Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Buenos Aires; The Paris of South America (apparently)

A bit tired of being nomadic, sharing lounges, only unpacking the top 1/3 of our rucksacks etc we rented a 1 bed apartment for a week.  It meant we could make our own meals, drink coffee in our pants (not sure the office opposite appreciated this), and use a wardrobe to hang our scruffy rags up. 

We stayed in Palermo, the current des-res, and while the area had plenty of plus points (very safe, clean, big parks, cafés blah blah) it's been gentrified to the point of being boring. BA has a huge amount of European influence in its culture and gene pool so doesn't feel obviously Latam anyway, but with suburbs called Soho & Hollywood, Palermo has taken it's need to emulate other places a bit far and forgotten all the good stuff they started out with.

We did enjoy it's parks - swathes of roller-bladders, joggers and dog walkers (with up to 15 dogs each, apparently these guys are veterinary trained and highly paid) navigating the free exercise classes which attracted all walks of life to salsa/samba/zumba their weekends away. Apparently at night it's the place to pick up a transvestite hooker too but we didn't see any evidence of that (and we did look). 

As it was a bank holiday weekend (when isn't it in this continent?) there was a free concert by Violetta - a Disney all-singing-all-dancing-puberty-denying character played by a 17yr old Argentinian. Think Hannah Montana with dark hair.  Loved by tweens, the park was swarmed with 30,000+ screaming, tutu-wearing, glittery girls and their fatigued parents. Poor bastards. We saw them at 11am and she wasn't due on until 16.00. Ears must have bled. 

We spent that day on a graffitti tour instead- walking around the less obviously attractive barrios  learning about graffiti as a means off political protest, social optimism and commissioned character for a buildings facade.  Some impressive works but I can't help but be irritated by grown men using 'rad' pseudonyms like Stenzz (real name Stephen) and Brixx. 

Onto the Perons. It was harder to find an anti-Peron stance in BA than we expected. The Evita museum is laughably partisan in its approach to saintly Eva (although still interesting), people have Eva postcards in their shops, homes and cars on a parr with the image of the Virgin Mary, her tombstone and the balconies of the pink palace are the most photographed in the city. Not much about Argentinas famous son though - Che Guevara is noticeably absent.  

The conspiracy theories surrounding Eva Peron - the alleged lobotomy months before her death, the posthumous abuse, the nazi sympathies- all fascinating but not fully understandable from our sources. Those sources being a fella we met in a park, the pro-Eva museum, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Fully intend to find some more reliable reading matter and understand properly, as it is, at least it's now Eva and not Madonna I picture when talking about the era. 

As bland as Palermo is, the barrios of San Telmo and Boca are very much alive with everything we imagined BA to be like. Beautiful, colourful, ramshackle but once grand buildings, cafe bars full of old men bickering and drinking tiny cups of coffee, Markets full of local art and antiques (with each economic crisis people sell their wares on Calle Defensa resulting in a market 6 blocks long full of old furs,furniture and jewellery), and tango.   

There are hundreds of tango shows where professional dancers maintain sour faces and flick their legs over their partners shoulder but we forewent those for a visit to a local plaza where real people dance each Sunday night away.  Old men are much sought after (the male lead is critical to a good tango we're told and the older the men, the more experience they have) so the mix of partners is varied to say the least. Some couples have their Sunday best on, other in jeans and dance shoes - it doesn't matter. All ages and classes dance together in a fairy-lit plaza. Very romantic. 

After 10 days in BA in total (we moved to San Telmo for the last 3) we're taking our over-indulged bodies 20 hours north to the Tri-border, waterfall rich, town of Puerto Iguazu. Really hoping it's time to ditch the warm clothes soon.... 

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