After wine tasting in Mendoza we slept our way across Argentina to Buenos Aires. They have great buses here which have seats that fold down into beds. You get on in the evening. The hostess serves you dinner with wine and champagne. You play with your personal entertainment system until you’re sleepy, and then lay down and sleep across the country. When you awake they serve you breakfast and the bus pulls into the station to drop you off. Did we mention that there are no security lines and you can take as much luggage as you want?
We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for 11 days and explored the city when we weren’t working on our taxes. We went to a soccer game, took advantage of the free bike program, attended a Tango show, visited museums, explored parks, checked out the street fairs, and enjoyed all the nearby cafes.
In Buenos Aires’ hey day (1880 through 1930) there was plenty of money and the residents did their best to make the place look like Paris. Many of the extravagant buildings, grand boulevards, parks, monuments, and transit systems they built during this era are still in place.
Argentines and Futbol
Passion, Energy and Noise!
Argentinians are passionate about soccer! In fact they are also noisy and sometimes violent. We learned that in Buenos Aires at least there is a rule that the visiting team’s fans are NOT ALLOWED to attend games, because there is too much emotion involved. People have been killed in the past. But the home team fans provide ample noise and excitement no matter what. We attended a game in a stadium that is home to the “River Plate” team. As we walked in, we went through 4 security checks including one pat down, and some serious question about Char’s chap-stick. The game was incredibly noisy and even though it poured rain, people stood up cheering and singing in the downpour. The home team won!
A 6 second video of the soccer game is here.
Buenos Aires during Carnival!
More Passion, Energy and Noise!
We were in Buenos Aires during Carnival. Initially this fact was unknown to us! One night we were walking to dinner and a group of people dressed in sequined costumes were in a nearby street banging on drums, singing songs and dancing. The next day Dan heard a lot of noise and said that it seemed to be heading our way. So we went outside and once again there were groups of people, dressed in different costumes, like two opposing teams, dancing, drumming, singing, playing loud instruments and having a great time, including all age groups! Maybe we need more of this type of neighborhood celebration in Cupertino! A 40 second video is here.
Interesting Items in History:
o The conquest of the “desert”. During the 1870’s Argentina undertook a campaign to kill all of the indigenous peoples. Interestingly, the economy took off at the end of this dreadful era, largely based on the export of cattle products.
o Eva Perón’s body. We learned about Eva Perón, and how she had become a national hero, particularly among the poor. She’d been born an illegitimate child, and grew up poor. When she became first lady she used her position to fight for women’s suffrage and the rights of the poor. When cancer killed her quite quickly at the age of 33 the country was shaken. (4 minute video here) Her embalmed body was hidden in various places in various countries for 20 years, and possibly abused, before being buried again in a special deep fortified grave in Buenos Aires. A more complete description is here. The reason for this is that her body became a rallying point for the political left, and the right wanted it to vanish to prevent the left from gaining momentum. The book, Santa Eva by Tomas Eloy Martinez, is said to give a good description of this history. (We have only found it in Spanish on Amazon).
o Argentina’s dirty war, and the children of the disappeared. During the 1970’s Argentina was ruled by a military government. This government caused the “disappearance” of about 30,000 people who were suspected of being subversives. Many of those who “disappeared” had children who are now in their 30’s and are asking why the perpetrators cannot be brought to justice. This is more fully described here.
o The 1982 Falkland war was a turning point in Argentine politics. The Argentine people were protesting the military rule and the economy was in shambles. The Junta leader, Leopoldo Galtieri, thought that taking the Falklands from the British would rally the people. He underestimated the response from the British and his hopes were also dashed when the U.S did not support him. After 72 days the British had expelled the Argentines. The Argentine people saw this as a national disgrace and promptly replaced the military government with a democratically elected one.
o Exchange rates and inflation are crazy! Argentina’s inflation is at 25 to 35% per year. The people here change their pesos to US dollars on the illegal “blue market” and save the dollars as a way to retain wealth despite inflation. For tourists, the blue market gives you close to 40% more pesos per dollar, IF you have U.S. greenbacks. We did not know this! Bring U.S currency to Arengina when you travel here! Think about the effect of all those dollars in the mattresses of Argentinians has on the US money supply.
o Argentina offers free college tuition to everyone. Rather than take an admission test, students simply go to college. If they fail after the first year that’s the end, but as long as they can maintain passing grades they can continue on. The person who told us about this benefit said that it’s an example of how “there is equal opportunity for all” in Argentina. At the same time, it seems that the private schools are substantially better than the public ones, so money is very influential on education quality..
o Argentina offers free medical care. We’ve been told that people who can afford private care go to private doctors because they are more accessible and better. We were able to purchase common medications, which require a prescription in the U.S., directly from a pharmacy, and for only slightly more than we normally spend on co-pays.
o Argentinians cannot purchase certain products because they are not available. There is a law that tries to protect Argentine businesses by restricting imports. A good example is hiking boots. People can’t buy hiking boots in Argentina because they are in the shoe category. Argentina makes shoes. So it is illegal to import them. The fact that Argentina does not make hiking boots does not matter.
Some interesting things we’ve learned about Argentine People:
In general, the Argentine people…
o Live by what we consider outrageous hours. Stores are closed from about 2:00 to about 6:00 PM. Restaurants don’t open until 8:30 or 9:00 PM. We’ve been warned to not go to a night club until at least 1:00 AM. When Dan goes out running at 7:00 AM he frequently encounters young people just leaving the bars and heading home.
o Kiss a lot. When two people meet they do a mutual kiss on the cheek. It might be two high school boys, two business men, or a male and female who work together.
o Talk about tango, and consider tango to be a key component of the National culture, but no one actually tangos or goes to a tango show.
o Brag. One example is Avenue July 19 which is an extraordinarily wide avenue in Buenos Aires. Many Argentines have told us it’s the widest in the world, but the funny thing is that it’s not the widest avenue in the world. The three National heroes are the Queen of Holland, Lionel Messi (the soccer star), and the pope. Everyone like to brag about how they have a connection with the Pope in particular. For example we met a woman who said her Aunt had taught Chemistry to the Pope.
o Are of Italian ancestry (50%).
o Are passionate about life in general but especially about soccer.
More of our favorite photos
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