January 23-24, 2012 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires was as different from Rio as it possibly could be. First, the geography is very different. Rio is on the sea, with mountain tops mixing among beaches, and it definitely wins the natural beauty contest, since Buenos Aires is a flat river delta, 100 miles up the Rio de la Plata from the Atlantic. Brown water vs blue water, white beaches vs muddy river bank.
But there is more to the contest than natural beauty – I found the people and organization of Buenos Aires far more attractive than in Rio. There is much business activity, much commerce, and perhaps an air of civility that was lacking in the party town of Rio. I suppose it depends on what one is looking for. The people of Buenos Aires are friendly, for sure, but they are serious people, with serious opinions on their role in their country and in the world.
Great, semi famous, coffee shop downtown
Riding the subway in Buenos Aires
Two things that they all have opinions on, and two things that are intertwined are politics and Eva Peron. I must confess I knew little about her, other than what I gleaned from Madonna’s portrayal in the movie. The country, even today, is evenly split between those who hate her (yes they speak in the present tense concerning Evita) and those who love her – there are no people who hold no opinion of her. Eva Peron held no official position in the government, she was the wife of Juan Peron, the President, but while he was President, she created a whirlwind of activity, largely on behalf of the disadvantaged people of Argentina, and often at the expense of the upper classes. She was known to obtain goods for the poor by intimidating the business interests of the country into giving away their products. She also was a believer in nationalizing businesses and aggressively pursued, through her husband those policies. The love-hate constituencies, are easy to identify – sound familiar? When she died, at age 33 of cancer, 3 million people attended her funeral – an astounding number since it represented one out of every six people in the country.
The balcony from which Eva & Madonna spoke.
Her mausoleum – visited by thousands, daily.
Current politics are not far removed from Eva’s days. The current President of the Argentina is from the Peronist party, the successor to the Juan Peron’s party, and has actively pursued similar populist policies and has restored much of Evita’s presence around the city. When the opposition party is in power, those Peron icons seem to disappear. Argentina has not really benefited from two parties, vying for the vote – rather the conservatives have been very weak over the past 60 years, and have largely assumed power by military coup, rather than by the popular vote. Mandatory voting is the law in Argentina, which may contribute to the large populist constituency.
Another area of passion in Argentina is the Tango – being the original home of the dance. We attended a Tango show on shore, and it was quite spectacular.