Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category
Here in Argentina, it’s said soccer is a religion. So it’s no surprise that the new Pope, an Argentine, is an avid fan himself.
Today I spent the day reporting on the San Lorenzo football club, his preferred team, and one of the top five most traditional clubs in Buenos Aires. Pope Francis is a long-time San Lorenzo fan — and No. 88,235 on the club’s member list.
In the morning, I hailed a cab and headed almost an hour away, where I visited the San Lorenzo club headquarters, stadium, and stadium chapel. I heard stories, saw photos, and talked to many, many people who are very excited about the new Pope (and his fútbol allegiances). I even got to see the old white Fiat that has transported the Pope from his downtown apartment to mass on stadium grounds.
My camera broke in October. Suddenly, every picture I took had a thick black line at the top of the frame. I took the camera to the one shop in Buenos Aires that I was told could fix it, a Sony specialty store, and they predicted it would be a month or so until I had it back. The cost would be high — considerably more than in the US — but I was more than willing to pay.
Three months later, I’m still waiting. Well, more precisely, they’re still waiting — for the one teeny piece that is going to fix the shutter and cost me hundreds of dollars. I’m guessing it’s stuck at customs.
Imports and the Argentine government have a complicated relationship. While many people here want and depend on imported goods, the government wants to limit their entry, pushing to spur local industry and hold up the MADE IN ARGENTINA label.
It’s hard to argue against growing the local economy and limiting dependence on faraway markets. I’m all for it. But in practice, the execution of the ideology can be frustrating for many people. Various high-demand goods are not available, and those that are sell at comparatively high prices, despite what is often poor quality.
It’s the reason my friend asked me to bring her mascara from the US. And why a yoga mat costs US$70+. And why a professional musician has family bring tuning kits and strings, plus requests from other musician friends (I’m told a recent delivery included trumpet oil, percussion mallets and oboe staples). In more extreme cases, the import restrictions have threatened to shut down entire industries.
It’s an interesting exercise in considering the true value of a particular good, as well as how interconnected global trade markets really are. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that these are themes I rarely considered before moving abroad.
I recently published a feature on the theme, for the Associated Press, using the cycling industry to explore the effect of import restrictions on a local industry. During my reporting, I visited bike shops and factories and spoke to producers, sellers and cyclists to learn how they depend on imports and how they’re adjusting — or not — to the restrictions.
At Musetta bicycle factory in suburban Buenos Aires, I saw cardboard boxes full of partially assembled mountain bikes, missing a pedal, seat or handlebars and unable to be sold, gathering dust in a corner. I met a man who brought his bike in a suitcase from abroad. And I learned about the trend to forgo a new bike completely … to fix up an old vintage one instead.
Read the story here. I’d love your comments.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez faced another protest Wednesday led by a union boss who used to be one of her most loyal supporters.
And just when I think Buenos Aires has experienced the most epic rainstorm ever, a bigger and badder one comes along. Today, instead of following slow-moving traffic through a massive detour due to flooding, my renegade bus driver on the 65 used his superpowers to make the bus lift higher so we could split from the traffic and traverse a flooded street (which resembled a lake). As we approached the deepest part, everyone braced as if on a roller coaster. My face contorted as water reached the bus’ windows and then I squealed as it flooded onto the bus up to knee-level. We kept going and the water eventually left as it had come in. Everyone was cracking up.
Today I woke up with eight — eight! — giant mosquito bites on my legs. I drank cold water so furiously that it dripped down my chin and onto my shirt. My mid-afternoon ride on the bus was overwhelmed by one word: sweat. Here in the Southern Cone, it’s…. SUMMER.
I love summer. (Even here in Buenos Aires, which redefines the definition of hot.) And I even think I love summer more than spring. But there is one spring thing I am very sad to be saying goodbye to: the JACARANDA trees. The Jacaranda mimosifolia, to be exact.
Spring in Buenos Aires means the most beautiful shade of purple at every glance in every part of the city. A purple so rich it looks like a can of paint has exploded before your eyes. Purple that seems unreal to have been created by Mama Nature. (Famous Argentine singer María Elena Walsh dedicated her Canción del Jacarandá song to the tree.)
One night last week it rained very hard and all the sidewalks in my neighborhood were covered in jacaranda blossoms for days. There was even talk of them being dangerous — causing slips and slides and minor injuries. I tried to imagine that it was the purple buds themselves reminding all of us busy city dwellers that they’d soon be gone … and to look and adore.
I wish I’d gotten it together to write some sort of love song or ode to the Jacaranda, but this photo will have to do as my memorial. Until next time, you magical beauties.
Buenos Aires, August 2012
I’m back in Buenos Aires, and today the weather is so crisp and beautiful that I couldn’t resist a long run. Since I brought back with me an iPod that works (yay!), I decided to put on some dance tunes and use it.
Running is always interesting in Buenos Aires. Crazy drivers, dog poo, crowded streets, not to mention men who think it’s fun to say ridiculous things to you. In Buenos Aires, this street seduction is called piropos.
This hilarious blog explains them as the following: “In theory and definition, piropos are poetic compliments that men mutter to women in passing on the street. In practice, they are far from compliments. Some are benign like “que hermosa” or “te amo.” Others are so vulgar and raw that they would make Biggie’s skin crawl.”
It could be worse, I suppose, considering this news that men here are hot with a capital H, but many women really detest it. Like, really (great video). Other women I’ve spoken to think they’re creative and/or funny and don’t seem to care.
Well today, thanks to my headphones, I made up a new game that I think you all should try, regardless of how you feel about piropos. It’s called “Use Good-Looking Men Murmuring X-Rated Things to Fulfill Your Dreams.”
That’s right, ladies, all you have to do to feel good about yourself instead of feeling like you’ve just hit 3rd base with the garbage man is put on some headphones. Here’s how you play: As the men move their mouths and get creepily close to you, just make up what they’re saying. It’s that easy. Like today, the taxista who pulled up next to me and tried to seduce me from inside his car as I waited at a red light, he was really saying: How about we critique each other’s latest writings and then watch French films while I brush your hair? Then, the doorman at a building on Libertador asked me: When should we get together to talk about our deep feelings and concerns for the world? The guy coming out of McDonalds: I finally perfected my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe. Want to come over to try it for dinner?
Man, it made running so much more enjoyable. So go ahead and try it! I look forward to hearing what sort of empowering piropos you receive…
A friend of mine here in BA, also from the states, wrote me yesterday from Paraguay, where she’s currently traveling. “I cannot figure out when or how many times to kiss on the cheek,” she wrote, “and it is becoming disastrous!!”
In many countries, it’s two cheek kisses. In others, hugs. In yet others, it’s a handshake or nothing. Here in Argentina, like in many Latin American countries, it’s the one cheek kiss (beso) for hellos and goodbyes. And it’s all but a requirement. Arrive to your doctor? Beso. Business meeting? Beso. A party with friends and strangers. Besos. When, for instance, you arrive to a room and everyone is sitting around a table deep in conversation, everything pauses as you circle the table giving every single person a kiss on the cheek. Same thing happens when you leave. I couldn’t believe the first time I went to my insurance provider and the woman who attended to me kissed me! But I’ve come to love this ritual, to the point where I officially feel weird if I don’t give kisses. I really feel like I’ve adopted the Latino way when I kiss someone goodbye and then talk to them for so long that I have to kiss them again before I really leave!
The kissing even transfers into situations where you’re not present with the person. At the end of every phone call and email, kisses always. Te mando un beso. Un beso. Besos. Besito. Besote. Un beso enorme. One or all of the above (okay, never all of the above at one time). If you’re just getting to know the person you might start with a hug (Abrazo) or other warm salutation (Cariños), but within a few emails you’re virtually kissing no doubt.
I saw a news clip this morning of Obama greeting some of the world leaders gathered at the G-20 in Mexico. To Cristina Kirchner, Argentina’s President, he gave the normal Argentine greeting of one kiss on the cheek! How did he know, I wondered. And furthermore, does he keep tabs on all the kissing/hugging/handshaking rituals around the world? Impressive.
I’ll be back in the states in just a few days and I’m already fretting the awkward salutations that will ensue. So I’ve decided I’m going to try to maintain the one cheek kiss I’ve learned so well and learned to love. So pucker up, gringos!
The Estrugamou was commissioned in 1924 by Alejandro Estrugamou, an Argentine landowner and descendant from a French Basque family. It was finished in 1929. Learn more at Gateway to South America.
I began to hear the cacelorazo (cah-sell-oh-rah-so) during my Thursday evening jog about town. Of course at the time I had no clue what it was. Protests are very common in Buenos Aires, and I’ve become accustomed to their sound. But I sensed this was different. The noise — which resembled cowbells — came from the balconies. An important football match?
When I got home, I expressed my curiosities to a journalist in the expat community, through Twitter. The sound grew louder outside my window. Within minutes I was being Twitter-scolded on Argentine politics by a stranger. He suggested I go back to the U.S. I made my way to #cacerolazo on Twitter, where I began to learn about this phenomenon, and its heated nature in Buenos Aires. I hopped on a bus, which took me down Av. Santa Fe (a main road in Buenos Aires), through various middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, where I saw hundreds of people banging pots with wooden spoons, draped in Argentine flags. People were taking part from their balconies. Well-dressed women were forcibly stopping traffic. That’s when I learned this was no “normal” protest.
The “cacerolazo” is a noisy protest where citizens bang casserole pots and honk horns to express anger. It’s popular in certain Spanish-speaking countries (in Spanish, cacerola = ”stew pot”. The -azo suffix denotes a hit or punch.) Argentina saw giant cacerolazos in 2001 when citizens marched in huge crowds as a response to the collapsing economy and even drove several presidents out of office. In 2008, cacerolazos sounded against the export tax policy of President Cristina Kirchner’s government. By then, the cacerolazo had transformed from a popular non-partisan protest to one used more by the upper class (who live mostly in the northern parts of the city).
In Buenos Aires, unbeknownst to me, the call had circulated last week in e-mails, over social networks and through text messages. Here, translated from Spanish:
For an Argentina that all of us want, we say ENOUGH. / Enough to a lack of medicine. / Enough to barriers to imports and exports. / Enough trapping the dollar. / Enough Ciccone / Enough verbal violence. / Enough expropriation. / Enough bullying. / Enough impunity. / Enough authoritarianism. / Enough to no dialogue. / Enough INSECURITY. / Enough corruption. / Cacerolazo and/or honk your horn on Thursday, May 31, 20:30. Spread the word … if you want to do something to change our Argentina!
The events repeated again on Friday night, in neighborhoods like Palermo, Recoleta, Belgrano and Villa Crespo. By all accounts, the number of protestors was just a small fraction of the Buenos Aires cacerolazos of day’s past. To be sure, there was close to no coverage in the local press. One of my Argentine friends legit laughed at me when I told him there was a cacerolazo at all. “That is nothing,” he said. But I found the lack of coverage curious, considering the local press seems to cover everything.
Government supporters may not be banging anything, but their opposition to the protestors’ demands is loud and clear (and posted all over the Internet). Personally, it’s an amazing way to witness the sharp divisions in Argentine society.
And it sure is a divergence from the norm. I can’t recall ever seeing an 80+ year old woman banging a pot with a wooden spoon, screaming. The noise was incredible. The energy was potent. Local expat and journalist Adrian Bono aptly commented on Twitter: “Funny how the collective anger of one segment of the population can be another segment’s (expats) socio-cultural experience.”
Socio-cultural experience it was. A sight to be seen. And another is said to be scheduled for next Thursday.
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You can get a feel for what it looks like with this video: