7 Reasons Rosario is Not for Tourists

By: Stephanie Cariker

I arrived to Rosario on a day when the word excruciating fell short of it’s meaning and the word melting combined did an absolute injustice to the definition of things. It was January 27th, 2006 and, while it sounds quite cliche, I had come here to “see about a guy.”  Dripping with sweat and absorbed in my nervousness, I descended the steps of an air conditioned microcosm into an entirely new life: A new home, a new relationship, a new language and culture, a new career, and above all else, a new perspective.

Allow me to begin by saying, because this is my experience, it is completely  tainted with the color of my opinion; and I’d hope no one takes what I am about to say too terribly seriously. Rosario is not for tourists and here are 7 reasons why:

1. Rosario is NOT Cool

London is cool. Paris is cool. Even Mexico City is cool, but I am nearly certain you have never heard the likes of a San Francisco hipster saying, something to the sort of, “Yeah, I’m gonna move to Rosario, Argentina to work on my music.” In fact, “cool” places on the map for expats are places like Bali, Beijing, or Thailand, exotic places, seductive places, places with white sand beaches where you can live for under 10 dollars a day. In this respect, Rosario simply fails to apply.

2. No landmarks to Mark the Map

There are no mystical and majestic trails to Machu Picchu.  We have no architectural claims to fame, drawing the international attention of the masses like that of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Louvre in Paris.  And, in comparison to Buenos Aires, we are not even particularly recognized for the Argentinean Tango or professional soccer teams.  I digress, there is, without a doubt, a love-hate relationship between the two rivaling local soccer teams. In Rosario, you are either a fan of Central or a fan of Newells, leaving absolutely no middle ground.  However, despite this professional rivalry, when people think Argentina, they think Maradona, they think Boca Juniors.

3. Rosario is not a Destination City

Unfortunately, and due to the relatively closeness of Rosario to Buenos Aires, the city  is erroneously presented by both the national and local touristic entities as a “48 hour city.” What does that mean? It means that, “according to officials,” you can apparently get to know the city, connect with the locals, and partake in cultural exchanges, all in just 2 days. I repeat, Rosario is not for tourists and in fact, it never has been. Even the Camino Real, stretching from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru, conveniently calculated Rosario as a rest spot along the way. With this being said, Rosario has always been treated as nothing more than a place to lay sleepy and worn heads, whereby breaking up the extended northbound adventure to somewhere more adventurous, some more important destination city.

4. No Right of Way

As a pedestrian you are an absolute minority. There are stop signs, but no one uses them, there are of course crosswalks, but you will have to fight tongue and fist to use them with any sense of priority. To an outsider, this appears to be outright anarchy, and trust me, it is. But there is a sort of method to this madness. Always look both ways, never think you have the right of way and always assume they will run you over. This is called being a defensive walker.

5. Language Barriers

One of the characteristics that clearly separates Rosario from the classic definition of what we consider to be a “tourist destination,” is the grand barrier of communication. While, in the previous 10 years there has been a noticeable focus placed on the learning of foreign languages such as English and French, the majority of the “pueblo” continue speaking only their native language: Spanish. So if you are looking for language tourism, then Rosario is definitely a good choice.

6. Closed for Remodel

You know your city is not quite ready for the wave of tourism when, in the peak summer months the local museums and apparent attractions are accompanied by signs that read: Closed for Remodel.

7. No Planes

We do indeed have an airport, in fact, it is even referred to as an international airport. But, for reasons beyond my understanding, our airport has habitually lost contract after contract, somehow managing to manage a mere 1 international flight per day, and, in the last year, that too has been suspended. Why? You might ask, closed for remodel. So, if you are a tourist and you plan Rosario as your destination city, you will have little choice but to come by bus.

What is the attraction then? Why has this pueblo, dressed up in high heels like a metropolis, continued to grow with expats and immigrants alike, sprawling along the banks of this chocolate colored river surrounded by miles and miles of the mono cultivated transgenic soybean?

I will tell you.  It is exactly because Rosario is not for tourists that Rosario brews a desire to stay a little longer, rest a while, take a load off, and find a home while away from home.

Over the course of the past 8 years, I have watched people “just passing through,” decide to stay indefinitely. In my time as the director of Spanish in Rosario, a local Spanish school for travelers, I have been graced by the presence of countless people who have booked for a week and stayed a month, reserved a month and stayed a year and some who have come on a whim and never left, myself included.

And the overall consensus, comes down to this:

Rosario is not for tourists because the word tourist encompasses the idea of someone traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for less than one consecutive year in the name of leisure, business and other purposes. These are the people that risk little to nothing, opening their hearts a wee bit at a time, convincing themselves they are living and experiencing while under a supposed illusionary control of their minds and their sentiments, safely untouched by the and pain of what it means to be an expat or immigrant.

No, Rosario is not for tourists because the very day you set foot in this oversized town disguising itself as a city you will find such an abundant amount of welcoming energy, such an immense amount of, “come meet my family” you will have no choice but to stay. Your desire to spend time inside your head, to “find yourself within” will be greeted with a kiss on the cheek and more invitations to BBQ’s than your stomach can bear.

And as for the language barrier, people will go out of their way to yell the words rather than speak them, in hopes that their speaking louder will, by force of inertia, suddenly create a state of understanding. And, you know, I think it works.  Because in the end, all the understanding needed is found in a smile.

When you become an expat, you no longer fit into the category of tourist. When you immigrate, you become one with your community, which is exactly what Rosario is about and precisely why some people, those who are open enough to see what is before them and exposed enough to accept it, come for 48 hours and stay for a time undetermined.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingStephanie Cariker is an American expat living in Argentina. Blog description: Expatriates in Rosario - Building a community, one expat at a time!
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Contest Comments » There are 23 comments

Miss James wrote 10 years ago:

this insightful and humorous submission gets at the very heart of what makes those forgotten little-sister-of-destination cities so enticing and destinations for those of us who seek to truly immerse ourselves in a culture. bravo.

Sergio wrote 10 years ago:

totally agree. Rosario is not for tourists but for people that really want to connect to locals.

Brian G. wrote 10 years ago:

As a citizen of the United States, we are practically bred to believe our country is the greatest land in the world. This has a downside, as most people actually believe it, while also believing that every other place pales in comparison, and is quite possibly even dangerous. Though we know better, we still have a hard time shaking these thoughts from our brains, the misconception that other cultures are worse rather than just being different. Every time I read something from Stephanie about her experiences in Rosario, I am whisked away to a magical otherland; a place where I feel safe and warm; a place where I can live and prosper; a place where I know how to play soccer and am able to eat wonderful food while conversing with great new friends through the use of a language I never knew I would learn. When I hear the name Rosario, I feel like I’ve been there, and I know I owe that feeling to Stephanie, our de facto ambassador to Argentina. Thank you for the free vacation, Stephanie.

Adrianne Resek wrote 10 years ago:

Some people travel for vacation and some people travel for an adventure. Rosario is definitely for the latter group!

Edward O'na wrote 10 years ago:

I'd agree in almost everything as the Language Barriers, No Right of Way, No Planes... but the fact of saying "Rosario is not cool". What ??? Rosario is real! You shoul'd just walk and live it! You got everything you want in Rosario. Any type of activities... Theatre, Rock Bands, skate parks, night clubs, you can practice any type of sport. Nice restaurants, bars in every block. There's a huge river and a beach... you can study and learn any carrer you can imagine. Great "medicine" and hospitals real prices to reach a professional !!! There is "live music everywhere" and plenty of art. Creative people all over... Any type of store across your home...and the best of all beautiful women walking around. Most places ain't neat, just because unfortunately most people in Argentina don't care, that's a fact... but also becouse people "live on them", step on the grass and lay on it... it's not just decoration like in USA. And I'd say that you'd probably used to think that a "cool place" is a tourist city made about "marketing"... Even though I'm american born, let me tell you an example: MIAMI ain't cool, but just "tries to hard" (to be cool). And also as any other latin american place, it's dangerous! Gotta be always careful, but on the other hand, most people are very friendly.(and COOL) For bad or good, it seems a city that will remain very locals only. I agree, Rosario might not be for common tourists... Because ROSARIO might be ONLY FOR "COOL TOURISTS". Greetings to everybody!!! from Rosario, Argentina.

Ale wrote 10 years ago:

At first reading this for me it was hard ¿Por qué? Why? I can say why, because Im from Rosario, and Ive been an expat some time ago. From one side, the idea of what on earth is saying this expat about MY Rosario. Going on the first lines, still thinking about what horrible things she was saying and feeling a little offended. But from the other side, curious about what she can say about me and my people that maybe I cant see objectively. Once I finished the article I felt so happy, and I end myself saying "Its true!" "Rosario, is not for tourists! Rosario is for you, for me, for all the ones who wants to find and feel home is not so far.. I love it. Great article Stephanie!

Ezequiel wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Stephanie, i think you are right, Rosario in not for tourists, is for people to decide to come for two days and stay longer or come back later. It made me laught when you describe the "anarchy" of the traffic, where pedestrians have to risk their lives trying to cross the street; also with the "airport with no planes" and the language barrier, but in this point i think many people understood that learning english or other language is important and are studing. I saw the article´s link in the Couch Surfing mailing, wich im a member. Maybe we can meet in some activity of summer, such as an afternoon in the river with other cs members. Good luck with your blog, Ezequiel

Marcela María wrote 10 years ago:

As a person who has traveled a little bit around the world and also has lived in Rosario for a couple of years now, I couldn't agree more: that's what I see everyday with my foreign students, they come to Rosario to stay a month, and they end up here forever. They left the city, but usually they come back, just because they feel so great here.

Bianca wrote 10 years ago:

Mi Amiga, Stephanie - you have managed to realistically, honestly and genuinely bundle Rosario up into a well delivered package. Though I only spent 5 months in Rosario, it certainly felt like home, and a place I did not want motto leave. From the winter through to summer, the warmth of the people made you feel a part of society - regardless of your language ability or country of origin. Muchos besos Para vos, tu familia y Rosario xx

Marcelo wrote 10 years ago:

London, Paris, even Mexico is cool. In fact, “cool” places are places like Bali, Beijing, or Thailand, exotic places where you can live for under 10 dollars a day? WTF?? 10 dolares en londres???? compras un latte y sin tips We have no architectural claims to fame, drawing the international attention of the masses like that of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Louvre in Paris? Porque no le robamos a medio mundo sus obras de arte y despues cobramos para que las vean, ni tampoco cobramos entrada en las iglesias para poder edificarlas y luego hacerla emblema de la ciudad. Learning of foreign languages such as English and French, the majority of the “pueblo” continue speaking only their native language: Spanish. Y si sera porque el frances solo se habla en donde? y que el español es demasiado difícil para el ingles que solo maneja 20 palabras sencillas cada vez mas abreviadas y deformadas para expresarse como chimpances!! Closed for Remodel???? like Capilla sixtina, like Granada y la fuente de los leones, like medio londres por las olimpiadas, like versalles al que solo accedes al 5% mientras cobran entrada para que el mundo se los arregle??? Pero los rosarigasinos somos asi, tenegasemos nuestro idiogasoma propio que no sera tan seco como el catalan pero es mas divertido de hablar, te llevamos la contra te invitamos a comer hasta que no puedes mas como los tanos pero sin llenarte de pasta aca te damos carne de vaca, te cruzamos a la isla a tomar mate, que no es te, ni tampoco a las 5 o´clock pero se comparte entre todos y puede repetirse, en la playa de uno de los rios mas importantes del mundo con facturas rellenas de dulce de leche no con bolleria de crema pastelera sin gusto, y luego de que invadimos tu privacidad te pedismos disculpas y te invitamos a nuestras casas a compartir nuestro dia a dia. Escuchando a Fito, Nevia, Baglieto, Fandermole, o leyendo a Fontanarrosa, nos falto Neruda pero lo tenemos a Cachilo, viendo un partido de Messi o para los mas viejos de Kempes. No tendremos el parque del retiro pero tenemos el independencia que es mas grande aunque no este tan cuidado tampoco esta rodeado de rejas ni cierra por las noches, tambien tenemos teatros y museos unicos aunque no los visitemos, y el monumento a la bandera que es el barco de marmol mas grande del planeta. por eso te enamoras de rosario

Cameron- wrote 10 years ago:

As a fellow expat here in Rosario, I could not agree more. As a tourist, it's a couple day city. As someone living and staying here, it's family. You stay close. You see familiar people in the streets and at the parks. People help each other out. People treat each other as family. It's human. It's down to earth. It's just Rosario.

Gisela wrote 10 years ago:

I liked very much what you wrote, I always prefer this kind of friendly not-tourist cities as Rosario. Also, I decided to live in Rosario beause of this!

María Gabriela Mediavilla wrote 10 years ago:

Very touching. It is amazing how Stephanie Cariker caught the essence of this city in which I was born and lived for 42 years. Thanks for such a gift.

Annie wrote 10 years ago:

Great article, Stephanie! As a fellow expat that is also living in Rosario, I could not agree more! Rosario is not for tourists but for those who want and are willing to open up to a different culture, meeting new people, and gaining new experiences.

Mark Mercer wrote 10 years ago:

It sounds like a perfect place for people who want to truly experience a new-to-them culture, to live in,rather than to visit and gawk at, then leaving. I wouldn't necessarily recommend where I now live in Uruguay as a tourist destination, either, though as a beach town we are one - but a locals and regional one, not a "destination" on international travelers' maps. Which is why I love it. Like another commenter said upthread, places like this, you become family. Which is exactly what one of our neighbors up the street from us told us the first few months here. Rosario sounds like a wonderful place to live.

Vanessa wrote 10 years ago:

The article is definitely on point. As an expat living in Rosario, I couldn't agree more. I didn't fall in love with Rosario because of it's trendy streets, well- known attractions or landmarks, breathtaking architecture, convencience of language, or it's white sandy beaches, but because of its people. Rosarinos made me feel at home, Rosarinos are proud of where they are from, they are proud of Cordoba street, of the Monumento de la Bandera, and their río Parana. Rosario isn't for tourists, it's home.

Claudia Arce wrote 10 years ago:

I'm reading and I'm crying for emotion. I like this article.

Claudia Arce wrote 10 years ago:

I'm reading and I'm crying for emotion. I like this article.

Nanci Marisa Vitola wrote 10 years ago:

Agree with Stephanie. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that our Monumento a la Bandera is a great landmark. It is the only monument to a flag in the entire world. No other flag in the world has a monument built to honor it. And our Monumento a la Bandera is full of History related to the wars of independence. Regarding the city itself it is the only city in Argentina that has not a foundation date because it developed spontaneously at the banks of the Paraná River at the time of massive immigration from Europe in the 19Th Centrury. Rosario takes its name from its patron saint Virgen del Rosario. This is due to a story that says that an important statue of the Virgin which was destined to another city made a stop here but would never leave the place. It seems like the Virgin would have chosen that small village as her permanent home and up to the present days the statue is kept in the Cathedral. Good luck Stephy.

Stephanie Cariker wrote 10 years ago:

I am not sure if this comment is allowed, as I am the author of this piece, but I wanted to be able to elaborate upon one thing. Rosario has countless claims to fame, we may even have hundreds of landmarks (if you look hard enough) and more reasons to visit than I can even think of. My point to stating that Rosario is not for tourists, is that, unfortunately, the majority of people that know about those landmarks and claims to fame are Argentinean or expats that have come to love Rosario as their own, not the people just stopping through, not the people looking from a superficial perspective, not the tourists.

Emma Wood wrote 10 years ago:

Steph is SO right about Rosario it's scary! I experienced everything she said in this post and can't explain how much Rosario and the people there touched me on my travels. I was expected to stay for 3 days and ended up there for 5 weeks loving everyone I met and everything I did. I will go back and can't wait to see my Rosario family when I do!

Rae Anne Cariker wrote 10 years ago:

A Fairy Tale Love Story. An Experience that not everyone in their lifetime can say they have had the opportunity to Truly Experience

Tomas wrote 10 years ago:

Rosario... heart warming, heart opening, "oversized town disguising itself as a city"... couldn´t agree more...

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