The life of a Gaúcho
Culture and tradition have always been very present within me. I love being from South Brazil, Latin America, and being both a gaúcho (cowboy) and South American. Wherever I go, I always carry my roots with me. To anywhere in the world, even just in the corner of my house, the mate, my friend and companion, accompanies me. But it wasn’t always this way.
It took me until the age of 17, of my own free will, to begin the practice of drinking mate. For me, there was no tradition of drinking it in my family, with the exception of the lady who helped raise me, and was like a second mother; she would drink mate from the break of dawn until the sun had already long disappeared beyond the horizon. I realized that it would be essential for me, still a little boy at that time, that the least a gaúcho should have in his life was the ritual of drinking mate.
The inspiration and mediation of Yerba Mate
Chimarrão, or Mate, in capital letters on purpose, is much more than a simple habit. Appreciated alone, or amongst friends and people we love, this rich tradition is enjoyed daily by millions of people of the Mercosul (South American market), making us even more hermanos sharing this ancestral, indigenous, local and healthy culture. The habit of passing the gourd hand in hand, divides the joys, anguishes, ideas, emotions and feelings. It becomes something that brings people together while also serving as a means of escape and a source of inspiration and meditation when practiced with oneself.
The lessons of Mate are simple, but not too simple. On the first big trip overseas that I took with the strap of a Mate backpack and a close friend, I took a beating of those very thin ground herbs, or when the water wasnt hot enough, or when the bombilla (filtered straw) cloged or even when we shed the gourd. All of this was quickly forgotten when the mate eventually gave that rich and high rumbling, announcing that everything had settled, and from then on it was only joy! These details are common and normal to any beginner drinker of Mate and it will all disappear with time and expertise in preparing the beautiful bitterness. But believe me, you will go thru all those situations.
The art of receiving visitors and the art of preparing Mate
It is curious how each person has their own style of drinking Mate. From the cuia (gourd), to the type of mountain, to the bombilla they use and even the temperature of the water. These subtleties are so decisive and personal that it makes impossible for one Mate to be equal to any other. As it is said here where I’m from, “In the house of a good gaúcho, there is always new yerba and water ready to receive visitors.” The art of receiving guests is directly linked to the art of serving a good Mate; for me, it is something that goes hand in hand.
The power of a good Mate
Just like everything else in life, gourds eventually has to be putted aside. There comes a time when you feel that the time has come to let go of something sacred that has accompanied you for years. It´s time to go in search after the next Holly Gourd that will partner with you for the foreseeable future. It is not easy, because the relationship has become very intimate between you and your porongo (original and raw form of the gourd). Only you two know how important you have been to one another. It’s all a part of life; so keep on moving!
We never forget a good Mate. We know, just by looking, before we even take it, whether the mate is good or not. Being a native of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the last state to the south of Brazil, we still have the attachment of the traditional cuia used in the gaúcho chimarrão. When we drink from it, we experience the sensation that wherever we go, we are carrying the culture and tradition of our state in the palm of our hand. It’s almost like the recognition of identity when we find some of our South American countrymen somewhere on the planet with a gourd in hand and a thermos under arm. Rain or shine, hot or cold, it doesn’t matter. Who drinks chimarrão maintains the habit and tradition of drinking at least one or two Mate throughout the day. If the circle of those you share it with is wide, or if the conversation is free-flowing, soon another kettle of water will be heated up, a new Mate is prepared. This is the power of Mate, this is is the spirit that embodies all those who decide to drink and share it.
The kettle calls me
Well, I could spend a week talking about and idolizing this habit and culture that is so dear to me, but it is time to turn on the fire of the stove. The kettle calls for me, telling me it’s time. The Mate is ready and waiting for me. At this moment, I am in the process of inaugurating a new gourd. She already found her fit in my hand, her space in my life. We intend to travel a lot together and continue to serve a rich and bitter Mate to my wife and friends who often ask:
“Make a Mate, Nandão!”
I hope you liked my story _/\_