I’m so excited to be here, to be in BA whoop whoop! The busy traffic, streets full of people, shops selling great clothes, fabulous looking locals; Buenos Aires is amazing, sexy, and cool-end of. Things that spring to mind immediately when thinking of cosmopolitan BA are Evita, Maradona, Malbec and the Tango. Oh and Che Guevera of course, this is where he studied for his medical degree and took a year out in the middle for his motorcycle journey. It is here that I start to think a bit more about the country’s past and current problems, and get ill.
Argentina has over the years received floods of immigrants from Italy, Spain and France, and at one point was one of the richest countries in the world. However as more and more poor people kept arriving and new world trade restrictions did not do the country any favours, the gap between the rich and poor widened and there came a social crisis. In 1946 Juan Peron became president and his policies helped life improve for the working class. At the same time he abused his power and was regarded as a fascist, intimidating and controlling the media. His wife Evita balanced the blow with her charitable work and women’s rights campaigns, but also had her own vindictive political agenda. The economy continued to decline and in 1952 Evita died-Peron was not a popular man and left for Spain losing his position, that he later regained it very briefly before he himself died in 1974. Soon after the ‘dirty war’ (1976 – 1983) began with a left wing group of middle class anarchists bombing foreign business and kidnapping executives for ransom to raise funds to spread their revolutionary messages. The military fought back. An estimated 30,000 people died under a zero tolerance regime. This came to an end when I was a toddler, its hard to believe and very sad, but also seeing what I see of the country now is reassuring. Problems continued in the 80s, and over the next two decades following numerous different leaders, borrowing heavily from other countries, and selling private industries things started to settle at the turn of the century. Today times are still tough but the country remains to have the highest standard of living and spirits are high, for some anyway.
My plan was to spend about 4-5 days here, but I end up staying for about 10 days because I get ill and don’t have the energy to leave-I can think of much worse places to be sick. It’s Saturday 28 November the day I arrive and we head straight to the presidential palace and have a nosy. So this is where Evita stood and did her thing (I also have an image of Madonna in my mind…). I get a taxi with Breigh, Kristi and Steve to La Boca to have a walk around the colourful lanes, see what the street traders have on offer and get a bite to eat. La Boca is full of tourists here to walk down Caminito, a colourful street lined with little shops and mainly restaurants with their tables filling the main thoroughfare, where you can sit and sip a cold beer, or savour a glass of good wine whilst watching live tango performances in the sun…life feels good. Argentineans eat late. I hit the shops for hours but don’t find a thing to wear tonight, I’m disappointed.
We go for dinner at 10pm and a couple of hours later get taxis to Palermo to hit a few bars for cocktails. Then from here we jump in cabs again to where? I can’t remember. The street is lined with bars and the night feels young. We start to have a little dance and then a few people decide its home time-I look at my watch and it’s 5.30am! We step outside and can’t believe its daylight; the street
are full of party people. A few of us are not ready for the night to end here so go on to another club. I end up in a taxi with three people who want to go home so I have to drop them all off first. I finally arrive at Amerika after 6am, pay the huge entrance fee and go inside, the others will be in there somewhere. The club is massive. House music fill the air and there are definitely more men here than women, in fact its about 90/10 men to women and it’s a gay club. Well that doesn’t bother me but what does is the numerous pairs of hands that touch my face, neck and body while I walk through the entire club looking for the others-they are no where to be seen. This place makes the term ‘meat-market’sounds like a something out of a children’s nursery rhyme. Well, I’ve paid a lot of money to be here I’m going to stay for a while and enjoy it, the music’s not bad I’ll get a drink. This thought doesn’t last long as I sit down and find myself getting fed up of the men swarming around the place and all over me. One long-haired local nearly spills his drink all over me, sod this I’m going home.
It’s after 7am and my room mate Kristi is not there, were they in the club afterall? Or did they actually go some place else?! I got to the toilet to find the clothes she was wearing this evening in the sink. I’m confused. I go back down to reception and the man behind the desk speaks no English, good job I have my Spanish skills. I ask him where my tour
leader is as Sebastian was also going to stay out. He gives me his room number which is actually right next door to mine. I head upstairs again and knock on his door and Kristi opens it. I go in to find Breigh and Sebastian looking tired and sipping drinks. They squeezed five people into their cab and got to the club and decided the entrance fee was too much so waited for me (not knowing I was alone) and decided not to go in. However after sometime when I didn’t show up they returned to the hotel. Oh well, I grab the bottle of wine sitting on the table and we continue our little party. At around 9am me and Kristi go downstairs for breakfast and slowly freshly showered and wide awake people surround us-we really need to get some sleep.
After a 90-minute nap and hot shower I go with Steve and Breigh to San Telmo and fall in love with it, actually it reminds me of Notting Hill, Portobello Road (there’s actually a street there called Portobello Road to my surprise!). The streets are cobbled,
the Sunday market is buzzing with people looking at antiques, leather goods and souvenirs. Musicians pull in a crowd with their wonderful music, I stand and watch for a while. I think this might become my favourite part of BA, it’s very bohemian, the shops sell all kinds of eclectic goods and the fashion is young and trendy; this is where the local fashionistas come and splash their cash or find a bargain. Of course a mega tourist draw, there are some wonderful bars to enjoy a drink and watch live tango. We end up at El balcon and follow a woman who greets us at the door up some winding stairs into a dark-ish bar/restaurant, quite full, and a couple are dancing on the stage. We take a drink here and enjoy the enertainment before heading back to the hotel, we’re exhausted. I’m not in the mood for a party that night, I go for an Indian meal and the food tastes fantastic! I’m a happy girl. The following day there’s a knock on my door at 8.30am-it’s Sue a friend I lived with in Leeds when I was a student. I throw my arms around her and later say good bye to the group I’ve travelled with over the last few weeks, the end of another chapter on my travels.