompasses is powerful and you don’t realize how much you have until you see what it’s like to live in a lower social class.