A tale of two cultures, as told to me by Tomás Viñuela.
A group of American tourists arrived in Argentina, eager to explore all the wonders the country has to offer in as short a timeframe as possible. They were clad in the uniform of the stereotypical American sightseer – jeans and white sneakers with cameras dangling about their necks – their appearance made all the more cartoonish by the gaucho hats they wore in hopes of blending in with the locals.
Among the tourists there was one fellow who preferred to go it alone instead of sticking with the tour group. He thought himself very evolved; he was a traveler, not a tourist. He wanted to get to know the authentic Argentina.
The final stop on the group's whirlwind tour brought them to an estancia for a traditional asado and show of gaucho horsemanship, but the more adventuresome traveler arranged to strike out on his own. He skipped the tour of the estancia, and instead, he took a bus destined for a small town that barely registered as a speck on his map. The bus let the traveler off at a depot on the edge of town, and after giving a cursory glance to his surroundings, the traveler set out on foot for parts unknown (at least to him).
While walking down a dusty country lane, the traveler came upon a goatherder resting in the shade of one of the few trees to be found on the expansive plain, as his flock grazed nearby. Eyeing the approach of this man who was clearly out of place, the goatherder raised the brim of his hat to get a better look. With a big grin and a silly wave the American shouted, "Well, hello there!"
Grateful for a respite from the unrelenting sun, the traveler plopped down beside the goatherder. With the traveler's decent grasp of Spanish and the aid of gestures, the two were able to communicate fairly well. Encouraged by his success, the traveler proceeded to bombard the goatherder with questions about his livelihood, the goats, and the land. The traveler fell silent for a moment, and then he asked, "Have you ever considered raising cattle?"
"Well, no. I'm a goatherder. I've raised my goats on this land for thirty years. This is what I know. I'm not interested in cows."
"But cows yield more profit! You could start off with a few cows, and with the extra money that you'll earn from them, you could buy a few more head of cattle. As your herd continues to grow, eventually you'll have enough money to buy a pick-up truck and a bit more land. With a larger parcel of land you could raise even more cows!" the traveler exclaimed.
"But why, señor?"
"Because then you would make even more money, and with your truck you could be more efficient and deliver the cows directly to the slaughterhouse. Then eventually you'll have enough money to buy your own slaughterhouse and maybe even a bit more land!"
"But I don't understand...why, señor?"
"Ah, well, that way you could keep expanding your business! Eventually you'd have so much land and so many cows that you could buy your own export company and ship Argentine beef around the world. Everyone knows how good Argentine beef is."
"Sí, sí…but what's the point of doing all of that?"
"Well, because some day, when you've built up your business, once you've created your cattle empire, you can finally sit back and relax," declared the traveler in a triumphant manner.
The goatherder chuckled softly as he tugged the brim of his hat over his eyes and leaned back against the tree with his fingers interlaced behind his head. "But señor," he responded, "that's what I'm doing right now."