Stunning steel flower, even if it wasn't functioning when we were there.
I woke naturally at 7:15 after about nine hours sleep. Perfect!
Breakfast was like in Italy, except the white rolls were replaced by white “croissants”, which were not flaky, only crescent-shaped. The ham and salami were the same.
This morning a bus tour showed us the highlights of BA, as they call Buenos Aires here. Because it was Sunday, the traffic was very light, and Martin said we could see more things. Don’t know what the additions were. After a bit of a drive, and much frustration trying to take pictures of buildings in narrow streets from the bus window against the sun, we stopped at a marvelous artwork. An architect, Eduardo Catalano
, raised $3 million to fund a huge, “functioning”, polished steel flower
. With sensors, the petals move in response to humidity and light, like a real flower. Unfortunately the mechanisms were being repaired, so we didn’t see any movement, and there was a fence around it. In fact, there are wire mesh fences along many streets in preparation for a car race next week.
We drove on the streets of Palermo
, a richer district, bordered by a huge public park, Palermo Wood, where families were strolling. Nearby was La Recoleta Cemetery
, an early cemetery in BA, now full of expensive mausoleums, so close together some share walls. The fees for upkeep are very expensive, and if a family stops paying, no more maintenance is done except to keep it from collapsing. Martin asked one woman what she paid; the answer was 1000 pesos for two months ($200!). The styles range from classic marble to modern straight-angled granite. A leisurely stroll through the many aisles brought us to the mausoleum of Eva Peron
, named for her Duarte family. An arrangement of fresh flowers put there by the country’s largest union. (Reminds me of the constant fresh flowers by Jane Austen’s plaque from the Jane Austen Society in Winchester Cathedral.) We also stopped at the huge obelisk marking the grave of President Sarmiento
, one of many controversial presidents. For example, he oversaw the slaughter of thousands of Indians in Patagonia
, to make land available to settlers; Aboriginals were considered subhuman. However, by the obelisk, was wall of tributes, not the least from the Freemasons
, as he was the top Freemason in Argentina.
Back on the bus, we drove along the very very wide Boulevard 9 de Julio
– too wide for pedestrians to cross in one
Madres de Plaza de Mayo
The site of our modern history where the mothers of the disappeared refuse to let go, even until this day.
light. It leads to Plaza de Mayo – famous for the revered Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
. An obelisk in the centre commemorates 25 May 1810
, the beginning of the revolution for independence. In the 70s, when the mothers of the disappeared of the Dirty War
came to protest there, they were told to keep moving - so they walked around the obelisk. They wore diapers as headscarves to remember their “babies” who had disappeared in the dictatorship. Now a graphic of the scarf on a head is painted at intervals at the edge of the circular plaza, and the mothers still march on Thursdays at 3:30 to honour their dead.
At one end of the Plaza is the federal building (the Pink House
, in pinkish stone), where Eva Peron used to address the crowds from a balcony - the first person to do so. Near the other end of the Plaza is the large Metropolitan Cathedral
, which I visited in our 15 minutes of free time. A service was just starting, so I took a photo of the main part without really seeing it. The gold altar was far away and the light was very dim. Like others, I went over to the side chapel built to
Metropolitan Cathedral on Plaza de Mayo
A few days later, the Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis.
honour San Martin
, the founder of Argentina. Not particularly ornate, in keeping with the rest of the church.
From here we had a real change of scene. We crossed into some of the poorer districts, in particular Boca
, the home of Maradona’s football club, the Boca Juniors
. The stadium is painted blue and yellow and adorned with murals of the history of Boca. We stopped a little further on, at Caminito
, a one-block celebration of the people’s culture - in bright paint, murals and moulded figures of the heroes, especially Maradona
, Eva Peron
and Juan Peron
. At the end of the block was Riochuelo
, the third most polluted river in the world, deprived of oxygen and full of industrial metals and chemicals – although not garbage, so I have seen worse looking rivers. Returning, I enjoyed passing the cafes with hawkers asking me to lunch, painters with scenes of tango, and sellers of scarves and souvenirs.
From here we continued by the bus through poorer districts, because Martin thought it better we should see all. Signs of absolute homelessness saw belongings piled on a mattress under plastic for the day. Much of the housing comprised deteriorating small apartments and houses with no
This "little street" is the funky side of Boca.
space between and presumably more people accommodated than reasonable. All this was near the old port – which has been rehabilitated into upscale shops and condos with expansive green lawns.
Back in the city centre, for an excellent Argentinian Sunday lunch. La Esquina de Homero Manzi
is a renowned tango performance venue that has a Sunday lunch performance. (Otherwise tango happens long after dark.) We were escorted to tables right in front of the stage, and I nabbed a corner where I could stand up to video without harming anyone’s view. Exquisite waiter service brought us sherry, merlot, beef empanadas, and delicious porterhouse steak (or alternatives). Later they brought ice cream or fruit salad. The real highlight was the tango. A four-piece band (piano, guitar, simple accordion, and violin) played a smoky tango as “appetizer”. Suddenly, a singer in a dramatically decorated black dress burst into a fiery lament. After great applause, the first tango dancers slinked across the floor. All the movements were strong, especially the waist-high leg action and the “flicks” of intertwined feet. A heavily built male singer, the host and star, came out with a repertoire of songs. His emotions overflowed on the stage, enticing experienced audience members to
Federal government building faces the Plaza de Mayo Obelisk and the protests of the mothers.
call out song titles and join in on the choruses. Ever more sinuous tangos were performed at intervals by several couples and were loudly applauded. An hour and a quarter was too short.
My free time was devoted to walking back up to Plaza de Mayo to capture photos of buildings along the streets. People were out strolling, but the streets were not at all crowded. I walked back along Reconquista, which I didn’t know for several blocks because street signs are scarce. The number of people was so diminished that I wondered about safety. No problem – the street led directly to the hotel.
Our first lecture was before dinner, on the history of Argentina. Excellently presented – enough detail to fill out the skeleton of knowledge I had. Some people (I’m the only Canadian) said they had never studied South America in school; they speculated this was because of all the dastardly deeds done by the US. Between reading novels and the news over the years, I wasn’t surprised by anything, but I did learn more about how it felt to be an Argentinian during the dictatorship (lot of hatred and disgust), during the financial crisis
Buenos Aires streets
Endlessly wandering the streets of BA is architectural entertainment
under President Menem
, and now during the poor economy - once again suffering inflation and restrictions. The savior of Argentina’s exports is supplying soybeans to feed Chinese pigs, but the environmental damage has been bad (monoculture, land ownership consolidation by multinationals, and soil depletion).
Supper was at the hotel – good, dark Merlot
, but indifferent salad and chicken breast. Most of us weren’t hungry anyway.
Click to play VIDEO
of tango at Esquina Homero Manzi.
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