Published: February 28th 2010February 26th 2010
Welcome to the Red Line ...
EVERY CITY has it’s life blood. The system that maintains Buenos Aires’ life blood is its Subte
(from subterráneo, underground or subterranean railway).
Become a corpuscle in BA’s bloodstream for a day! In the busy street look for the coloured medallion above the entrance. Down the steps to the station and notice that it is the same colour as the medallion. Check a wall map and see how each line has its own colour. Pay $1.10 for a ticket that will take you anywhere in the city and use it to push through a turnstyle. Enter a tunnel that is the same colour. Maybe just a stripe along the wall to reassure you, but in the older lines perhaps decorated tiles. When you board your train see that the chart of your line isn’t just provided in its own colour, but carries the name of every street that crosses the line between stations.
This is a system that is simple and functional. It carries thousands of Porteños
(residents of Buenos Aires) to work every day. The network of colour-coded tunnels connects all sections of the inner city with each other and with suburban and long-distance stations. This is one
... and to the Pink House, Casa Rosada. The first coat of pink paint was ox blood, after El Presidente had visited Washington DC.
of the oldest systems in the world - indeed the oldest in the southern hemisphere. It developed mainly between 1913 and 1945, although there are several new lines on the drawing board now.
Portenõs are patient people and this shows on the subte. Nobody rushes, tho in the rush our the people move as one down staircases and along tunnels. It is a loosely connected network of lines and, as in London, the old interchanges were not planned. Thus it is possible to change from the red line to the blue line by walking down stairs to the green line and then along the entire length of a green platform, through a tunnel and down some more stairs.
Not everybody in the carriages is going to work. Some are actually at work. From Peruvian professional pickpockets (yes we definitely found this to be a fact) to school children trying a little juggling, to charismatic performing actors and musicians, to sellers of scissors, notebooks, torches, batteries … Name it and you can probably buy it on the Subte.
Different lines to different places. The yellow line for pretentious upper class Recoleta. The blue line to walk to La
The Salon of the Argentine Wives in the museum section of the Casa Rosada.
Boca, birthplace of tango music and dancing. The red line for the down market home of Carlos Gardel, the tango’s most revered proponent. The red line again for the Microcenter, with flashy shops from the opulent Galérias Pacífico
to an empty Harrods store.
Buenos Aires was built on the backs of migrant labourers. Around the turn of the Twentieth Century they erected the finest civic buildings and avenues wider even than those in Paris. The rich lived in houses, which today can only function as museums. Since then the country has experienced social upheaval, dictatorships, terror, and economic crises. They say the tango was born in the despair of the dockside bordellos. It has undergone a revival during the last fifteen years. It seems to me that the porteños once again need this music of hope. First of three. There are more photos below the comments box.
Travel Notes We avoided hotels and hostels by consulting Craigslist. It has a viable listing of flats and studios available for weekly or monthly rentals. It was much cheaper, and we had a depot to leave our bags when we went on short trips. We enjoyed
making our own breakfasts and using neighbourhood shops, laundromats etc. Cleaning was easy to organise.
A photo in the Salon of the Wives protesting their 'disapeared' husbands and son.
Subte tickets can be bought for 1, 2 or 10 journeys (or longer) and are very cheap.
There are more photos below