Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mi Buenos Aires Querido... Random Thoughts and Observations

I just left Buenos Aires and I miss it already. Santiago's cool, but Buenos Aires is on a whole other level, it's got "onda" that intangible feeling that things are really happening. I would even venture to say that it's the only city I've been to that's comparable to New York. The city seems to go on forever and there's always something going on.

People from Buenos Aires look derisively at Chile, similar to how New Yorkers esteem say, Ohio. Upon telling Buenos Aires natives- called porteños- where I had been living the past year, they couldn't help but smirk and say, "Chile, heh."

The food in Buenos Aires was good... if you like meat and pasta because there's not much else. Fortunately I like meat and consider myself a spaghetti connoisseur, so no problems there.

More than a few people told me I had a "terrible mixture of a gringo and Chilean accent." Yeah well fuck you too, buddy. No but seriously, I was more amused than offended, but I was also envious because I loved the Argentine accent. I'm glad I learned Chilean Spanish. It's very difficult, Chileans speak very fast and chop off the beginnings and endings of tons of words, so next to Chilean Spanish other accents are a piece of cake. Argentines, on the other hand, speak relatively clearly, yet their accent is unmistakable. They speak with an almost Italian rhythm, and pronounce "LL's" and "Y's" as "SH" ("Sho me Shamo" instead of "Yo me LLamo"). I'm pretty good at the Chilean accent, but anytime I attempted the porteño accent people thought I was from Spain (¡coño!).

Everyday, around four or five o-clock, everyone would drop what they were doing and meet a friend or two for café con leche and a few sweet mini croissants called medialunas- literally "half moons."

Buenos Aires FEELS like a city. It has a cosmopolitan vibe and a lot of charm.

Many porteños know a fair amount of English. This got a little frustrating when, hearing even the hint of an American accent, they began speaking to you in English. That almost never happens in Chile.

Poverty was much more in your face than in the U.S. or even Chile. Every evening, no matter where I was I saw cartoneros (the homeless, many of them complete families), picking through the trash for scraps of food. According to porteños I met, the cartoneros are much more ubiquitous in the city now than before the late 2001 economic crash.

Rosario: While in Argentina I took a three day trip to Rosario, Argentina's second or third largest city depending on who you talk to. It's about four hours north of Buenos Aires and has a very different feel. It's much more laid back and Rosarinos (people from Rosario) were easier to meet than their Buenos Aires counterparts. It's also Che Guevara's birth place.

Argentines celebrate Christmas very differently than Americans do. They start the evening among family, but around 2AM everybody goes out and hits the clubs. It's one of the biggest party nights of the year.

I checked out all the tourist sites. I went to la Recoleta cemetery- where my grandfather used to sell flowers. I went to the Obelisco (whoever designed that had a Napoleon complex for sure). I went to la Boca, a historic neighborhood that sits next to the waterfront, if you walk two block away from el Caminito- the touristy street- you're in the ghetto. I bought some books on Avenida Corrientes and clothes in plaza Serrano. Even yet, I don't feel I know the city well at all. It's definitely a place I'd like to live in someday, and I hope that day is gonna come sooner rather than later.

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