Thursday, December 8, 2011


Rosario is the Chicago of Argentina. It is a dynamic city with a huge port, an international grain and beef export operation and a history of mafia crime bosses. The third largest city now, over 1 million people call this home and are proud "Rosarians."  We went on a guided tour and the guide from the Pampas Tour agency was great.  He lived for 20 years in Spain, for 3 years in London and he is an English teacher.  He took us to the park and took this photo of a beautiful flower calendar that is maintained daily by a local school. During the tour he told us of all the history of this great city.  The mafia boss was actually acquainted with Al Capone. Over 50% of the population are of Italian ancestery. The national flag was designed here and they are very proud of their heritage.  There is some monumental architecture to commorate their various battles and a gigantic marble "ship of state" representing the ongoing movement of the nation.  Actually the architecture reminded us of Berlin in the 1930's and there are a number of Germans here.  The largest brewery in the country was founded by German immigrants here.
Still, there was more than a little sadness in the history and the present time is full of uncertainty.  He showed us the prison where thousands of liberals were tortured, murdered and "disappeared" during the bad years of the dictatorship in the 1970's.  He told us that the current mayor is a socialist and the city council is far far left of center.  We saw some demonstrators and when we asked, what do they want?  He said they say their welfare benefits are not big enough and they want the government to distribute cash so they can buy Christmas presents for their children.  He was very concerned for his country, the economy, the joblessness and the uncertain future.
I asked him if he thought the economy was getting better.  No he said, there is over 10% unemployment, some say as high as 20% and inflation is growing very fast, over 20% per year.  One good measurement is tourism.  He said less than 5% of the tourists here are from the US, most are from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Europe.  His tour was over 2 1/2 hours long and he had a driver who spoke German and French.  The guide himself spoke Italian, Spanish, English and Catalan.  They were both well educated men, teachers and professional tourguides.  The total cost of the tour was 250 pesos, that is about $65 and after you subtract their gas for all that driving, I calculate that each of them earned about $10 per hour.
He told us his son has gone to Spain for additional education, but there are no jobs for him either here in Argentina or in Spain.
We are living in difficult times, everything is so uncertain.  He seemed friendly but frightened.  And the recent reelection of Christina Fernandez de Kirchner as President does not give him any more confidence. 
  The city was pretty clean, nice buildings in the main areas, a great riverfront with sandy beaches and lots of people swimming and boating.  Our hotel, the Plaza Real, was excellent and the food there was terrific and a bargain.  Lomo de bife was only 57 pesos, that is tenderloin for $14 (and they served two steaks on the plate). Of course he had to enjoy a bottle of Salentein Malbec, 98 pesos, rich and memorable wine.  It took us four hours to travel by bus from Buenos Aires to Rosario, the bus ride cost $15 each. A very nice place to visit, but there are so many time cities to visit here, we just keep coming back. 

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