Monday, August 08, 2005

Buenos Aires

At long last after an eventful 12 hour flight I have finally reached the land that gave us Tango and Diego Armando Maradona. However my Argentine experience had begun even before I had boarded the aircraft with a delay of over 6 hours and a resulting passenger reaction clearly showing that the spirit of CHE is alive and well.

General Franco once wrongly stated that "if you are not Catholic, you´re not Spanish". However in this country the words would quite correctly be, "if you are not a soccer fanatic, you´re not from Argentina". This is because everybody talks football in this city that is home to over 15 million football fanatics and 14 top division soccer teams. Of these the principle rivalries exist between River Plate and Boca Juniors as well as Racing and Independiente. Next sunday I go to my first River Plate match.

Travelling about the city I come across streets and sign posts with names such as Fitzroy, Sarsfield, Plaza de Irlanda, Admirante Brown, Plaza de Wilde and none other than Hurlingham!! The sunny Buenos Aires streets are wide and tree lined and the cars filling them are everything from Chevorlet and Dodge to Ford and Lada. However by far and away the most common on the road are the bygone day Puegeot´s 505 and 504. I am also astounded by the sheer number of buses serving the city. I keep asking myself how is it that a third world country can laugh at the transport system of the nation that the economist magazine recently labelled the best place in the world to live!!!!

As I stroll the city I can get a sense of the time when Argentina was once wealthy enough to send food to the 1950´s famine stricken Spain as well as gladly receive the millions upon millions of European refugees. Thus far I really like the city and fell very comfortable here. I love the atmosphere on the streets and the openness of the people who surprisingly cannot identify me as a foreigner from my appearance alone (Of course when I open my mouth it is a completely different story altogether). Thus despite my celtic colouring less Buenos Aires people will pick me out as an outsider than in my own quite street in Madrid which I can only presume is due to the diverse roots and colouring of those who are born and bred Argentinian.

Given the immense size of the Argentine capital I have yet to reach the city center and remain wandering the city outskirts. It seems that Buenos Aires might be similar to Los Angeles in the sense that for most locals there is no principle zone (aside from the Congress) which they would consider as the city centre.Rather the city is made up of many micro centres which amply serve the people of the barrio.

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