Can I share a little more of my visit to Buenos Aires with you? Hope this post doesn't go on too long, and just glad that my pictures are actually appearing for the moment. Let's see how long that lasts, shall we?
Since it is Argentina, it IS Tango. A little bit everywhere. These two were dancing in front of the Parliament building. A little like everywhere else, where you will find Michael Jackson impersonators moonwalking for spare change, in Argentina, it is someone who will tango. Not being from there, it is sometimes hard to take it seriously, especially if you are not maybe SO comfortable with your own sexuality, or deep searching eye contact or just general PDA's (public displays of "affection").
Or if you think that Tango is mostly trotted out for tourists and certain members of the public as a way to make a quick buck off of some scantily clad women. (Such an original idea!) But when you are in Argentina, you have to take it more seriously, and a little bit to heart. It is quite a part of the culture and very much a part of the Argentine self-image of being passionate, expressive people with more than a few drops of volatile Italian blood. Since the Paradis' were visiting Buenos Aires on business, we were treated by our hosts to quite an excellent (but not cheap) Tango show: Rojo Tango at the Faena Hotel and Universe. Which was to be found in an exceedingly glam new nightclub in the Porto Madera neighborhood. Here's what your prospective fellow travelers have to say about it on Trip Advisor. I agree. You are not going there for the meal.
Let's also not forget that Argentina is a country that has gone through periods of dramatic well-being for some, and for very many, not so much! And not so much! Again, very recently. It's not surprising that they have a dance that expresses, in the metaphor of courtship, the intense struggle of daily existence and the endless confrontation of crushed hope and expectations. On the other hand, there is joy, and relief, in dance.
If what you know about Argentina is mostly from Evita, make sure to get a bit of a guided tour if you go there. (Or read up before hand!) The guides we had were open, funny and irreverent. The history and current realities of the place may yet surprise you. And for me, it was hard not to consider, how quickly America (the United States of....because Argentina is also America, you'll quickly be reminded) could arrive at a similar kind of edgy disappointment if we continue to allow our own democracy to become subsumed in reckless greed and military-industrial strong arming at the expense of too many .
Some things I did not know about Argentina: it's population was once 40% black. A slave population that was "managed" by putting them on the front lines of every war in the nation's history. It is now not remotely evident that there were actually EVER any black people in Argentina.
The country's largest landowner is the Benetton family. Yes that family. Now you know why they don't need/you don't see so many shops any more! The others with major land holdings you might recognize are Ted Turner, George Soros and Sly Stallone.
The only Harrods outside of London was once in Buenos Aires. The building remains, with it's 80's style signage. When Mr. Al Fayed took over the company, the Argentine government of the time, declined to renew Harrod's trading license in Argentina.
The university system is free to anyone in the world who qualifies and has the appropriate papers to enter the country.
You will not see many Starbucks (any!?) in Argentina. The bad news or the good news is that most global chains that you have seen in other big cities have apparently not recently felt that Argentina was a good economy to invest in. (Land yes, coffee shops no? Hmmmmmm) Accordingly there is a sepia-tinted quality about Buenos Aires pervading it's food, it's neighborhoods and it's fashion, that is charming. And a poncho and boots will never be wrong there.
I have never seen SOOOOO MANY BOOKSTORES!!!!! (I would go back just to take pictures of bookstores and learn Spanish so I could read them.)
There are stray cats and dogs-on-leashes everywhere. The dogs are not picked-up after. This can be traumatizing. Especially next to the zoo.
If you go to Argentina and you like dulce de leche. You will be very very happy. And you will have to eat Alfajores. (Eat the super-fresh ones from a good bakery - get your calories' worth of flavor! The packaged chain "coffee shop" ones are ... packaged - from a coffee shop! ) Although a friend recommends Vauquitas (at Kiosks - also alfajores - don't ask for Vaquitas they won't know what you're asking for!)
p.s. It is easy and cheap to jump in a Radio Taxi (don't take the other kind). Since they're so cheap, you can tip them well. They're like old-school NYC cab drivers - if you can speak Spanish with them, I'm sure it would be interesting. I decided they're all old soccer players and musicians trying to eke out a living on taxi driving and dreams.
Quizas? It means "maybe" in Spanish - in my mangled idea of that language, quite literally, "Who knows?"
When I was a very very small child in a cold, colorless place, a friend of my Mom's came to visit us. She put a two Franc coin into my hand and five Francs into my sister's, then she went away again. I knew her mostly in my life as someone who WENT PLACES. And came back from beautiful adventures with stories to tell. I would wake up in the mornings of those visits with her gazing gently down on me.
When I grew up, I married this guy. And told him I wanted to go places with him. (Not those kind of "PLACES", but P-L-A-C-E-S, I meant.)
"Oh, I'm not so sure." he said. "Too many foreigners!!!!!".
But that was a long time ago. And meanwhile, it seems, to love someone is to change, and be changed.
Each one a little.
Now that guy is happy to stand where others have stood, and in their shoes even.
To see the things that they have seen.
To embrace a life that's shifted coloration. And adopts a different tempo.
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