Category Archives: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires – Rando Statues

There are statues in every park throughout the city, some more impressive than others, but all impressive in the commitment to commemorate historical figures.

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I am iron man

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Rowing crew statue complete with backpack

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Futbal tribute

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Inside the tip of the Obelisk out front of a modern art museum are four windows (with video screens showing what it looks like from the cameras in the real Obelisk)

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The real Obelisk with real people dressed up for some unknown reason the moment we were there. (People aren’t allowed inside the Obelisk)

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Four corners, two men two women, represent four traits

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Flower opens during the day and closes at night!

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Streets, Pets, Vehicles, and Buildings

This article is a partial list from conversations I’d had years ago with Argentina native Claudia Link about what she enjoyed about Buenos Aires which I’d long forgotten until the moment I encountered the thing or experience she mentioned.  I added details I noticed from my experience of each phenomenon of what it’s like to be walking the streets in Buenos Aires among the hubbub.
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Streets

Many gutters at the edges of the streets 6-12 inches from the curbs have 3 inch wide channels cut 4 inches deep to carry water. Seems convenient so wheels don’t roll through it or feet step in or over water, I hardly noticed water running down the streets even soon after rains.

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Cobble streets. Old, worn smooth stones in older areas where cars still go and in pedestrian areas where there are mostly restaurants and during the day street vendors line both sides of some streets selling everything from mate gourds and straws to handmade leather belts and goods to prints of art.

Traffic lights turn yellow for a few seconds before turning green.

There are many motorcycles of all kinds, but not many harleys.

Vehicles

Abandoned vehicles are left parked in place for years. We saw burned out car frames with no tires, all tires flat dirty windows cars, cars, trucks, and vans full of stuff with broken windows and weeds growing around them parked on city streets. What’s surprising was that they weren’t stripped for parts.

The most common cars are small hatchbacks, gas is over $4 a gallon here in 2016.

The only American pickup trucks are old and have wood-walled beds.
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Fancy buses, all different, customized by individual drivers. Outside: white wall tires, shiny chrome rims, chrome plated sections over the wheel wells, ornate paintings of names and flowers on sides and back. Inside: fur coverings for the rear view mirrors, controls, and pay station, fuzzy dice, ornately carved mirrors, miniature disco balls and fringe hanging above the front window, imprinted with horses, playboy symbols, Mercedes, or others, steering wheels made of white or blue shiny mother-of-pearl style bowling ball material or ornate mirror bolted to the center.

Pets

Feral cats in fenced lots squeeze and pour out from behind the safety of the fences during the cooler parts of the evening and night to hide under parked cars.

There are impressive consistently spaced encounters with dog poop on virtually every sidewalk on every street, Even though there is a law against not picking up after ones pet.  Surprisingly there was rarely an odor of dog feces, but the pervasive smell of dog urine was common.  Every dog I encountered was incredibly well behaved. Even though they were all on leashes, they obeyed their owners implicitly even when the owner didn’thave the leash in hand and let it drag on the ground.

Architecture and buildings
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Architecture.  Buildings and styles from the 1800s to the present. Entire buildings were brought over from Europe and Russia.

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Orthodox Church brought to Buenos Aires from Russia

Ferns, plants, and trees growing on the sides of buildings.

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Not a window box

Some buildings abandoned, vacant, roofs caved in, plants growing inside, fronts still standing.
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Trees with plants growing in them/out of them.

Graffiti on any building, including anti-Monsanto spray paint on the Minister of Agriculture building that had been somewhat removed before being painted over again.
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(Fun fact: Soy eclipsed wheat as Agentina opens their export policies and started planting more corn)

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Museo de Mate – Buenos Aires Mate Museum

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Used for 2000 years, Yerba Mate is only grown in a region shared by Argentina,  Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil.

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This small national museum had an impressive collection of gourds ranging from over 100 years old to modern, made of all manner of materials, gourds, hooves, metal, ceramic, glass, porcelain.

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These gourds pictured above have historic figures on them. At street fairs they will make them with your name on them.

There are thousands of brands of mate, they used to be packed in tins and are mostly in paper now.

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We saw a short video on cultivation, hand and machine harvest, drying, storage for 12 months,  and packaging.

Each of our couchsurfing hosts said they’d introduce us to mate, and when the time was right one finally did.  known by the age-old term “panza verde”, green belly Juan showed us the fine points of enjoying mate traditionally. We learned to put the bombilla in the gourd and fill mostly with mate.  Bombilla is the straw, the Argentine accent pronounced “bom bee sha”. Add some room temp water near the bombilla to make and indentation, and so the 80-90C water below boiling will not burn the “shjyerba”. The Servador is the only one who touches the bombilla with his hands, and refills the water for each person in the round.  A delicious and fulfilling experience for sure!

After the.best.ever. coffee plantation living history tour in Kona, Hawaii I was expecting a lot more from Argentina around the tea they are known for, but BA is a metropolitan city and I’m looking forward to enjoying more mate experiences closer to the source.

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Yerba Mate garden in Argentina botanical garden Buenos Aires

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Gardens, Plants, and Landscapes of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Vertical gardens have caught on here as they have in American cities.

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There are many of the same standard plants in North American landscapes coast to coast as there are in Buenos Aires.

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People in the city with balconies typically have things growing. While marijuana is not legal here, I’ve seen two places with two or three plants on their balcony, and they say many others have them as well, with the knowledge that it would be up to the judge if there was ever a problem.

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The previous administration installed planters in the bus medians and special lanes for the buses with elevated platforms for easy bus entry.
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Signs of permaculture were these simple swales below planted with agapanthas,

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And the built up planters in the picture below to retain the existing trees plus living drainage for the parking area.
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The spiral walk around the planter up to the grassy sitting area around the tree is quite special.

There are many amazing, huge trees in urban parks of the Ciudad de Buenos Aires.
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This was the first time I’ve seen planters with LEDs, then I saw they sell LED pots and containers in many colors and sizes in the Home Depot knock off store called Easy right next to the Target styled store called Jumbo.
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Christmas in Buenos Aires

A 71% Catholic country, Argentina has been adopting more and more American consumer holidays as they lessen restrictions to enter the world market.

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Christmas decoration outside estacion Tigre
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Decoration on the corner of a park, behind is a statue the in center of the city park.

In 1914 Argentina was among the 10 wealthiest countries in the world because of beef and grain export.

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Jesus, General Martin on horseback, bank celebrating a holiday.

Buses of Buenos Aires

In a city of 16.6 million, larger than any U.S. city, Buenos Aires has a robust and extensive transportation system of buses and subways. Zoe navigated us with her Google Maps expertise refined in New York City, using the app Como Llego in BA. This post is about the buses, I wrote a separate post about the subway, which was developed around the same time as New York City subways.

The routes are well developed, one could get about anywhere on the public transportation. There are also many, many yellow and black taxis, and a public bike system.

Buses Beautiful Buses

The buses vary from straight ahead standard stock models to fairly extravagant. Mostly Mercedes, which makes sense given Argentina’s European heritage.

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White wall tires and shiny chrome rims

The drivers take pride in their ride and decorate them in different ways.

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Red fur and fuzzy dice, little disco balls

The decorations make for interesting, enjoyable, and unique experience with each ride and driver.

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Fanciest steering wheel in Buenos Aires Argentina

The best is the mother-of-pearl style bowling ball resin steering wheel. Others have fringe at the top of the windows inside, and chrome over the fenders.

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This is La Favorita.

After telling the driver what stop you are going to, the machines read cards you hold over a magnetic patch. The cards work on the buses and subway.

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Back and front of Buenos Aires public transportation cards January 2016

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Trains and Subways of Buenos Aires

Our couchsurfing host said the rides are expensive and people complain about the cost of the rides, 2 pesos up to 6 pesos per ride. I calculated conversation rates and found an average 3 peso ride was 22 cents.

In Neuva York, New York City, one ride is  $2.75, which is currently roughly 38 pesos.

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Retiro transfer station

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As always, be aware of who is around you, keep your phone stashed when appropriate, wear your backpack on your front, if you put it down have a leg through a strap. With that awareness, I felt generally safe on every ride.

The cars and stations do get crowded, especially during rush hour.

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There are people selling and begging, standard fare on subways, musicians playing in some byways. There are people vending products by donation, suchas a young lady who would place hair ribbons on seated female passenger’s laps, and then return before the next stop to collect any donations. One little girl was so excited she wanted her dad to give a hundred pesos, but he gave 10, probably more than he would have. Everything from flashlights to scissors to socks and treats will be placed on your seated leg for them to return and pick up or get cash.
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Art and ads. The last one is from a brand new station that opened a few days ago. We rode on it before our host had a chance to.

There are some extensive shanty towns visible from the above ground train that travels a longer distance. This non-permitted multistory housings are made of brick and morter, some are other materials, painted or stucco. The city tolerates them, partly out of not knowing what to do about it, and that it’s been there over 10 years so it’s become a human rights issue, so now they would look like the bad guys if they did anything about it.

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The tiles underfoot rattle like old bones

On a perfectly gloomy day, we decided to visit one of Buenos Aires’ big attractions, the Recoleta Cemetery.

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Surrounded on four sides by city, the most notable are the TGI Fridays and the McDonald’s facing the high wall of the cemetery one side, which are part of the outdoor food court that is the Recoleta Mall.

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View of the Recoleta Cemetery from the Recoleta Mall escalator, above. High end shops for all those things you can’t take with you, and for some reason, Timberland.

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Started in 1822 (next to the church which is even older) this Catholic Cemetery spans four acres and contains 4800 graves.

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This is no ordinary cemetery.

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This is where wealthy and influential Buenos Aires families overstay their lifespans by building tiny apartments to entomb their sarcophagi for generations.

They say it’s costs less to live a long, very extravagant lifestyle than to be buried in the Recoleta Cemetery.

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I enjoyed the perfectly placed cell phone billboard ad. ET phone great great grandmother. She misses you.

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I wondered why the external wall is so high.  It’s partly because the Recoleta Church and entrance to the Recoleta Cemetery are on a hill.  Also, there are some tomb doors with windows, sculpted iron bars, or cross-shaped openings that I could see through. Caskets were placed on shelves, sometimes many shelves high.  On the side of the inside of some of them there were two (or more) flights of stairs down. I tried to imagine the person’s job it was to unlock the metal gate/doors every 50 or 100 years and install a new preserved and blessed body in a beautiful wood box with large, ornate handles. Some were covered in embroidery-edged cloths.

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The rattling tiles could be heard immediately underfoot and afar.  I didn’t hear any chains rattle though, and the cemetery is closed at night.

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They have these monkey puzzle or bunya bunya trees in the cemetery, and there is a huge, old one in downtown Santa Rosa, CA, my home town.

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Roots do a body good.

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Being rich and influential doesn’t guarantee placement. Evita was buried in Italy for many years when she died at age 33 in 1955 (from ovarian cancer caused by the HPV her husband gave her and his previous wife who died of the same thing) before her remaining remains were installed in her husbands family tomb in 1976. It was in a side alley not easy to find other than the crowd taking pictures there.

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Help Ida get her rose, it has fallen from her graces.

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Ida know about you, but she’s in it for the long stretch.

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This family neglected to add bars and locks like the others to protect their eternal resting place from grave robbers, even though Buenos Aires has a long period of history dedicated to smuggling.

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The glass was broken, there were weeds and trash on the floor.  There were caskets inside, but the following picture reveals someone who got what they urned.

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Yes those are human bones. The skull is missing, perhaps it was disturbed in life as well.

I liked the next tomb, rough and rustic unlike any of the others.

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At first I thought it quite sweet and sentimental that someone taxidermied their cat seen just inside the gate/door, now mangy from years of weather, until it hissed at me. Apparently there are several graveyard cats living among the dead.

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Scaffolding on some (units?) and nearly 200 years of weather show families with future move-in plans who pay to upkeep, and that some don’t.  Apparently repairmen in the here and now don’t take credit or loans on equity from the beyond.

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And as in life, there are the cheap seats backing up to McDonald’s.

Moral of the story: don’t die too long ago.

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(El Damo and Zoe are travelling through South America January and February 2016)

Muchas Cosas en una Foto

This picture captures many facets of Buenos Aires (BA).

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Starting from the left, modern high rises next to centuries old buildings still occupied and flying the original flag. Graffiti is common and mostly words. BA is highly literate, there are many bookstores (and CD stores) and a QR code to an app for downloading library books advertised in the subway. Where other countries seem to devalue geeks and nerds, here there is a culture of acceptance where it is fine to be intellectual.

The small car travelling down the street. There are mostly hatchbacks from VW, FIAT, Renault and Peugeot (haven’t seen those dogs in the states since the 80s!), few Chevys and fewer fords. Almost no dodge or Chrysler.

There are buses with white wall tires. There are some classic cars. I saw a muscle car, a VW thing, some VW buses, and some old American trucks.

Breezing past the Curves gym for women (there are also places like in any city dedicated to crossfit, yoga, martial arts, there was capoera in the park, and we saw a homeopathic apothecary from 1895 still operating with modern products).

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The taxi. This is a radio taxi. When in BA  try to get the radio taxis. They use a meter.  Other taxis have the exact same colors but are free to charge whatever they want. You can ask them to use the meter (it will possibly be “broken” or no funciona). Because a cab was over 500 pesos for a 50 minute ride from the airport to where we were staying, we took a bus for 340 pesos from the main airport to another airport which got us very close to our destination. We thought we could maybe walk but then realized it was far, 4 miles. There were bunches of gringos at the airport also waiting for cabs. We waited for over half an hour to get one. After travelling on planes and the bus for 24 hours, we took the first taxi we could. Too tired to check if it was a radio cab, negotiate or ask for the meter to start, he asked where we were going and after we told him he said 300 and we agreed, just so we could get to where we were staying because we had to meet our couchsurfing host and didn’t want to get in any later.