Uruguay has a been a pleasant surprise for us, the people are really laid back and very friendly, and there aren’t many tourists here. Like Chileans and their mullets, Uruguayans are really obsessed with their mate. Our guidebook says the average person in Uruguay consumes more mate per capita than Argentinians, but at first we couldn’t see how that could occur. Once we arrived here, we realized it could be done, but only by drinking mate all the time (such as while driving, cycling, at the grocery store, or driving a motorcycle), which they do here with surprising consistency.
Sure, Argentinians and other South Americans are also well known for passing the mate gourd amongst themselves for a relaxing afternoon on the shade. Argentinians tend to carry the thermos in a case, and break out the herba mate in the afternoon, and then put it back in the case when done. But in Uruguay, many people seem to be drinking mate all the time. Right away we noticed everyone was clutching a thermos in the crook of their left arm, and holding a gourd filled with the green stimulant for fast access at anytime of day. We see so many people clutching the thermos with the left arm that we suspect over time they may eventually experience some kind of evolutionary change where their left arms turn into little, circular appendages formed to the thermoses they perpetually clutch in the crook of their arms. Really, like the bizarre prevalence of the mullet in Chile, it is really something to see.
At first we were amused to see people on motor scooters, someone in the front driving, and the person in the back holding the thermos and gourd. Then we noticed car drivers pouring hot water into the gourds while driving, people on bikes, and people just walking down the street. Like Californians and cells phones, these people seem to be consuming mate constantly. It really was undeniable when we went into a grocery store, and saw over seven other shoppers sipping mate while shopping. It’s hard to shop while holding a gourd and thermos, but they seem to manage. The best was when the guy standing in the checkout line who was drinking mate while buying more mate (two bags, of course).
<click to enlarge>