Foreigners living in Argentina will soon discover the importance of Día del Amigo (Friend’s Day) if in the country on July 20.
While not an official public holiday, Día del Amigo is a quintessential Argentine celebration. It is a important day to send messages and meet up with close friends — and the holiday cranks up even more if it falls on a weekend night.
In most major cities such as Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba and La Plata the bars and clubs are packed to the gills with old friends having drinks, catching up with each other and proclaiming their friendship in drunken sing-alongs. In Argentina the phone lines often go haywire on Friend Day due to the volume of calls and messages whizzing around the country.
Reaching out to friends is almost seen as obligatory on Friend’s Day and not doing so can be seen as a rebuff.
How Día del Amigo Began
This young Argentine holiday was born from a somewhat off-the wall moment of inspiration that came to Enrique Ernesto Febbraro while he watched the first Apollo 11 moon landing. Febbraro was an Argentine dentist, psychology professor and prominent Freemason, and one of his heroes was the astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, also a Freemason.
It was July 20, 1969 — as he watched the first men land on the moon on that Febbraro got inspired to try to connect with people around the world through a letter writing campaign. Febbraro said at the time, “I experienced the moon landing as a gesture of friendship towards the universe and at the same time I told myself that a town of friends would be an unbeatable nation. Then it was decided: 20th of July is the chosen day!” He sent out 1,000 letters to over 100 countries around the world in an effort to establish July 20 as Friend’s Day and was surprised to receive 700 letters in return.
Friendship Day Around the World
From 1972, when Buenos Aires Province officially enacted the holiday, Friendship Day has been celebrated on July 20 in Argentina. Neighboring Brazil, Chile and Uruguay celebrate it on the same day. Now some in Argentina some are lobbying to move it to July 19, to mark the death of cartoonist Roberto Fontanarrosa.
Other countries celebrate Friendship Day on different days, even within South America.
Peru comes out as the most logical, celebrating it on the first Saturday of July, so no one shows up hungover at work. In Bolivia, it is celebrated on the 23rd of July. In Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela Día del Amigo is celebrated on the same day, or, instead of, Día de los Enamorados (Valentine’s Day). Spain is the only country in Europe that celebrates Friendship Day on July 20.
In the USA and India, and mostly for online marketing purposes (as intended by the Hallmark greeting card company), Friendship Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August.
Although Argentina gets the credit for being the inventor of Friend’s Day, Argentina’s neighbor Paraguay is where the concept of Día de la Amistad (Friendship Day) was first conceived in 1958. Dr. Ramon Artemio Bracho came up with the idea during a social gathering in the north of the country. From that he went on to set up the Cruzada mundial de la amistad (World Friendship Crusade), an international civic organization focused on fostering friendship worldwide. And while Bracho did originally come up with the idea on July 20 (the day Argentina celebrates Día del Amigo) the group decided that July 30 should be Friendship Day.
Despite the fact that Argentina is the country that most celebrates Friendship Day and does so on July 20, on 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared July 30 to be International Friendship Day.
Celebrating Día del Amigo
Día del Amigo is a big deal for young people in Argentina, and it is estimated 80% of the younger generation celebrate the day. The older generation doesn’t celebrate the day with the same enthusiasm however.
“Since I’m an oldie, I usually don’t do anything (on Día del Amigo), even though I have many friends,” says Maria Teresa Vago, a retired business owner who lives in Buenos Aires. “Friend’s Day just didn’t exist in my youth, so I just send greetings to my friends. What a bore!”
It’s not unusual for young newcomers living and working in Argentina to feel left out on Día del Amigo. Argentines can be insular in their friendship circles and usually spend the day with their lifelong — often high school — friends. Girlfriends and boyfriends, who are usually priority number one (aside from parents) are generally not included in the celebrations, so foreigners who have an Argentine significant other may find that their mate is heading out alone to hang out with friends for the evening.
Since foreigners find themselves lower on the friendship totem pole in regards to Argentines, some foreigners living in Argentina arrange gatherings with each other, often at ‘expat’-owned bars. Alternately they can stay home practicing their Argentine Spanish in the hope they have good enough friends to celebrate with next year.