The inocentes in the capital of EurotinAmerica, Buenos Aires

25 Mar

Our exciting tour of key hotspots in Argentina and Chile started as far away from glamorous as one could possibly conceive, with Greg and I spending yet another restless night on the floor of Bogota’s El Dorado airport. It was a trip down Horrible Memory Lane as we pushed together two rows of seats to create an uncomfortable bed, the same rows, incidentally, that we used on our trip from Paraguay back home to Medellín.

After arriving in Bogotá at 8PM, we had about 9 hours to kill before our 5AM flight to Lima en route to Buenos Aires. Much of that time was spent watching a movie on youtube (Blood In, Blood Out, a recommendation from my Chicano boss that is equal parts engaging and eye-rollingly heavy-handed) and the rest was spent surfing the internet, reading and trying to nap a bit before the long day ahead of us.

Eventually, we made it to Lima (after watching another movie detailing the plight of Chicanos in LA, A Better Life, which was more depressing and less eye-rolley) and we boarding our plane to Buenos Aires and landed at Ezeiza airport before we knew it…well, after 9 hours in the air and about 20 hours after we initially left Medellín, but we were so happy* to have finally arrived that I’m willing to forget the slog that got us there.

…but back to Buenos. We stayed in the lovely bohemian barrio of San Telmo, close by both the waterfront and the Centro. And, as is often said about Buenos Aires, the comparisons with Paris were almost immediate. From the architecture of the Centro to the wrought iron balconies of San Telmo, “The Paris of the South” is a fitting description. We enjoyed capuccinos and croissants (medialunas, there) at outdoor cafes in the Centro; we dove into picadas–plates of cheese, meat and olives to “pick” at–and washed them down with crisp glasses of white wine; we split monster bottles of beer in old, wooden bars with dusty bottles lining the shelves and dated public health signs like “Se Prohibe Escupir en el Suelo” (It Is Prohibited to Spit on the Floor); we walked for miles from San Telmo to upscale La Recoleta, where the smell of fresh-cut flowers being sold on the street corners seemed to permeate the entire neighborhood, making it one long, shady, perfumed walkway; we saw Evita’s mausoleum in the stunning Recoleta cemetery, which was filled with extravagant sculptures and houses for the dead (as well as a number of cemetery cats slinking around, searching for mice).

The days were bright and sunny. From the center of the city, you would never guess that Buenos Aires is a port town, but the slight chill in the air that blew through the city was a dead-giveaway; I think you can recognize a brisk ocean breeze anywhere.

If the heat got to be too much, we would slip into a bar and split a cold liter of beer. I was desperately trying to finish a biography of Pablo Neruda to prepare us for our visit to Chile & Valparaiso, and reading about Neruda’s travails lead me to Gabriela Mistral, Latin America’s first Nobel Prize winner, another Chilean poet. The lives of Neruda and Mistral often intersected, starting with his early years in the city of Temuco, where Mistral headed one of the schools. Can you imagine? Two Nobel Laureates, both Chilean, whose paths were crossing decades before they were producing the poetry that would ultimately win them one of the most coveted prizes in literature. Naturally, I was burning to get through Neruda’s biography so that I could also begin and finish a biography on Mistral.

Some afternoons and early evenings we took a turn in San Telmo’s market, filled with second-hand oddities. Clothing, bags and artifacts of days past all seem to find their way into this market. And–like every antique shop–it smelled of time, that general collection of dust, moths and grime that seems to accompany second-hand items.

Also, we bought cutlery! Now you know we’re married. Greg also bought an antique switchblade from Spain that he swears he will use. Is it bad that we are buying a lot of sharp things? What does this say about us, as people?

How different our lives would be had we decided to live in Buenos Aires and not Medellín. We’d be spending more money, sure, but the wine would be better! And the cheeses would taste like different cheeses–some mild, some sharp, some soft. And there would be English speakers–tourists and locals and expats, oh my!

But what Medellín may lack in gastronomy, it more than makes up for in local color, which is something that Buenos lacks. Medellín might remind you of other places, but its culture and its people are distinct and unique. Our time in Buenos Aires was nothing short of magical, absolutely charming (save the dog poop plague of San Telmo), but it’s too “on the nose” when it comes to its similarities to Europe. Where are the natives of Argentina? Aside from the Tango, I wasn’t exposed to enough to recognize anything as distinctly Argentinian, one way or another.

But lack of local color aside, what an astounding city. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous people, delicious food. Our time in Buenos was charmed, but ultimately we had to hitch a ride on a plan the morning of the 18th and make our way down south…all the way down south…

*Also, I was welcomed with the sight of CHELSEA MAKING IT THROUGH TO THE ROUND OF 8, something I was admittedly doubtful of after their first bout with Napoli. I have a tingling feeling that with the departure of AVB they may welcome back that other Portuguese, Mourinho, who has teased reporters with the idea of leaving La Liga to return to the EPL. Can fences be mended between the Russian and The Special One? CAN THEY?!


2 Responses to “The inocentes in the capital of EurotinAmerica, Buenos Aires”

  1. Lea Anthony March 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Really lovely description except for the dog poop plague. What is up with that?

    Yes, buying cutlery is something that interests married folk….did you ever think twice about a fork before this? Stowing you sharp things in your baggage is safe but it they see the switchblade Greg may have some splanin to do.

    It is pouring here Sunday. Dad is trying to make it back to LA fro Baltimore.
    Meanwhile during the pouring rain, I am driving to get a facial. After 10 weeks teaching and riding I must cleanse my face with macrodermabrasion so it is pink and fresh. Imagine a riding Instructor who is dirt or dust phobic.

    Love your pics as always and look forward to seeing you march with the penguins.
    Be safe. Kisses, Mom

  2. Lea Anthony March 26, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    Just heard about the earthquake and possible tsunami in everything safe where you are?
    This is what makes a Mom worry.

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