Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 17

Day 17  January 20, 2008


     The city of Buenos Aires is not Paris, although everyone says it is the Paris of South America, the most beautiful city in the Southern Hemisphere, that walking down the broad boulevards here is like the Champs Elysee.  But for us on this first days wandering and touring BA the city is wonderful, a feast for the spirit in its color and diversity, the music (mostly tango but some guitar and some chamber music) that flows around the corner from parks, green spaces, pedestrian streets, bars, retail stores, homes.  The crush of happy people, crowding in flea markets, craft stalls overflowing with hand made necklaces, purses, dresses, paintings, carved wood pieces, food stalls, with empanadas, sweets, drinks, mate cups and maps.  The mansions are really mansions, this nation had great wealth about 100 years ago and the rich folks tried to replicate the best of Europe in their houses, public buildings and universities.  Massive sculptures fill the gardens, art museums, churches are gorgeous.  We went to their White House, called the Casa Rosada, as it is pink (there were two political parties one using red and the other white for their colors.  When they compromised they painted the President's house pink. It actually is sort of rose and looks very nice.

     We took a three hour guided tour with five other people.  The guide spoke English well and we got off the minivan at least 6 times to walk around the various neighborhoods.  Thousands of peoples in every street from the Recolta and Puerto Maduro expensive neighborhoods, to the San Telmo and La Boca where the poor people live.  Even in the shanty town built alongside the old port and under the freeway, where the demonstrators stood with placards and banners and the two dozen police in riot gear stood opposite them as they argued over the recent firings of 20% of the employees of the local Casino.  Tango dancers posing for photos in the streets of La Boca and tango dancers dancing for fun in the streets, simply dancing for joy and not as a way of earning a living or asking for tips.

     La Boca is the most colorful neighborhood.  It is at the south side of the city, along the old port.  The poor Italian immigrants who did not go north to Ellis Island in NYC often wound up here.  The living conditions were worse here than in NY and they struggled to survive.  Now there is a great pride in being from this area.  The have their own football team and a stadium that will seat 70,000 screaming fans.  In one of the odd factoids of this trip, the top of the stadium is covered with Coca Cola signs, the ubiquitous one we have all seen a million times.  But for the first time in my life, it is not red and white, it is black and white.  Can you imagine?  And the best part is the reason why.  Coke agreed to be a major advertiser of the team but the archrivals of the Boca team is from across town and their colors are red and white.  The people from Boca would not allow any red in their stadium.  Their colors are blue and yellow, from the Swedish flag, and everything in the town is painted those bright and cheerful colors.  The red was banned and Coke complied.

     We walked and walked, took a hundred photos, even went to the cemetery where Evita is buried and took a photo of her tomb which is covered with fresh flowers and surrounded by a hundred Argentines who love her and mourn here today 54 years after her death from cancer.  They revere her as most Brits to Princess Diana.  After a full and exhausting day, we had a nice Italian dinner at 10:30 pm.  Then we came back to the hotel and watched the NFL playoff games in Spanish on ESPN.  These are the first American football games we have seen on the trip.  Since NY Giants didn't finally win until 1:30 am here, we fell asleep watching the game.  A day of 85 degrees, sunshine, tango and Eva Peron's tomb, friendly people and football.

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