Before going to Argentina, I expected to see a rather homogeneous culture and too much Tango. The impression I left Argentina with was very different from what I expected.
Buenos Aires felt somehow familiar, after a first glimpse one realizes it is a collage of all European architectural gems. Buildings of Madrid and Barcelona along wide avenues of Paris sprinkled with some Italian piazzas and a couple of Dutch houses, with a tower from London. The city is quite elegant and speaks of a prosperous past, but halas, when crises hit, nothing can be done.
Not only do the city's buildings feel imported, but so are its inhabitants. Porteños, I was told, feel they still belong to their lands of origin. As most immigrants had fled the first world war and could never return, they fed homesickness to their offspring. If you walk down calle Florida and stop at one of the kiosks there, you'll find in addition to newspapers and postcards a zillion pins on the stands; in addition to icons like El Che and the rival football teams, the pins feature flags of Argentina coupled each with a different flag, Italian, Portuguese, Lebanese, marking a sense of belonging to the land of origin.
As for the people, they are quite sociable people who wine and dine on weekdays, sometimes at 10 pm. Elegantly decorated with admirable attention to detail, most restaurants inhabit the Palermo neighborhood, a typical Spanish colonial town, and the various Sohos that have a more alternative flavor.
Pleasant and good humored, most Argentineans can share a joke about their own kind. This is probably the reason why, from Quino's sarcastic idealism to Maitena's burlesque feminism one thing is evident, Argentine comics are the best.
The only neighborhood that fitted my colorful Latin America cliché, is Boca. Even though the streets have nothing but communal tin houses, the inhabitants have painted their tin houses with paint leftovers from the neighboring port on the Río de la Plata, the result is magnificent. Red, blue, green and yellow houses adorned with papier maché statues of the local idols, Maradona, Evita and Gardel. In spite of being the working class neighborhood in one of the world's most elegant cities, Boca was the only neighborhood that tempted me to take out my camera.
To contribute to the joyful air, Coca Cola ads in Buenos Aires are also unique, joyful and somehow frivolous (observing ads to get a feel of the country´s socioeconomics and culture is by now a hobby of mine).
The soundtrack to my visit was exactly what I expected it to be, Carlos Gardel's eternal Mi Buenos Aires Querido which I was humming as if Buenos Aires were my own town which I longed to go back to.
Photo: Coca Cola Ad, bar at Caminito-Boca
About the City's architecture: Buenos Aires: City of Faded Elegance
Recommended restaurants in Palermo, I vote for La Cabrera (you may want to split the giant steak with a friend)
Gardel's Mi Buenos Aires Querido with photos of the city by night