As everyone in Argentina (and on the Internet) knows by now, a farmer and some paleontologists in the Chubut province unearthed the largest dinosaur remains ever discovered last week. Apparently, the behemoth, aptly named ‘Titanosaurus,’ weighed 77 tons, or 14 elephants, or 1,184 and a half Beyoncés.
Point is, it was huge. And, like post-baby Beyoncé, had a strictly vegan diet (but no visual album, to our knowledge.)
Of course, all of this came to light on the Godzilla opening weekend. Turns out that even ancient Argentines refuse to be outdone.
What was most interesting about this story, however, was not the big find – but the fact that the second place for largest dinosaur species ever also goes to Argentina. What are the chances, really? I think there’s an old adage for this: discover huge once, good for you. Discover huge twice, what the fuck is going on here.
I have this friend, a fellow yankee, who often reminds me of his home state’s motto: “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” I guess Texas is one of those places where size matters, and the rest of us go along with it because it’s Texas and all they really have are scorpions and the Bush family, so we let them derive a sense of pride from supersizing everything.
But screw that, because when you really look into it, it’s Argentina that takes the giant-stuff cake. It’s not just dinosaurs that rock the scale here. From Misiones to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina’s got big covered, and to celebrate our newest addition to La Republica de Enorme, I invite you to explore the other bigs of Argentina.
1. LARGEST MOUNTAIN IN THE WESTERN AND SOUTHERN HEMISPHERES.
Meet Aconcagua. At a height of 6,960.8 meters, the summit towers over the Mendoza province it calls home, and is one of the seven summits of the Andes mountain range. According to Wikipedia, the first recorded summit of Aconcagua was in 1897, led by Edward FitzGerald, an American. Unfortunately, Ed felt too nauseous on the ascent, and the summit was actually achieved by a Swiss, an Englishman, and an Italian before he could drag his puking ass up the mountain. Despite this, FitzGerald still gets all the credit for the first recorded ascent because he’s an American and that’s what we do.
Aconcagua is not only the largest mountain in the West, but also the largest mountain known in mountaineering terms as “easy.” Despite the handful of idiots who read this every year, throw on a windbreaker, and die on it’s ice-cold peaks, Aconcagua is the only mountain of it’s height that doesn’t require ropes, axes, or picks if approached from the normal route. Which leads me to my next million-dollar idea for the ministry of tourism – “Argentina: huge yet approachable.”
2. LARGEST FERNET PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION IN THE WORLD
While others may sip the dark Italian elixir and cry like a Kardashian, we in Argentina laugh and sip and order three more. Mixed with Coke (NOT Pepsi, NEVER Pepsi),the 40-plus herbs and spices fuel our long Friday nights, rambunctious Argentine weddings, and lonely Tuesday evenings. Though, like many of us, it may be genetically Italian, Fernet-Branca has been producing our liquor of choice in Buenos Aires since 1941. Today, production of Fernet hovers around 25 million liters, with 35 percent of sales done right here in Buenos Aires.
The drink is so hugely integral to our Argentine-ness, that, as many of you Bubble-readers know, the government has included the 1882 brand on the list of precios cuidados. Which was a smart move, I think, because perhaps what we love most about Fernet is that it’s always the cheapest thing at the bar besides Quilmes (and infinitely better).
3. LARGEST DEBT DEFAULT IN HISTORY
The turn of the century was not kind to Argentina. In case you didn’t know, the economic-political crisis of 2001 saw five presidents, several deaths, a massive devaluation of the peso, and the default on public debt of US$132 billion. That was approximately one-seventh of all borrowed money in the third world at the time, according to The Telegraph.
For the full story, take an economics class. The abridged version goes a little like this – Argentina has suffered under its debt since the days of the dictators, whose poor choices continue to haunt Argentina’s economy. After a major inflation crisis in the ‘80s, ‘90s president Carlos Menem tied the value of the peso to the US dollar, kept commodity prices relatively low, and continued creating and spending on social programs, despite the fact that public debt hadn’t been dealt with. The only way this was possible was through loans from the International Monetary Fund and foreign investment from countries eager to cash in on what appeared to be Latin America’s most booming economy.
But underneath the image of a fixed-exchange rate was growing unemployment, corruption and bouts of inflation that doomed Argentina to disaster. When Russia and Brazil both went through their own financial crises in 1999, global investors came knocking. We owed US$132 billion, and couldn’t pay any of it.
But you live and you learn, right? Or at least you live and hope it doesn’t happen again. And for the hard times, we freeze the prices on Fernet.
Note: Before you all go on about how Greece beat us in 2012 with the US$152 billion they owed, technically theirs wasn’t a default but a restructuring brought about by the European Union to avoid default. So THERE. And it’s not like Greece stopped the international media from speculating about the Argentine economy, which I’m starting to believe is a conspiracy of pun-obsessed journalists to make as many Evita references as they can.
4. LARGEST CIGARETTE AND SODA CONSUMPTION
That’s right, according to a 2013 study done by market research firm Euromonitor, Argentina is the number one soda consumer in the world, with 131 liters consumed per capita each year. The majority of our soda consumption, 62.4 percent, is strictly colas (Fernet might have something to do with that).
As for cigarettes, the only one who smokes more in the entire Western Hemisphere is Cuba, and with all those cigars and pictures of Fidel puffing like an O.G., how could we possibly surpass them?
Not that we want to, as smoking and obesity rank as the first and second leading causes of preventable death in Argentina. Eighteen percent of Argentines are obese, and the Health Ministry’s Sebastian Laspiur admits, “we have an extremely high consumption rate of soft drinks, which comes at a price. It has created an epidemic of rising childhood and adult obesity in Argentina.” Laspiur has also said that the concern about soda consumption is on the government’s agenda, but hasn’t explained in what way. Coca-Cola’s response is offering us “Coca-Cola Life,” which, if you can choke down stevia, offers a low-sugar alternative. Or, you know, you could try water.
5. LARGEST AMOUNT OF POPE PARAPHERNALIA OUTSIDE OF THE VATICAN
Did you know the Pope was from Argentina? Believe it or not, he used to go by Jorge Bergoglio when he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. You may have missed it, since Argentina is known for its humility and discretion when someone from the nation makes it big, unless of course, you’ve been to Plaza de Mayo, Calle Florida, San Telmo, or any street fair or church in the past year. In that case, you’ve undoubtedly seen the pins, posters, pamphlets, thermoses, tote bags, bobble heads, ashtrays, snow globes and shot glasses all celebrating “El argentino universal,” or “universal Argentine,” as if he wasn’t chosen for his Catholicism, but because the world needed a global Argentine leader (one Argentine to rule them all…).
On the other hand, he has been killing it as Pope, being the first pope anyone can remember who still takes a vested interest in the poor, made Catholicism somewhat palatable to non-Catholics, and is someone you actually might want to hang out with. He’s become a global celebrity and attracted tons of positive publicity for the Church (for once) and has even caused an increase in donations to Catholic charities, all by giving his pope-hat to strangers and quietly sneaking around Rome to minister to the poor. (Even though this last part has been denied.)
Actually, come to think of it, he really is one of the coolest guys of the 21st century. YOU’RE WELCOME, PLANET EARTH.
Excuse me while I go buy a Pope Francis commemorative pencil.
So there you are, further proof that Argentina does it bigger, better and more bat-shit crazy than anywhere else. And if you disagree, just wait until the science is perfected, and we’ll sick our 77-ton dinosaurs on you. Also, if you were wondering why meat-consumption isn’t on the list, it’s because Uruguay finally beat us. Cry all you want about our dying culture, but your arteries are probably thanking you.