Buenos Aires, Argentina II
Arriving at around 2:30pm or so, I am made aware of the size of this place, by just the skyline alone. It is quite obviously huge
And so my first day here amounted to the following:
South america is a great place to travel on a budget. Lots to see and do, while relying on the kindness of strangers (and various other sponsors).
And so my first day here amounted to the following:
- Roof over my head, €10 (breakfast and a tour the next day included)
- Dinner, free (very basic but all that is required - pasta some kind of red stuff and cheese, may feed a small cat).
- Entertainment €8 for the best Tango your ever likely to see in this earth.
I was invited out to see a Milonga (Uruguayan dance night) on Peru 561, an underground hotspot for Tango in Buenos Aires up the street from my hostel, even if it is upstairs...
The troupe on the stage had an ensemble that consisted of a Viola, Double Bass, four violins, three melodians, and a piano. Muy Fuerte! Added to that from time to time the baritone voice of the organiser master of ceremonies as he delivered (boomed out in baritone) an enjoyable show of Tango schmooz. Tango is to Buenos Aires, as Blues is to Mississippi. It is the music of the Barrios, the multi-cultural neighbourhoods that were collectives of families from France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Germany, Ireland etc. all sharing the same urban courtyards, in this, the capital of the new hispanic and most European of South American cities, Buenos Aires.
With not a foot wrong; complex sensual intimate movements, executed with technical and well practiced expertise, this young couple demonstrated the national, or more specifically Portegno dance the bodily expression of Tango music, with all of the intended grace that behoves this analogy of tragic love and passion.
Tender, brutal, desirous, convoluted intricate, delicate etc. etc. I have seldom seen anything more moving as entertaiment (some water welled, I admit). They were just one couple among a group of younger enthusiasts partially responsible for the current newer revival of the Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires, I learned as I spoke to the organisers and owners of the club afterward. It is obviously a great way for people to get together just like the auld ceili at home.... It is great to see that the best traditions are continued where possible by the next generation, at home and abroad, we are all truly one people.
To show a movie would be to simply skip the foreplay. It has to be seen first-hand, and I urge anyone to travel here solely to see it as it should be seen, in the flesh.
This blog should really be called the ladies of South America, (that's a joke, with a grain of truth, albeit lame). As I seem to be fortunately graced with the company of the fairer sex, and am blessed among them. Last night I was treated to a number of glasses of wine by my entertainment hosts, Ana & Ana from Brasil, and their friend who I met through couch surfing, Clarisa is from Buenos Aires, who works in the bank, and is now rekindling her old love for art and painting by taking evening classes - good on you Clarisa, keep it up, follow that dream I suppose... :)
Clarisa left early as she had an early start. I was educated let us say, by the two Anas who helped me to understand more about the idea of "hard work", and how that term is much maligned in Brasil, a country with a massive population, and a gaping chasm between the very rich and the very poor, though I understand that the current government, the Labour Party, has done much to bring the majority of citizens out of abject poverty and starvation, to a better level of just - poverty.
Such soundbite drivel ("arbeit macht frei") is touted by the rich minorities as the phrase that they allege holds the key to elitist financial success. I am reliably informed that the media is owned by 4 or 5 families in Brasil. Thats the media that goes out to 200 million people. That's a fair slice of power in the portfolio of any regime. We had been discussing the nature of work, and how important it is to at least try to enjoy what you are doing in life. Then we exchanged ideas on how the rich become rich, and I, having said that intelligence is not a pre-requisite, made the mistake of saying that it is about hard work.
Ana X 2 went on to illuminate my thoughts further by explaining that those that sell soft drinks and wash windscreens at traffic lights in the large cities of Sao Paolo in the scorching sun, for 14 hours a day; Rio de Janiero and other such sprawling mega cities, are also working hard, but will never likely be as well off as Donald Trump. And it is a valid point, though I was really just trying to say that if you don't give then you dont get... But what I heard was extremely valuable. From my trips to the third world of my earlier days, I have long forgotten the impact of the sight of beggars and homeless people in the street. Brasil is next however, and if those whom I have met so far from Brasil are anything to go by, a lovely warm kind generous and loving race of people await me. I cannot get over how nice and approachable they are....
And so I am a little more enlightened, as I prepare during my stay in Buenos Aires for the other simply massive country of Brasil. European and eastern / indiginous religiosity abounds here in the artwork, and I have been chanting in my room, as the universe is exhaled through my lungs, I see this city and the people I have met as magnificent universes in their own rights.
The bus just happened to be waiting there as we walked casually along the street this morning, and Nicholas, the hard working fewllow that he is, talking in two or three languages to tourist five days a week, ushered us into the coach to take us to La Boca.
La Boca is the original settlement area of Buenos Aires around the old dock port area of the city today. Originally a marsh, the neighbourhood was built up with essentially waste materials, or leftovers from the materials trade, corrugated sheets, old half cans of paint, etc etc etc. It makes for an interesting mix of shanty like shacks cheek by jowl with some other more permanent elegant colonial structures.
We walked the caminito and the graffitti got better and better. This artwork, most likely publicly commissioned, represents the heroines of the Plaza de Mayo Human Rights organisation, that is pushing for the investigation into the disappearance and murder of over 30,000 people during the reign of the dictatorial miltitary junta that seized power in Argentina in the 70s, or so I believe. What is important here is that the hed head kerchief is the nationally recognised symbol of the grannies, and mothers who are searching for answers as to their murdered children and abducted grand-children who had it seems disappeared as foster children into the controlled society run by the junta and their families. These children grew up not realising what had happened, and it is emerging only now in the media as to the whereabouts of these people and their real identities.
The next few pics speak for themselves in terms of the talent that exists here....
I particularly like these next two.
The jewel in the crown of this part of Buenos Aires is the Boca Juniors Stadium.
The reason it's called La Bombonera, is because it's like a chocolate box, or a box of sweets, the sides are steep, and so it's tall, and looking down on it the corners rounded, like something that should be tied up with a bow and given to your sweetest sweetheart. It's a tidy well designed, and self-contained package of soccer fanaticism mayhem on select nights throughout the season. It has been the site of many battles between Boca Jnrs and River Plate, and other rivals, and is painted in the distinctive blue and yellow, for many reasons, rumored far beyond Argentine shores, with Clare men making all kinds of spurious claims about Irish priests helping out.... Codswallop!
Here it is from the horse's mouth. (The horse's name is Nicholas). Boca Juniors once played in black and white stripes. And so did another club. They met one night, playing in their respective away strips, and raising the stakes, the stakeholders threw in the club colors claim for the winners of the match, the losers conceding to select another home outfit. And though our guide is a fan, he did manage to admit through an almost closed mouth (boca) that Boca lost the game that night.
Now not being able to agree which colors to select going forward, the club officials left it to the club chairman to decide, and in his wisdom, he looked to his day job as the port bridge control operator, for his inspiration. He said, "The next ship that passes through these gates will be the carrier of the new team colors". And as Buenos Aires is an international port, many ships of many nationalities thread that needle everyday. And the next one that day, happened to be a Swedish Freighter.
Boca Jnrs V Rio Plate = The mouth of the river, versus the river. It happens.
The city is a living memory, quite obviously, of the customs and habits of its former citizens. Here is a typical courtyard from an old Barrio which would have been shared by may families. It was in places like this, and less fortunate neighbourhoods and ghettos that the Tango was born.
These days of course the sea-front gentrification has taken hold, with building projects being commissioned, managed and transacted in US$, which ensures a stringent policy of exclusion to those who could never afford to live in such luxury, or locations. It is impressive however and stands on land reclaimed by the Porteños, between the old port neighbourhoods and the concentric lines of canals before the actual seafront, and shore of the river mouth, which is the widest in the world.
Canal walks are used for boating and recreation, the canals, and various other minor rivers bound the nature reserve that forms a natural barrier to the ocean winds and waves to the east of the City.
Now I'm as comfortable with my sexuality as the next red blooded male...
"I do yes" he interrupted. And as cool as a breeze ha adds ,"Well a boyfriend actually".
However I was a bit shaken, stirred a little, when I got back to my hostel in the evening to resume my check-in for a second night, and was greeted by the good-looking lad at the other side of the desk. You kniow the type, he might travel to Ireland some day, and steal whatever young wan I'd managed to bag, right out from under my nose. And she wouldn't care at all' the way he looks. Well kept, girls, well kept.
So his colleague says to me, "Good afternoon sir, are you leaving us tomorrow?" to which I replied "I am". "And will you return from Brasil to see us on your way back to the airport?" he asked. "Not if I find love in Brasil sir," I politely quipped. "Well ask him, he found it there too" he nodded to he that shone with the radiance of an Adonis. So I looked at him and says "Ah that's nice, you have a girlfriend from Brasil, have you?. My friend got married to a girl from Br....".
"I do yes" he interrupted. And as cool as a breeze ha adds ,"Well a boyfriend actually".
Well he's no threat to me so, I thought feeling somewhat relieved. Work that one out. What a pathetic homophobe I am (I hear the choir sing). No wonder I left Ireland after the last referendum result. (Just joking). Argentina is a nation that adopted an inclusive and openly sexually egalitarian society with the introduction of a law legalising same sex marriage in 2010. And isn't it nice that everyone gets to be happy if they want to?
My last night in Buenos Aires was spent in the company of Grisela Di Gregorio, a porteño of Italian descent, an erstwhile rights activist, now working as a counsellor, and keen to improve her already excellent English. I was given a grinding in proper use of the tenses in Spanish, I possibly bit off a bit more than I could chew at this stage in my learning of the Castellan tongue. I had some typical Porteño grub, anchovies with toast, and three spicy fried eggs and mushrooms with radishes and onions washed down with a local stout, a little weaker than Guinness, sweeter and without the head. We went onwards and had another drink in a bar in Palermo called Negrito (Bold). Grisela informed me of her knowledge of South American involvement with the United States, it´s foreign policy and how embroiled in the affairs of the "independent" states of South America the U.S. really seems to be, with it´s now possibly defunct "Operation Condor" galvanised throughout the southern continent by the respective U.S. embassies, keen to maintain their democratic grip on resources of their latin neighbours.
Of interest to me was her regard for the south American presidents who are famed for their resistance to the golden handshakes of "globalisation", such as Hugo Chavez, the UNASUR project, and the discussion we had on Christina Kirchner´s economic policy. Grisela outlined to me how the National Argentine currency, does not have the confidence of it´s people historically, as a result of the continuous boom bust cycles that seem to reliably clear out the bank accounts of the working electorate, thereby instilling an almost feral distrust of the Peso. Now however, confidence seems to be picking up a little by comparision, as Kirchner, though defiantly opposing the import of quality luxury goods such as, cars, mobile phones etc. the import of foreign currency, and the export of national tender, seems to have stabilised the economy somewhat, and brought about the beginning of what might just be a long term sustainable economy. Dollars and Euros however can be bought on the street for good prices, though moreso in neighbouring Brasil it seems.
Grisela, well informed and thoughtful in her reflection, did highlight to me her fears about the upcoming national election, and who may replace the incumbent "Christina" as she is fondly known here in Argentina. Watching Mrs. Kirchner on the television in an epicurean Italian pasta store in Patagonia, I can see how she is mercurial, magnetic, sassy, and extremely capable. She may be one of the last great politicians, and a real patriot. Discuss.
These two kept the ball in the air for the five minutes I ate my lunch.
Now, It's off to Iguasu Falls for a few days, and the Curitiba to see my old college buddy from Clontarf, Duncan Crowley, for a Cork V Clare Puc Fada competition on the beach of Ilha Do Mel.
Can't do better than that now can ya?
The only drawback is the 20 hours I'll spend here.