"The Modern Woman" and The Mate: Yerba Mate and Gender Roles in 1950's Argentine Advertisments

Advertisements are all around us. You can't turn on the television, scroll through social media or flip through a magazine without an inundation of promotional materials from various brands and companies. Therefore, advertisements are a particularly interesting snapshot of society at a certain time. They can tell us how advertisers and companies viewed the world and how they wanted the world to view their products. While advertisements are not representative in themselves of larger societal norms, they reveal valuable themes of how businesses seek to interact with society and can be used to make assumptions about how they promote their products on that basis.

In my exhibit I focus on how advertisements in 1950's Argentina targeted women. The ads I analyze were all placed in various Argentine women's magazines from the period. The product advertised in all of my selected sources is yerba mate, the South American or indigenous stimulant. Therefore, in this exhibit, I will answer the following questions: How did yerba mate advertisers use class, race and gender to advertise yerba mate in Argentine women’s magazines in the 1950’s? How do these representations fit in with the larger themes brought forward by the magazines?

Yerba Mate is native to Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and parts of Brazil (Folch 11). In the 1930’s Argentina overtook Brazil and Paraguay to become the top yerba producer and consumer in the world, which makes Argentinian ads from the 1950’s particularly compelling to look at (Folch 16). Because they are both the top consumer and producer of yerba mate, it makes sense that all the advertisements I analyze are created by Argentine companies and are promoted to Argentinians in Argentine magazines. Yerba mate is also an interesting product because of its social connotations. Historically, yerba mate was consumed across social classes in Argentina, and the way it is prepared and consumed “index wealth, social status, and community identity” (Folch 23). For example, indigenous populations are more likely to use a bombilla (straw) made of bamboo rather than silver (Folch 23). Ross Jamieson asserts in the the late 18th century in Argentina, it was impossible to find a household - rich or poor - without materials for yerba mate (278). However, despite the fact that it was consumed by both genders, mate was associated with domesticity and it was usually women who prepared it in the home (278). This colonial association persists in the advertisements I analyze.

I will highlight yerba mate advertisements from two different Argentine companies in order to argue that yerba mate advertisers hoped to leverage the conception of the “modern Argentinean woman” that many women’s magazine’s promoted, in order to sell their product. These advertisements used race, class and gender to create an idealized modern consumer of yerba mate, who is an unrealistic and unattainable symbol of what a “modern woman” should strive to be.

This exhibit builds off of the idea of the “modern woman” that is present in the analysis of Argentine women’s magazines conducted by Paula Bontempo and Isabella Cosse, along with the historical analysis of advertising in Argentina by Natalia Milanesio. It also builds on Kathleen Parkin’s work on food advertising and gender roles and Rebekah Pite’s chapter on Argentina in the 1950’s. Finally, in order to place my advertisements in a larger scope, I will analyze a few excerpts from various Argentine women’s magazines in the 1950’s to substantiate the claim that the advertisements were part of larger themes present in said popular women’s magazines, such as VosotrasPara Ti and Mucho Gusto.

Overall, this exhibit seeks to shed light on larger issues like race, class, gender roles and social constructs in 1950’s Argentina, through the much smaller lens of yerba mate advertisements.



Emma Glubiak

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