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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Buenos Aires

sunny 31 °C

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with majestic buildings, elegant boulevards and numerous parks and gardens bursting with sub-tropical plants and blossoming trees...
This is the famous Palacio Barolo built in 1890 and supposedly reflecting Dante's Divine Comedy. The basement is hell and the top 8 floors are heaven...
Buenos Aires also has many areas of derelict sites and decaying buildings...
The city was the home of the present Pope, Francis, and not far from the cathedral where he worshipped as a young man is the most famous of all of the city's coffee houses – Cafe Tortoni. The cafe was opened by a French emigre who modelled it after the Grand Tortoni Cafe in Paris and it was remodelled into its present form at the end of the 19th century. It is rated as one of the ten most beautiful cafes in the world. Celebrities and aristocrats from around the world have been meeting here since 1858 and now it is our turn...
All restaurant meals in Argentina are enormous and the prices are reasonable for us, but rampant inflation and stagnant wages over the past few years have put them beyond the means of many Argentinians. As in many poorer countries much of the commerce in Argentina is done under the counter with cash. To combat this the government requires businesses to accept bank cards, but it is no coincidence that many of the card readers seem to malfunction whenever we try to use a credit card. Public service workers can't avoid paying tax and today we witnessed a peaceful, though noisy, demonstration by a hundred thousand teachers and professors who are on strike in an effort to raise their wages from a measly six thousand dollars a year...
The depression of recent years has taken a toll on public works and, while improvements are being made to some roads and parks, there are plenty of pavements and public buildings that need a facelift. These are the doors of the Ministry of Modernisation... No kidding...
However, there are plenty of glittering spires in the recently developed port area...
The markets are one way that entrepreneurs, artisans and musicians can scrape a living and there are many held every weekend – especially during the summer when the city is bustling with cruise passengers. The Recoleta market has hundreds of venders and entertainers winding along the pathways and under the shade trees outside of Recoleta Cemetary. We loved the trad jazz – but never saw the tango...
Despite the financial woes Argentina seems laid back today, but it has had a stormy past. In the 1970s the American CIA fomented right-wing military coups both here and in most Central and South American countries as part of an anti-communist purge. It was codenamed Operation Condor and is a chilling reminder of how far the Americans will go to get their own way, (as if we need a chilling reminder today). This is the Casa Rosado (the Pink House) which is the rather austere presidential palace overlooking the Plaza de Mayo...
Between 1976 and 1983 some 60,000 dissidents, unionists and academics, were tortured and murdered by the military dictators. The children of those who 'disappeared' were either killed or adopted by junta insiders and the grandmothers of those children still demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in the Plazo de Mayo in the hope of getting them back. The women are known as the “Grandmothers of the Plazo de Mayo.” ( Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo).

Our time on the coast in Buenos Aires is now at end and we are heading back to the Andes to Mendoza – capital of Argentina's wine region. (We will write in few days - if we are sufficiently sober!)

Posted by Hawkson 06:15 Archived in Argentina

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Now that's as far away from a string quartet as you can get--a tuba, snare drum, washboard, and guitar. Must have been an unusual sound.

by R and B

Lovely city. Sad economy. At the end of the first war Argentina had a standard of living and economy about equal with Canada. The reasons for the divergence are more than I know, but certainly, peace, order and good government helps a lot.

by Tom

Hope you had a good cafe and meal at Cafe Tortoni. Thank goodness for the markets. They seem more present. There is such a sad history at times in Argentina, as there is in most countries. None of us are immune from the past.
On to the wine.

by Sue Fitzwilson

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