Monday, August 1, 2011

South American Cultural Lessons: The History of Argentine Polo

When you think of polo, you probably think of a sport that is primarily British. However, when you attend Spanish classes in Buenos Aires, you will find that polo is quite popular and widespread. Although polo was first introduced to Argentina by British immigrants in the 1800s, the Argentinean people embraced it wholeheartedly and made the sport their own.

Polo seems to have been in existence for as long as horses have been domesticated. In fact, riders in Asia more than 2,500 years ago played a game similar to polo. The sport initially became popular among the British in colonial India in 1850. The first game in England took place in 1869.

After being introduced to the game by the British, many estancia owners created polo clubs back in the late 1800s. The River Plate Polo Association decided a national association was needed and began the Argentine Polo Association in 1922. Soon after polo's rise to popularity in Argentina, the country began to win significant medals for the sport. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Argentina won a gold medal. Argentina won again in 1936 in Berlin.

When you study Spanish in Argentina, you will find that the tradition of polo is still alive and well today. Games include the Argentine Open Polo Championship or the Palermo Open, the Hurlingham Open Championship, and the Tortugas Country Club Open Championship. The first World Cup for Polo took place in 1987 in Buenos Aires. This game was organized by the Federation of International Polo, which was begun by an Argentine polo enthusiast named Marcos Uranga. Today, most World Cup players hail from the UK, US and Argentina.

The World Cup takes place every three or four years, and it has taken place in countries including Chile, Germany, Australia, and Mexico. If you decide to study Spanish in Argentina during a year when the World Cup is held in the country, you are in luck. The last time it was held in Argentina was at the Estancia Grande in 2011.

When you attend Spanish classes in Buenos Aires, you certainly don't want to miss visiting an estancia, which is one of the most popular places for polo. Estancias are well suited to polo due to the presence of vast open spaces and the tradition of raising horses. It is interesting to note that Argentina currently specializes in breeding horses for polo. Many of these animals have been exported to the US and England. At an estancia, you will have the opportunity to see some of these beautiful animals for yourself and appreciate the national significance of polo.

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