Saturday, April 25, 2009

Passionate in Buenos Aires

Everyone dances in Buenos Aires - intimately and fiercely.

Passion is the common denominator and tango is the social equalizer.

Walking into the traditional Milonga (dance hall), you are immediately struck by the age range. A 25 year old forehead tightly pressed against a 70 year old's. Even more inspiring is the shocking revelation that the dancers have never met, yet they are dancing so intimately, you would think they were in love. And then you realize that they are, for that moment - swept away by the intensity of the rhythm, totally consumed by the palpable sensual energy in the room. Hundreds of strangers and couples dancing together for decades - all circling the room till dawn -every weekend.

It's easy to mistake Buenos Aires for a South American version of NYC - the sea of taxis, world class museums, endless entertainment, ultra hip restaurants, and bustling bars (we loved them all!) But look a bit closer, and you realize B.A. is entirely in a class of its own.

Visit any city in the world, and you are bound to see your name on a key chain. Not me. My name can only be seen slightly misspelled on a prune bag (Mariani). But in Buenos Aires...every tourist stand boasts a Mariana magnet.

As much as they would like to, B.A. drivers do not talk on the phone while operating their vehicles. If they did, they would most certainly die. You see, everyone has the right of way. Lanes are purely for decoration, traffic lights are mere suggestions, and stop signs don't exist. And yet...our NASCAR-inspired taxi rides were true highlights, as proud cabbies eagerly showed off their sprawling city by playing tour guide.

The most commonly sold items on the street are socks and feather dusters. And although we never saw either being purchased, there must be a real market for both.

Speaking of markets...the number of Sunday outdoor fairs must appear in the book of world records. We saw at least 10 within a few mile radius - each one specializing in something unique.

Going to the cemetery is a social experience, and feels more like visiting some famous old friends (like Eva Peron) rather than mourning their death.

Strolling the streets of the Recoleta cemetery (pictured left), each grave an architectural marvel, is reminiscent of visiting Pompeii.

Speaking of ancient roots... B.A has 250,000 Jews, 90 synagogues, 12 Jewish schools, a profound Shoah (Holocaust) Museum that we visited, and dozens of kosher restaurants.

During our oldest synagogue in Argentina tour, a fellow traveler found his grandfather's name in the immigrant directory. Aftter many tears of joy and a very touching immigrant success, we were fast friends, experiencing Jewish history in the making.

Although the Pink House (pictured left) is no White House, it is empowering to see the balcony from which Evita (and Madonna) delivered her famous speech (and song) and visit the room where the executive branch meets. To get the full effect, we got a healthy dose of the daily protest going on outside.

So while Buenos Aires shares some characteristics with other cities in the world, such as The Best of Bob Marley CD playing everywhere, countless Che Guevara memorabilia, and a contagious obsession with sports, it is definitely in a league of its own.

1 comment:

Carla said...

I went to the Pink House. It is really impressive from the inside. They make guided tours every Saturday, Sunday or holiday and you can see the office in which Crsitina Fernandez de Kirchner works. It is a very aritochratic piece of architecture. I actually had an apartment rental in Buenos Aires with a view to PLaza de Mayo and the whole "palace" looks beautiful at night with the pink lights pointing to it!