Tag Archives: Uruguay

Finding the Real Uruguay (Two of Uruguay’s best kept secrets)

3 Oct

I became known as the ‘funny man’ while I was in Uruguay. It was a name that I hadn’t been called since the weekly poker nights I had become a part of in Ecuador. My drunken attempts at trying to bluff every single hand, and yet somehow winning, had been the reason for the moniker then. Now, I was being called that for daring to step into the heart of Uruguay. When I told people that I was going to Uruguay and that I was after some recommendations, all I got was a long list of beaches. Now, I’m a fan of beaches, but I’d just been to Brazil and had my fair share. Plus, my journey from Brazil to Iguazu and then Buenos Aires had seen me firmly heading along the ‘gringo trail’ for some time. I was ready for something a little different. So after spending a couple of days in Colonia and Montevideo (both easily reached from Argentina) I looked at the map, decided that a town called ‘thirty three’ sounded rather interesting and set off for the bus station. It was as I left the hostel that I heard Martin, one of the workers, talking to another guest: “he is a very funny man, he is going to Treinta y Tres, nobody goes to Treinta y Tres.”

Treinta y Tres – The Sleepy City

Treinta y Tres is known as the sleepy city. This isn’t too far from the truth. Upon arriving I wondered if I’d stepped into the middle of a national holiday. The people were going about their business, but in the most casual of manners. There is no rush. I popped into a grocery store to get a few things for dinner and ended up waiting for 15 minutes as the people in front chattered away while slowly filling a plastic bag with vegetables. As I strolled around the town, taking in its patrimonial buildings and dusty streets, the rhythm of everyday life felt like a magician’s stick, slowly spinning me into a glorious trance, a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of busy city streets. It was suddenly possible to hear my heartbeat again – although it should be noted that I had just knocked back two espressos and my heart felt as if it was about to jump out of my chest at any moment.

As well as offering this laid-back way of life, Treinta y Tres is trying to push itself as something of a tourist hotspot, which it has every right to do. Quebrada do Los Cuervos is located 22kms from the city. This basically translates as ‘Valley of the Ravens’, and offers far different wildlife and vegetation than you will find in the rest of Uruguay, due to high humidity and the valley’s differing exposure to the sun. It is definitely worth a look, though at the moment this would need to be done through Expedicion Uruguay – expedicionuruguay.com.uy – as there is no public transport to the area. Charqueada is also a short distance from Treinta, around 30km, and IS reachable by public transport. This is a port town on Laguna Merín, with great history, which is shown in the architecture, and is perfect for viewing more of Uruguay’s rich flora.

A perfect time to visit Treinta y Tres is for ‘Festival del Rio Olimar.’ This happens every Spring. Check with the Uruguay Tourism Board for the exact dates. It takes place by the river, Rio Olimar, near to a camping site, and is a great place to hear traditional Uruguayan music as well as new bands that play on the huge stage they erect for the occasion.

Tacuarembó – The People’s Republic

Before arriving in Tacuarembó I had been told it was The People’s Republic. On telling this to the people in Tacuarembó they looked at me in disbelief. Surely Salto and Paysandu are bigger cities (these three towns make up the heart of Northern Uruguay), why would Tacuarembó be the Republic? It seems that Uruguayans want Tacuarembó to be known as the heart of the country, most likely due to its position as home of the Gaucho. This figure looms large over the city, with huge signs declaring it Gaucho Country, countless shops with names such as El Gaucho and the gauchos themselves frequenting the bars and cafés around the town. It is a far busier town than Treinta, with the majority of people moving around on their scooters and motorbikes. It feels like a hub of activity with express links to Montevideo and the surrounding towns, as well as to the border with Argentina. The ‘Fiesta de la Patria Gaucho’ is a festival that happens every March, and is a great opportunity to see some of the customs associated with these legendary figures.

Just outside Tacuarembó is Ipora, a small tourist resort with huge artificial lakes. It is a great place to visit, with the lakes beautifully positioned in the middle of thick green woods and most of the land now populated by a huge amount of cattle and horses. It’s a hugely popular resort in the summer when Uruguayans and even Argentineans come to soak up the sun and fresh air. This is an interesting article about Ipora and the North of Uruguay – http://www.olauruguay.com/2010/03/20/ipora-relax-and-unwind-in-gaucho-land

The great thing about travelling around some of the lesser known places in Uruguay is that the people are so happy for you to be there, and for the opportunity to tell you a little about their lives. It is also very cheap to travel around with transport and food extremely reasonable, and the only problem sometimes being the finding a cheap hostel.

Treinta y Tres can be reached via Maldonado or Montevideo in the South and is also very close to the Brazilian border. Tacuarembó is a stone’s throw from Salto on the Uruguay border where there is a public bus to Concordia in Argentina. There are also regular buses from Montevideo.

See the Uruguay Tourism Board’s calendar for exact dates on all the festivals – turismo.gub.uy

The Curiosities of Uruguayan Life

2 Oct

On entering any country there are always a few things that just seem to spring out at you. Why are they doing that? How much does it cost? Are you being serious? In Uruguay these things may seem less severe than in other countries, such as Bolivia and Brazil in South America or further away in the Far or Middle East but it’s crazy how much of an impact they still manage to have on your life. These are some of my curiosities about Uruguay that I probably spend far too much time contemplating.

Milk in Bags
This is something I first experienced in Argentina but it’s one that I’ve always found intriguing. Why would anyone think of putting a liquid substance in a bag? As a result all fridges now have an extra piece of plastic on their door so that the milk can be slotted in and remain upright. But with yoghurt also coming in bags too where’s my second piece of plastic? What you then have to do of course is actually find one of the specially-made plastic containers which are able to house these bags perfectly as well as making them very easy to pour. Maybe the plastic factories and dairies made some kind of agreement, let’s walk into the unknown together or something like that. Milk is of course also available in a carton but it’s a lot more expensive. I now use it as a barometer for judging people. If they have milk in a carton I can be pretty sure they live something of a luxurious lifestyle.

The popularity of mate in Uruguay is undeniable. Every single person has a mate gourd (the vessel for their indulgence) in one hand and a thermos tucked under the other arm. This is most pronounced around 6pm/7pm when everyone has finished work and heads down to the promenades (in the beachside towns anyway) to catch the last bit of sun and sit around drinking mate with their family and friends. The social element is so interesting, I really think there’s no match. Coffee seems to be a very personal thing, when people buy it to take-out it tends to be something to down on their way to an important meeting and at the office it is something that is drank while doing other things. Even the Italians who seem to have the greatest love for it gulp down their expressos like no-man’s business, making it more of an aid to the conversation than a central item. Tea is more social, especially when a plate of shared biscuits is involved but it lacks mobility, one thing that could not be levelled at mate. One evening I tried to count how many thermos’s I could see on a walk down Montevideo’s rambla. Turns out I can’t count that high!

Uruguay has many similarities with Argentina due to its proximity over the River Plate, it’s North also shares a few traits with Brazil (including a strange dialect that seems to morph the too) and generally speaking a lot of the culture could be seen as European, no surprise being that many of the people are descendents from Italian and Spanish immigrants. I think this is the reason why candombe is so popular. It’s a style of drumming developed by the mixture of African slaves brought over in the late 19th century and that has since been passed down many generations, effortlessly moving into the hands of the colonialists on the way. It is quite quintessentially Uruguayan and something that they are obsessed by. With no prior knowledge of what it was I at first found it extremely curious. It’s closest cousin in popular terms would be samba but this is so much more powerful, more insistent. Drummers pound away for hour after hour as they parade round their neighbourhoods on a weekly basis. Apart from a small intro some of the groups don’t change their rhythm for the entire 2 or 3 hour parade. After a while though it draws you in, especially while watching the strangely stilted dance that accompanies it, and the sound of the drums begins to drift into the back of your mind, just leaving this immense feeling of passion as it eventually gets you.

A lot is often made of an official statistic that Uruguay is 98% literate. Personally, I feel this is slightly incorrect as there is without doubt some problems with homelessness and I very much doubt these have been included in the poll. Nonetheless, these people are obsessed with books. There are bookshops on every corner and Montevideo in particular has one street, Tristan Narvaja, which has around 30 different bookstores. Attached to this love of books though is a sense that literature is something that should not be cheap. Hence, second hand books can cost as much as a new mp3 player or a brand new pair of a shoes. Even a newspaper can end up being the most expensive item in your shopping basket, I was personally shocked when I saw that it cost more than my 3 litre bottle of Coca-Cola.

Dinner Time
Uruguayans eat late, really late, somewhere between 10pm-midnight. The amount of times I would meet people around 10pm for a drink only to find that they hadn’t eaten and that they were actually more interested in eating than drinking has been numerous, and each time, for a Brit like me has been hard to fathom. The normal English ritual of going out for a quiet drink, which is normally somewhere between 3 to 5 pints, would make you the token drunk in Uruguay. I have generally adjusted to eating really late, especially spending time in North Argentina where the siesta puts you back a few hours anyway, but still the idea of going out to eat all the time is hard for me. I never do it in England due to the cost, and would also struggle to do all the time in Uruguay for the same reasons. My ‘going out’ allowance will always simply translate as Beer allowance, it’s one cultural trait that I will always find hard to change.

Second Edition of UruguayNow, travel guide to Uruguay, arrives

30 Dec

On 24th December 2010 the Second Edition of UruguayNow (the first English language travel guide to Uruguay) was launched. If I hadn’t been stuffing hundreds of mince pies into my face at the time I would have mentioned this earlier. Well, the mince pie hangover has died off and so I bring the news!

The Second Edition can be viewed HERE. Just a few changes to the first edition, namely a couple of articles I have written about the upcoming Montevideo Carnival and about the Uruguayan Invasion, when a number of Uruguayan bands got so enthused by The Beatles they started to take over the continent (they got as far as Argentina) before people simply got interested in other things. It was an ever-chaning climate those days.

You can read the new edition of UruguayNow right HERE.

New articles at PopMatters, Latineos and Sounds and Colours

23 Dec

Just thought I should have a quick update here on a few articles which have found their way out into the world wide web over recent weeks (months actually – an update is well overdue!)

New articles at PopMatters:
An Interview with Paddy McAloon – this has annoyingly been retitled “A Slacker Like Myself: An Interview with Prefab Sprout” by the Editors of PopMatters. Shame on them! Anyway, this was an interview conducted by email with Paddy McAloon, lead singer of Prefab Sprout, who sent back his answers after round about six weeks, which considering how often he releases music wasn’t too bad!

Review of Afrocubism – review of a new collaboration between artists from Cuba and Mali. This idea was originally touted in 1996 but when the Malian musicians were turned away from Havana for not having work permits, the producer Ry Cooder, who had already travelled to Cuba for the recording of the album, decided to find some cheap musicians who could fill the gap. Thanfully he happened upon some of Cuba’s finest musicians, people like Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez, who had largely been forgotten by the Cuban population. Buena Vista Social Club was born. Now that the euphoria from that release has died down a little the original concept has returned, and its mightily good too!

Chicha – Psychedelic Music from Peru – the first of what will hopefully be a number of articles for Latineos. This first one is a look at the history of Peruvian cumbia, a style of music mixing rock ‘n’ roll with Latin percussion and the cumbia beat, and that has become known as Chicha by the Western press.

Going Underground: New Music from Uruguay – I might as well plug something from my own site, and so here is my recent guide to some of the new indie and rock music coming from Uruguay. It took a while to peel off the stinking outer layers but once inside the core of Uruguay’s indie scene there’s some pretty damn good stuff!

The Best Albums of 2010 (10-1) – Christmas also means the end of the year so here we have the final list I made for Sounds and Colours of the best South American albums of 2010. Except for Axel Krygier’s position at #1 this was very hard to choose due to the sheer quality of so many albums this year, especially some of the efforts from Brazil and Chile.

Uruguay’s African Roots

11 Nov

One of the fascinating aspects of Uruguayan culture is the fact that through colonisation it managed to keep intact customs passed on from the slaves. Candombe is a style of drumming, which also incorporates dance and costumes, that was brought over by African slaves in the early 19th century. It has strong links with drumming practices in the Bantu regions of Africa, countries now known as Nigeria, Congo and Zimbabwe. Whereas in most instances of colonisations the activities of the slaves were marginalised in Montevideo they were eventually adopted by the middle and upper classes (although there is history of some defiance) in the 1860s and 1870s. The people were so enamoured with the style that they went so far as blacking up their faces and wearing the same basic clothing as the slaves.

Now, candombe is completely integrated with the whites of Uruguay, and is one of their proudest customs. Montevideo is continually thriving with the sound of drums. Every neighbourhood within the city has their own group who will parade the streets once or twice a week, with one performance normally on the weekend. In addition, the Wise Men’s Parade just after Christmas and Montevideo carnival allow the groups to compete to be the best group in the city.

The heritage of Uruguay is something I find infinitely interesting, but has always been quite hard to find information about, as aside from my time in Montevideo when I would very slowly read about it in Spanish, it is hard to get information. Which is why I was very excited to find out that a book has now been published. It’s called Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay and has been written by George Reid Andrews. You can check out the book HERE. And below, is an extract with some more, very interesting information about Uruguay’s Afro-origins.

Though its roots are African, candombe was created in Uruguay and exists nowhere else, my friends told me. Upon learning that I had joined a comparsa and paraded in that year’s Llamadas, a city cultural official whom I met toward the end of my stay smiled delightedly and said that I could not possibly have had a more profoundly Uruguayan experience–which I think is probably true. But as they embrace candombe as a core component of national identity, no one ever mentions feeling under siege by internationalization. The drummers seem to come to candombe not from feelings of defensiveness but for purely positive reasons, and for love of the music itself.

As we have seen, Uruguayans love candombe, and for good reason. Like samba, salsa, merengue, jazz, funk, hip-hop, and all the other African-based “national rhythms,” it is a musical form that, in the words of one informant, “won’t let you sit still.” And over the last hundred years, the comparsas have developed methods of playing it that enable them to take people with limited musical experience and turn them into juggernauts of rhythm. The music is played on three types of drums–chico, repique, and piano–each of which has a different voice–alto, tenor, and bass, respectively–and plays a different rhythmic figure. The piano hits heavy downbeats on one and four, with intervening syncopated eighth and sixteenth notes; the chico leaps in immediately following each beat with a sequence of three sixteenth notes. Both drums pound out the same stuttering phrases over and over again, in a deep aesthetic of monotony; the repique players have more freedom to improvise, and drive the group forward with their counterrhythms.

The result, when played at maximum volume and with maximum force and authority, is irresistibly powerful and compelling. Here we might recall Tomás Olivera’s memories of the 1956 Llamadas: “The cheering and applause were like an earthquake; and . . . with the thundering of the drums, the shouts of the spectators, the bombs and rockets shooting up into the sky, one had the sense that the buildings on each side of the street were about to explode into thousands of pieces.” This is an accurate and not at all exaggerated description of what it feels like to march and drum with a comparsa. The waves of rhythm put out by our drums did indeed feel strong enough to demolish the buildings around us. As we marched along on our weekly practices, we set off every car and building alarm en route; yet the whooping alarms could barely be heard as tiny yawps above the thunderous din.

Several of the drummers I talked to described the feeling of being “transported” while marching; and as we marched and drummed, digging deeper and deeper into the groove, I did feel simultaneously rooted and floating. The force of gravity and the steady reassurance of the ground had never seemed so necessary, to keep us from levitating off down the street on the cresting waves of rhythm. Yet the ground provided no rest, and was itself charged with surging electrical forces that flowed through us in a steady pulsing voltage. Everything was suffused with rhythm: the air, the ground, the universe, our bodies, our organs, and of course our drums. We were simultaneously the source, the conduit, and the recipient of that rhythm, I and fifty other drummers, hands rising and falling, legs stepping and marching, all together, all as one.

Yes, obviously the feeling is sexual–how could it not be, with these rich currents flowing through you? At the end we were exhausted, drenched with sweat, yet refreshed, relaxed, and glowing. Everyone felt good after drumming–unless, that is, we had suffered injury or exhaustion along the way, which are frequent parts of the enterprise. The marches “are a test of exceptional physical strength,” notes one analysis of the comparsas, “and psychic strength as well.” That is an exaggeration, I would say; anyone in reasonable physical condition can carry and play the drums. But there is no question that doing so while marching, listening to the rest of the group, and maintaining perfect rhythm (or trying to) for an hour or more is intensely demanding. And all drummers, even the most experienced, can tear skin off their hands as they pound the leather drumheads. Ever “the good warriors” invoked by Lobo Núñez, drummers are expected to ignore their wounds and play through the pain, heads held high and gazing coolly into the distance.

Bloodshed is just one part of the military character of the comparsas. The experience of preparing for the Llamadas is not unlike going through boot camp. There are clear lines of authority and command, based on the age, experience, and ability of the different members. Our instructor Miguel, his colleague Sergio, and their lieutenants, all work to instill a kind of martial discipline. Miguel and Sergio in particular adopt a classic good cop/bad cop approach. As we march, Sergio stalks up and down the ranks, bawling us out for our numerous shortcomings. Miguel looks on gloomily, leaving us to guess whether he is more saddened by Sergio’s ferocity or by our clumsy mediocrity.

As in any military unit, we pass long stretches of boredom and inactivity punctuated by brief bursts of intense action and excitement. Since comparsas field a lot of people, we routinely spend an hour or more waiting for everyone to show up, for drums to be tuned, for ranks to form, and so on. We pass the time smoking, joking, complaining about our “officers”; and then it is time to go over the top, into action.

These experiences produce their intended results, and gradually one becomes part of the unit, bonded to one’s fellow drummers.

From Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay, by George Reid Andrews. Copyright (c) 2010 The University of North Carolina Press.

Read more from Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay HERE

Argentina and Uruguay to host 2030 World Cup?

9 Oct

Very exciting news that Argentina and Uruguay have put forward tentative plans to host the 2030 World Cup. Their main hope with the bid is that the organisers won’t be able to resist the temptation of hosting the tournament on its centennial year at the place where it all began. That final of that first ever tournament in 1930 was contested between Uruguay and Argentina at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. There is no way Uruguay could hold a World Cup these days so it makes perfect sense to propose a joint bid with Argentina, whose Estadio Monumental (home of River Plate), Estadio Gigante (home of Rosario Central), Estadio Ciudad de la Plata, the potentially refurbished La Bombonera (the chocolate box, Boca Juniors home) and at least five other stadiums, off the top of my head, with a capacity of over 40,000, would instantly be ready for hosting a tournament.

After announcing the bid on 30th May Argentina and Uruguay have received the unanimous backing of their fellow CONMEBOL nations and then submitted the bid formally to FIFA when Sepp Blatter visited Colombia in September. He was presented with the bid document as well as a shirt made up from the two nations’ national team shirts with the phrase ‘history unites – sport too’ included in the presentation box. This is what it looked like:

The only problem I could see the bid as ever having trouble would be if the Brazil Would Cup in 2014 proved to be an absolute failure, souring the idea of having another World Cup in South America for some time. It is also in Argentina and Uruguay’s favour that the rule of one tournament in Europe followed by one worldwide will work in their favour. It looks likely that either England or Russia will host the 2018 World Cup. Following that, Australia, Japan and Qatar are all in the running for 2022 (with the amount of money that Qatar are pouring into the game it’s very easy to see them getting that one) which will be followed by another European tournament. Personally, I think that could be a nailed on Spain/Portugal World Cup 2026, though obviously there are a few politics in the way of that one.

It would be great for the Centenario to host another World Cup Final, especially since the Uruguayans are still talking about their Semi-Final appearance in South Africa; it would definitely bring a lot of joy to the nation.

Uruguay to concentrate on hemp production

11 Sep

When I was last in Montevideo (in January and February 2010) I met quite a few Americans who had come to Uruguay in order to make some dollar. Their main objective was real estate, buying cheap land near the cost and building some fancy dan apartments there. For Americans of retirement age it couldn’t really get much better than Uruguay. They have coast aplenty which stays at a pretty decent temperature for the majority of the year, there’s hardly any cars on the roads, the cities are very quiet, meals are cheap and rather large, everything an old couple might want.

As well as real estate though these American entrepeneurs had increasingly taken an interest in the production of hemp and marijuana. It is legal to smoke weed in Uruguay, although it is still illegal to sell it. It’s rather strange how the smell of weed eventually comes to permeate any kind of gathering you’re at, whether in the park, outside a bar or at the carnival, people are smoking it everywhere. If you then factor in that it is legal to buy cannabis in California and that Uruguay has the perfect growing conditions for the drug it is clear to see why they were taking such an interest. It is very possible that if the use of cannabis increased in the US one of the cheapest and easiest places to grow it would be in Uruguay.

I still think this might happen but it seems as if, before we get to that eventuality, Uruguay will instead focus on hemp production, as an alternative to soy beans, which is currently their main export. The quite obvious problem with soybean, as has been largely reported elsewhere is that most of the soy seeds being planted are made by Monsanto, “the evil destroyers of all things good”, as I like to call them. Their soy seeds are specially designed so that they are resistant to their own herbicide Round Up, which kills everything in its path, be it plant or animal. A shot of this stuff would kill a human in a couple of hours. Not a great thing then to put on your fields. The great thing about hemp is that it simply grows without need for any fertiliser or herbicide; it outgrows everything. It seems like it could be the best option for Uruguay, especially as many of their small farmers have started to struggle after damaging their land due to over-use of Round Up. Here’s a little more about hemp:

Industrial hemp, with its fast growth and dense foliage, needs no herbicides to compete with weeds and other plants – it simply outgrows them. This alone would be a massive boon to both the farmers and the ecology of Uruguay. Hemp has proven effective in cleaning pollutants and heavy metals from soil; it is feasible that it could also work for removing agrochemical toxins. Hemp’s composted foliage makes an excellent fertilizer which can replenish vital nutrients in soil, while its deep root system aerates and improves the land. Hemp can actually improve the yields of many other food crops when grown in rotation.

This paragraph was taken from the Marijuana and Cannabis blog, that goes into this whole subject in a lot more depth. You can read about it HERE. The only thing I am still unclear on is exactly how useful hemp is, it’s no good in cooking, but can be used in beauty products such as soap. If anyone knows more ways in which it can be used I would be glad to hear it.

Brazil and Uruguay step closer to integration

31 Jul

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica on Friday (30th July) signed cooperation agreements on defence, science, technology, energy, river transportation and fishing with the hope of accelerating political and economic integration between these two neighbouring countries.

The underlying sentiment of the agreement was the call for South America to become a peaceful zone on the whole. This is echoed by this statement by Lula:

“Within the framework of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) we hope to deepen our mutual understanding in order to create a common vision of defense and security for the region, consolidating South America as a zone of peace and democracy.”

They failed to mention any crises that could be causing the lack of peace in the area, although the recent disputes between Colombia and Venezuela were surely on people’s minds. It is felt that the ease of relations between these two countries, especially in border towns such as Rivera and Santana, where people can come and go between the two countries effortlessly, will become a model for other countries in South America to follow.

More info:
Brazil, Uruguay see South America as Peace Zone (Latin American Herald Tribune)

Quick update on UruguayNow

15 Apr

I thought I would do a little bit of an update on UruguayNow. This is a travel guide for Uruguay which I designed the website as well as wrote a few of the articles.

It seems as if its getting to the point of being successful. The main man has been working tirelessly on promoting this thing and a few fruits have begun to blossom. Uruguay’s Ministry of Tourism have welcomed the site – see article here – following an official launch in Montevideo this week. It even made the Channel 5 news!

One of the main selling points of the site has been the Restaurant Reviews, which included an award for Best Restaurant in Uruguay. This seems to be something that people have really picked on. Apparently anyone can make up an award. Maybe I will give myself an award for Best Blog Post of the Week, see how it works out. But anyway, it’s interesting to see how this project has been building steam. Currently, we have one sponsor, hopefully there are many more on the horizon!

Go to uruguaynow.com

What I've learnt from Montevideo

16 Feb

Stepping in dog shit is really fucking annoying. It’s not like I’ve been in any place which outlaws pavement poopery for the last 12 months, more just because the dogs in Montevideo are right dirty bastards. Before Montevideo I had not had one stepping in dog business occasion, now I’ve racked up so many promotions I have become a major stakeholder. Someone needs to teach these dogs some manners. The lack of people on the street must also have some effect, so many fewer people more foolish than me walking the streets and treading that muck right out of existence. Suddenly I have to be responsible for my own footsteps.

I’ve also been living in one of the better neighbourhoods in Montevideo, a neighbourhood where it is deemed okay for every woman to walk the streets with a colourful shrink-wrapped animal with the face of a demented monkey dangling on a rope. Not only is this not seen as ridiculous, it is downright applauded. I almost hold them fully accountable for my dirt-riddled shoes, made all the worse by the fact that I’m now exclusively wearing white alpargatas, which are like cheap pumps but cheaper and less well-made, and not immune to dog dirt.