Known as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is one of the most surprising cities I visited yet. Walking down the wide boulevards (most famously the Avenida 9 de Julio, which Argentines will proudly tell you its considered the widest street in the world), on one side you might see what looks like 18th century France and then a couple of blocks down you can spot multicolored stores and fruit stands that remind me of previous travels throughout Central America. And don’t forget about the occasional splash of Spanish influence as well…
What makes Argentina such a “mezcla,” or mix, of cultures were two waves of immigrants after the Spanish Conquista in the 1500s. Groups of Italian and Germans flocked to Buenos Aires in the 1880s-90s; followed by Europeans from various countries hoping to escape the political, economic and social turmoil in Europe during World Wars I & II.
Even though I am continually surprised and invigorated by the diverse in the city, in my first week I have managed to figure a couple of things out:
1) Trips & Drips: The sidewalks here are an obstacle course. You have to dodge the people, vehicles that come extremely close to the curb, and the most challenging part is navigating the sidewalk itself–pieces jut out or are missing all together. Not to mention the puddles, which are dangerous themselves, and often deeper than they appear. I also learned quickly not to walk over them because they aren’t from the last rain, but collect from air conditioners on the upper stories.
2) Hospitality: The Argentine women I have met are extremely welcoming. Several mothers I have met have offered to be my “familia substituta, substituta,” that is a second family to my homestay (where I move in this week).
3) Food: Not a meat-lover (and embarking on a six-month adventure in a country known for its stake): I have encountered several foods to sustain myself: fresh fruit, ducle de leche flavored yogurt, a growing number of organic restaurants, and, of course, Argentine gelato!
Despite several trips and drips, I have enjoyed my first week as a “porteña;” the nickname for Argentines from the capital city that began as a port on the Rio de la plata. Another reason “porteños” are often compared to Parisians is the widespread café culture. I am not talking about a café here or there, but multiple on each block and one on almost every corner. True to form, I am sitting in a café across the street from the Argentine Congress as I write. That’s all for now and as is local custom to say here, “ciao! ”