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Latin America Is a Time Machine to the Past

Back when I was in high school, I often participated in a club called Speech and Debate.

For those who don’t know, Speech and Debate is basically a type of club you find in high schools and some colleges across America where participants engage in whatever activity they best like.

For some, there are some acting events I remember right if you want to be a better actor.

For others, you have certain debate events where you try to win a debate with whoever you are debating with.

And there were various debate formats that you can participate in.

For me, I was pretty good at stuff called Congressional Debate, Extemp and Public Forum.

Even made it to the National Finals in senior year of college and participated in some city in Alabama where it was held.

Either way, the debate coach I had wanted me to practice a bit on Extemp one day after class was over.

Basically, how it works is you get a topic to make a speech on in 30 minutes and the speech had to be something like 5 to 10 minutes long more or less (or whatever it was).

Had to have sources ready (though most people, like myself, would bullshit about the sources and just mention shit they read on the internet well beforehand).

Then you had to give the speech without reading off anything (memorize what you are going to say and all).

So, in practicing that day, the topic was about if we should lift the embargo on Cuba.

Of course, because he was a hardcore Republican, I knew to talk about why the embargo should stay.

That’s a side tip for anyone doing debate – it can help to know the politics of the person judging you because plenty of folks have a natural tendency to score you down if you say something they don’t agree with politically.

Anyway, after that was done, I remember talking with my debate coach about Cuba.

From his perspective (though he had never been to Cuba), he always felt that the country was “stuck in time.”

In that going to Cuba is like “taking a time machine to the past” because of all those old cars they have.

Here’s a video of those same cars that sometimes people talk about.

Now, being honest, that’s not an unusual observation that Americans and others have about places like Cuba and other spots in Latin America.

Just yesterday, I got a comment on a recent article I just published that you can find here regarding a small incident of racism in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The following comment is from a reader named Dazza and the relevant bit I copied and pasted below and is about people in Buenos Aires:

“You know that place has loads of snooty assholes who think their shit don’t stink with their stupid Eurocrap hairdos and dress sense – the kind of styles that were en vogue in St. Moritz in 1982 – the land that time forgot in a lot of ways.”

And so that comment got me thinking as it is an interesting narrative that people sometimes make about parts of Latin America.

Though, off top of my head, I believe I have only heard the phrase “stuck in the past” when it comes to Cuba.

From reading that comment, I never heard anyone else make the comment about a specific place being “the land that time forgot” or “stuck in the past” as others would put it.

Of course, I wasn’t around in Buenos Aires or anywhere on the planet in 1982 and have no idea what “Eurocrap hairdos and dress sense” looks like.

So it got me thinking – are there other places in Latin America that I don’t know about that folks say is somehow “in the past” when it comes to behavior or scenery?


So that’s what I’m going to look into now.

We covered the obvious example from the start – Cuba and its old cars.

But what else?

The Architecture Aspect in Mexico & Peru

First, I suppose we have an obvious example of how Latin America is seen as “visiting the past” that I didn’t think of before.

We got this article here titled “Time Travel is Possible in Mexico! See how!”

One of the central themes of the article is how places in Mexico like in parts of Riviera Maya can be like visiting the past when you appreciate the colonial and pre-Columbian ruins.

So, in a more literal sense, like visiting the past when it comes to all the old architecture that you can find in that part of Mexico.

Or, as I’d expand the premise of the article, by visiting really any part of Latin America that has colonial and pre-Columbian architecture.

You can find the same argument used in this article titled “Time-Traveling in Peru: A Journey to Machu Picchu” in which the sights you can find in Peru are as close to “traveling to the past” as you’ll get supposedly.

Here’s a cool little video on such architecture that you can find around Latin America.


Modern Walking by Traditional in Bolivia 

Next, we have this article here titled “We’re Convinced Bolivia is the Most Magical Place on Earth.”

In which there is a section of the article titled “La Paz is like a Time Machine.”

The premise of this section of the article is similar to the premise of the previous two articles looked at.

Though it does have a sentence about how you can find both modern buildings and houses with “slat roofs,” it also goes beyond just architecture.

Instead, it gives more time to discussing cultural practices in the street very briefly in a paragraph.

With “ancient practices” like people dressed in indigenous clothing walking by folks in business suits.

To being able to hear more modern reggaeton in the street along with “traditional flute-like songs.”

In the words of the author, “it’s like living in two time periods at once.”

Here’s a video of La Paz here.

Visiting Your Heritage in Nicaragua

This is actually an example that just came to mind right now.

As I wrote here about my trip to Nicaragua, I met an American with Nicaraguan citizenship and heritage that he took from his parents who raised him in the US.

Basically, the dude was our guide to Nicaragua while we were doing volunteer work there for a week in a place called Masaya.

At any rate, I remember talking with the guy about his time relocating back to Nicaragua from the US.

In his words, he wanted to basically reconnect with the roots of his heritage and that is why he is in Nicaragua now.

In doing so, I remember him telling me that moving to Nicaragua was like “going back in time” but in a more personal way.

How so?

Well, mostly in terms of encountering cultural and culinary aspects of Nicaragua that his parents raised him with in the US.

So, in a way, you can argue that this is a different sense of “traveling to the past.”

Not one that is applicable for non-Latino readers most likely but an interesting way to look at how traveling to Latin America can be like “going back to the past” in another way.

Primitive Farming Practices in the DR

Here is a video on Youtube titled “Rice is a Big Deal in the Dominican Republic – Time Machine Trip to the Past.”

The person speaking in the video is supposedly an expat in the DR and comments on the farming process to make rice in that country.

And how, in his words, it’s like going to the past.

Here’s a big from the video description explaining what he means:

“Take a short ride down the road from Cabrera Dominican Republic and it is like a ride in a time machine back 50 years into the rice fields.  Rice is a critical food crop in the Dominican Republic with over 820,000 metric tonnes produced each year.  In fact, the Dominican Republic is totally self sufficient in rice production which says a lot when the average Dominican consumes about 120 pounds of rice per year.

What is especially interesting about Rice production in much of the Dominican Republic is just how primitive much of the process really is.  As you will see in this little video, the farmers still rely on oxen and laborers to plant the rice crops several times a year to keep up with the demand for homegrown rice.  I imagine that the scenes you are watching have not changed for many generations of farming families.”

Following the Steps of Your Parents in Guatemala

Next, we have this article here titled “Guatemala Trip Like Being in a Time Machine.”

Where basically this American chick from Minnesota who did some missionary trip to a rural part of Guatemala.

In her words, she wanted to do some work there because that’s where her parents met.

At any rate, she felt visiting Guatemala was like going into a “time machine” because of certain practices she saw in this rural area.

Practices like cooking “over hot wood fires on dirt floors inside their little tin shacks” to carrying their infants on their backs with baskets of laundry on their heads.

Also, she noticed how more traditional society was with women doing a lot of the house work.

Work like washing the laundry into a nearby lake for example.

Personal Ideas

Finally, let’s think of some things that I can come up with off top of my head regarding anything that might seem like “from the past” down here in Latin America.

Truthfully, anything that comes to mind is likely going to be a product of the whole Mañana Time culture.

Where the basic idea is that things from the US take their sweet time arriving down here to Latin America.

I have a feeling that many examples that people could come up with regarding this topic would have some relation to that.

More on this topic of Mañana Time in this article I wrote here.

Anyway, what are some brief things that come to mind?

First, when I was a kid, I remember plenty of days where my dad would throw cups out of the window onto the road when driving around.

He doesn’t do that anymore at all but I remember it being a practice much more common in the 2000s.

In Latin America, as I wrote here, littering is much more common still and definitely not as taboo.

Though, to be fair, it depends heavily on which part of Latin America you are in and with who you are dealing with like anywhere else.

But, as a whole, much more common I would say than what I see in the US nowadays.

So, in a way, like going back to the 2000s for me personally.

Second, you have the friendliness of people.

For example, when I was living in a Colombian city called Barranquilla, I had a girlfriend named Marcela.

She lived in a crappy part of town that has a reputation for being a bit dangerous.

At any rate, whenever I was there, it wasn’t uncommon in her neighborhood to see doors wide open!

Or otherwise completely unlocked.

With neighbors just walking up to Marcela’s house and opening the door to yell inside some question or nice comment about whatever.

That would never happen in my small town in Iowa.

Suffice to say, people are not that casual in my opinion up north generally speaking.

In fact, doors are more often closed and plenty of times locked.

Knock on their door?

And you might get a cold welcome…

“what do you want? NO SOLICIATING!”

“But sir, I’m here to take your daughter to prom!”


Ok, ok, the gun probably wouldn’t be involved.

But I’m sure there’s some crazy neighbor in the US somewhere who shot someone knocking on their door.

Generally speaking, I remember people being more open when I was much younger.

Like around 6 to 8 years old more or less.

In short, I do feel that maybe people have become less trusting or more distant from their neighbors up there.

Third, smoking?

Could be wrong here but I do feel there is more acceptance of smoking in Latin America and less of a stigma to it than in the US.

Granted, it might depend on what part of Latin America and the US you are talking about again.

Still, I don’t smoke so I’m less confident on this one but I do have a feeling that generally people down here see less of a problem with smoking than in the US.

In the past, though I was a kid, I feel that taboo was less strong than it is now in the US currently.

But leave your thoughts on that one if you disagree but I feel it might apply here.

Fourth, old insults?

When I was growing up, it was pretty common I remember with kids to throw around the words like faggot or retard.

Like check out this video here of To Catch a Predator that was shot in the mid 2000s in Long Beach, California.

If I remember right, it was in this investigation they did looking for child predators in which the female decoy said to one of the predators about how “she isn’t that retarded.”

I’ve seen this show like a million times so I know she said it in one of the investigations – I think the California one.

And it’s funny because I remember people in the comment section of a clip of that were saying how “it took them back” to hear the word retarded.

Perhaps because, in a way, it’s like a trip to the past – back then, that’s how I remember how people talked too.

And, to be fair, that’s a part of my 2000s heritage that hasn’t left me.

Equally so, I say the words “faggot” or “retarded” sometimes.

But for reasons that someone like Doug Stanhope has in this video here.

Still, nowadays, I think I’m a bit “out of place” when I say the word faggot in the US.

I try to watch the language a little bit up there because there is more pushback I feel against that way of speaking nowadays than how I remember it as a child.

But down here in Latin America?


Generally, I find people are more open to using rougher words like that but less so in areas that are more developed (like Buenos Aires maybe).

In Mexico City? Not so much but an upper class Mexican from Roma Norte will find more issue with that word than maybe someone from a typical person from Pedregal de Santo Domingo.

So, in a way, people are, maybe like myself, a little bit “behind the times” when it comes to language.

Fifth, then we have religion.

Now, as I wrote here, not all Latinos are these diehard Jesus freaks running around foaming at the mouth going “JESUS JESUS HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS LATELY?!?!”

Anyway, I think it’s fair to say though that, generally speaking, people in Latin America take religion a bit more seriously than those in the US.

However, among the “first world,” the US does tend to be more religious I feel.

But is generally speaking seemingly following the footsteps of Europe in which the younger generation is more and more non-religious.

In Latin America, you can generally find the younger folks to also be following those footsteps relatively speaking but much more so in urban developed areas.

Like Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mexico City to a degree and so on.

But head over to a small town in Hidalgo of Mexico and you’ll notice more religious importance.

However, similarly, I do feel younger people as a whole in even more small town areas are less religious maybe than the older folks.

Like my last girlfriend who never went to church ever in her entire time in Mexico City but whose parents definitely took religion much more seriously than she did.

Her mom?

Crazy religious that it was frightening – if Jesus told her to shoot Matt, she’d ask “with which gun, vato?!”

But that’s another topic for another day.

Regardless, in the same way that I feel that the US is following the footsteps of Western Europe on this topic, I feel Latin America is, broadly speaking, following the US to a degree.

But still, at this moment in time, a bit more religious in various points without any question.

Though, like always, geography matters and it depends on which age group of which area of Latin America you are talking about.

At any rate, I’m a bit tired right now and those are just a few examples that come to my head real quickly.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other examples that could be mentioned – country specific and also for Latin America more broadly.

And so that’s where I’ll hand it off to you.

Got any examples that come to mind with this topic?

Leave them below in the comment section!

I genuinely would find them interesting to read because this topic is pretty cool.

Especially in the last section here under “Personal Ideas.”

Was fun to think of some examples because it got me thinking of my childhood in the US.

So leave any thoughts or examples you have below!

Would love to hear them!

And thanks for reading!

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Best regards,


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