Cafe Tortoni is a famous meeting place for presidents and politicians.
We had to try the famous dessert of Argentina: alfajores.
The July 9th Avenue is one of the widest avenues in South America, but the only building to have that address is the building for social welfare with Eva Peron’s face on it. On the north side, her face is giving a speech to the wealthy to encourage them to support social reform. On the south side, her face is smiling towards the poorer neighborhood since she comes from the poor.
Puerto Madero is a wealthy neighborhood known as a hub of money laundering.
While in Buenos Aires, we saw protests in solidarity with their Chilean neighbors who are fighting for democracy.
One night we went to a tango show which was incredible! We even got to participate in tango lessons before the show.
We couldn’t go to Buenos Aires without stopping at Don Julio’s, a famous restaurant known for the best meat in South America. The wait was a bit long, but they served free empanadas and wine during the wait.
One of our fellow travelers on this part of the trip always wanted to give out free hugs in a foreign city. So our tour guide, Mel, helped her out. We even got some free hugs!
Eva Peron is remembered as the spiritual leader of Argentina, a woman who fought for women’s suffrage and the working class. She was born in the lower class and made her way up to high society as an actress, and later as the wife of Juan Peron, the president. She was the initial first lady to pursue her own agenda and purpose while in office. She died young at age 33 due to cervical cancer, but her legend lives on in Argentina. She is buried at La Recoleta Cemetery and is finally at peace after her body was missing for many years.
Buenos Aires looks every bit like a European city, which is no surprise as it was a major trading point with a variety of European colonizers. It is even called the “Paris of South America.” The Plaza de Mayo is named for the start of the Argentinian independence. It is flanked by the Casa Rosada, or presidential palace. The Casa Rosada is where Eva Peron gave her famous speech.
The Cathedral is also in the Plaza de Mayo. It is where San Martin, one of the five liberators, is buried.
On Thursdays in the Plaza de Mayo, the Mothers of May still gather. The Mothers of May are the grandmothers of The Disappeared, the children who were killed by the right wing party and the children who were stolen from killed women and raised by right wing families in the 1970-1980’s. These children are now able to search a DNA bank to find their true families. The symbol of the white basket represents the Mothers of May.
Buenos Aires and Argentina as a whole is incredibly class divided. The wealth gap is massive and is seen today by walking just a few blocks between neighborhoods. We visited one working class neighborhood called La Boca. La Boca is famous for being the home of Boca Juniors, a soccer club. Originally both of the Buenos Aires clubs, Boca Juniors and Silver Plate, were located in La Boca. But there were too many fights between locals because of the games, so they played a match to determine who could stay in La Boca. Boca Juniors won and Silver Plate moved to the wealthy north side. The soccer matches now symbolize the fight between classes. Interestingly, Coca Cola was forced to change its colors to advertise in the Boca Juniors stadium since red and white are the colors of Silver Plate.
Another famous stop in La Boca is Caminito, a colorful neighborhood known as the birthplace of the tango. It was a poor neighborhood filled with mobsters in the past. The colorful nature came about because the local people used leftover paint from incoming ships at the river dock to paint bits of their house. The tango was said to originate from mobsters trying to seduce prostitutes in the neighborhood, hence the sexual nature of the dance.
We went out to the countryside for an Argentina Polo Day. Argentina is known for having the best players in the world with 9 of the top 10 players. It is a huge part of the culture, although very elitist. Each polo player will take 15-20 horses to a tournament, hence how expensive the game is.
A polo field is 350 meters long and 160 meters wide. The game is played with four players on each team. Numbers 1 and 2 usually score the goals and numbers 3 and 4 play defense. Number 3 is usually the most experienced player and is focused on strategy. They play 4 chukkers that are 7 minutes long and get a new horse for each chukker. They cut the manes off the horses and tie up their tails so the reigns and mallets don’t catch their hair. They also wrap the bottoms of the horses’ legs in padding and tape to protect the most sensitive area from getting hurt from the ball.
In the morning, we munched on empanadas and watched a professional polo game. We learned the rules of the game, practiced hitting the ball with the mallet, and helped throw the ball in to start the game. Afterwards, we had a delicious barbeque lunch with way too much meat and enjoyed some local wine. In the afternoon, we learned how to play polo ourselves. Once we met our horses, we practiced hitting the ball from atop the horse, which is quite difficult. Then, we played a short game.
After the game, we had ice cream and shared mate. Mate is traditionally from Argentina and Uruguay and is sewn into the fabric of their social lives. The person in charge of the mate pours a bit of hot water just over the straw and takes their sip. Then pours for the person to their right. You never move the straw, as it gets more of the herbs wet which would dilute the flavor quicker. Once the next person drinks, they hand it back to the person in charge who serves the rest of the group. In Brazil they have a similar drink but they serve it cold.
One afternoon we took a bike ride around the city.
We even checked off a bucket list activity: get a tattoo in a foreign country. Our tour guide knew of a great tattoo shop with female tattoo artists which were incredible.