April 02, 2005
Buenos Aires: day 2
Friday morning I wandered around San Telmo some more and discovered a nice little square called Plaza Dorrego. The neighborhood around it was full of antique shops and the square itself had a number of restaurants so I stopped to have a meal on a balcony overlooking the plaza.
In the afternoon, Paula met me at the hostel and we took off on our tour. First we walked through San Telmo while she pointed out this or that thing of interest. She didn't have answers for some of my questions (such as "how old is the San Telmo neighborhood?") so I told her if she wanted to be a tour guide she was going to have to find these things out!
We walked all the way to Casa Rosa or "Pink House", which is the Argentinian equivalent of the White House. The large square in front of it was the scene of all the famous Buenos Aires protests, such as the ones in 2001 over the economic crisis (which caused a rise among the middle class in Barter Clubs and using creditos, which has always fascinated me as I am interested in underground economies).
From there, we got down into the subway system. I hadn't even realized Buenos Aires had a subway system. We lucked out with the first car that pulled up, it was an antique train-car with all wood finish and even a cool mirror in one spot. Paula said there were only a few of those still in operation. Buenos Aires has the best in-car subway maps I've ever seen. Above each door is the line map which shows the stations along the line as usual, but also which street and cross-street you will find at the station and even if the station has a bathroom!
From the center of Argentine government, we rode out of the central area towards the "real" Buenos Aires. Exiting the subway station we found ourselves in a slightly shabbier part of town alive with stores and pedestrians going about their business. I'm pretty sure I was the only tourist around at this point. We wandered through this area for a bit trying to find a graffiti mural wall Paula knew about (since I had mentioned my proclivities to her). Unfortunately the wall she knew of had been recently covered up so there was no art to be found.
It started to rain, and Paula needed to get to work, so we hopped in a cab and headed back downtown to San Martin park. There she showed me the memorial to the 600+ Argentinian soldiers who were killed by the British during the Falkland Islands war of 1982 (It is known as the Malvinas War to the Argentinians). The memorial lists the name of every soldier killed (much like the Viet Nam War memorial in the USA).
She explained to me that the Argentinian people were very upset because at the time of the war soldiers were conscripted and nearly all of the ones killed were only 18 or 19 years old, barely trained at all. It was as if they were simply sent to their deaths by their military commanders. The defeat by the British army quickly led to the end of the Argentine Military dictatorship.
From here Paula went on to work and I took a walk around Florida street which is a pedestrian mall filled with trendy stores. I suppose it is the Buenos Aires equivalent of Union Square in San Francisco. Quite a difference from the "real" neighborhood I had been walking through earlier.
That evening I went to see a band Paula recommended (I wish I could remember the name, but I can't find the ticket stub now). When I showed up at the venue (La Trastienda in San Telmo) I was at first told it was sold out, but soon after I turned to leave one of the ticket takers chased me down and said they would sell me a ticket after all. I think perhaps they took pity on me since I was a foreigner. Inside I found the place to be not too crowded at all, by normal standards for a rock show. There were a few hundred people in the club but I could easily see fitting another 100 or so. I suppose this cautious capacity limitation was a result of the fire in December too.
I didn't have my camera with me, but I wished I did just to take photos of the crowd. When I entered there was just some recorded music playing and a crowd of college aged people were milling about drinking beer. Then a projector screen was lowered in front of the stage and started playing a music video for the band scheduled to play that night. As soon as the video started, people just went ape-shit. They were jumping up in the air, climbing on each other backs, spinning around with their arms in the air practically shouting the lyrics at each other (all in Spanish of course) . I think that moment was the biggest piece of culture shock I'd yet experienced in South America.
I mean, it was just the video.
After the video finished, the band came on and I realized I previously had no idea what ape-shit really meant. The band launched into their first song and the entire place was hopping up and down, there were women and men on the shoulders of others waving their hands in the air. Everyone knew every lyric and was just screaming it out at the top of their lungs. Most of the guys took off their shirts and were twirling them in the air like footbal hooligans.
The music was OK, a sort of Argentinian U2 sort of thing I guess. What I really enjoyed that night was watching the crowd. People were crawling up support beams to get a better view, grown men were hugging each other and giggling like schoolgirls, it was just insane. Really, I wish I had a video of the crowd.
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I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. As someone who has had the privilege of travelling rather extensively, I very much enjoyed your discussion of your experiences.
Posted by: panasianbiz | Jul 10, 2006 4:11:30 PM
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