1/22/11

Walking in Buenos Aires


Staying in the city's MicroCentro meant being close to the many sights of Buenos Aires. In fact, it was close enough that I didn't bother to use the subway. I simply walked. And walked. Armed with a map and my daypack, I got out of the hostel and immersed myself  in the flow of a city that at first glance, looks more European than South American. Indeed, Buenos Aires has always been called the "Paris of South America". And its people? Oh, they speak Spanish with a distinctly Italian accent!


While there are New Yorkers in New York and Manileños in Manila, the local residents of Buenos Aires are called Porteños - or, people of the port. One doesn't have to look further than gaze into the waters of  Rio dela Plata which historically served the city with maritime trade. Ever since a Spaniard explorer set foot in 1516, more Europeans followed (Italian, Portuguese, French and some others), diluting the native population into what it is today. Porteños may trace their roots to Europe - including the very visible architecture - but their heart and soul is solidly anchored in South America. 


Casa Rosada

Only a few minutes after walking from the hostel, I reached Plaza de Mayo where Casa Rosada stands in all its pinkish glory. This is where the President of Argentina conducts the daily affairs of the state. But most famous of all, this is where Evita Peron used to wow a crowd of thousands as she spoke from one of the balconies overlooking the plaza. The movie "Evita" which starred Madonna was allowed to shoot in the same balcony. Today, as in the past, the plaza still reeks with the smell of discontent: there are protesters with their banners, most notable of which is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.


Metropolitan Cathedral

It's quite common to see political graffiti scrawled all over the buildings in the MicroCentro of Buenos Aires. It's been like this 3 years ago when I first visited and one could already tell how lenient their government is to this kind of protests. But I was in for a surprise when I found out that not even the Metropolitan Cathedral, the main Catholic church in the capital, is spared from a hurried paint job of vandalism!


Just before entering the pedestrian-only Calle Florida, I came across this man sitting on the base of a monument that's also riddled with political graffiti.


A Porteño vendor selling roasted nuts at the entrance to Calle Florida is just one of the many that regularly do their trade in this area busy with foot traffic.

In the center of Calle Florida is where a whole lot of business transactions happen
Anything from calabash gourd used for drinking Mate . . .
. . . to t-shirts with Che Guevara (who's from Argentina) . . .
. . . to knitted shawls . . .
 . . . to souvenir baseball caps . . .
. . . and the odd shoeshine/shoe repair.
If nothing else is good enough, there's Gallerias Pacifico mall

All that commercial activity - including those in the brick and mortar shops on both sides of the street -  is not only good  for bargain-hunting visitors but also offers a wonderful peek in the daily grind of the city. Right before reaching Plaza San Martin, the Galerias Pacifico mall entices those who prefer the branded names all too familiar in North America and Europe. However, I wasn't in the shopping mode here. I simply walked. And shoot.

From Plaza San Martin, it took me a good half hour of walking to reach Recoleta Cemetery. This is the place where the rich and famous of Argentina show off their wealth even in death. Mausoleums in various sizes and styles compete with each other, not much different in the wealthy subdivisions of the living.  As expected, Eva Peron's grave is the star attraction, the first thing everyone wants to see (just like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre).

One of Evita Peron's grave markers

Established in 1822, the Recoleta Cemetery is the oldest operating grave site in Buenos Aires. It's open daily from 8am to 6pm. Entrance is free. There's a recently built neo-classical gate added, welcoming visitors to wander into its grid-like maze and be awed by what the living can do for its dead.


From the city of the dead, I retraced my steps and got back into the action of Calle Florida, still very much alive as the crowd of shoppers and visitors mill around even past 6pm. While music blasted from a boom box, a pair of Argentines danced to Tango, undoubtedly one of world's most romantic, seductive and elegant. We were all transfixed looking at this pair as they did fancy footwork. I could only wish I knew how to dance. I'm only good at walking.

14 comments:

  1. Nice place, nice shots par... kaso sayang yung ilang lugar nababoy ng vandalism...

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  2. Now I know what the people of this place called. Yun pala yun. I love their structures! Parang blast from the past.

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  3. learned a lot from this post. didn't know that it is considered the Paris of SA. fingers-crossed im planning to go somewhere in SA in 2016. you might guess where and why on 2016. lol

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  4. They do say that Buenos Aires is the most European-looking city in South America, and your pictures definitely give that aura! While looking at them, I thought Calle Florida resembled Váci Street in Budapest or Strøget in Copenhagen!

    While in Mexico I noticed the prolific shoeshine business too, and then noticed that people there loved wearing leather shoes. Is that the case in Argentina too?

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  5. Thank you for sharing with us your walking tour of the city. It's beautiful, parang Europe but ang daming graffiti, parang parts of Europe din LOL.

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  6. Looks like a very nice city...except for the graffiti. Indeed it is very "European" looking.

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  7. i felt i walked with you on these picturesque streets. who would not be fascinated with those fantastic architectures and lovely street scene (tango!).

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  8. i really love the architecture.. one of the reasons i would go to other places.. to see those man-made wonders ;)

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  9. The European vibe is palpable. If I didn't know it I'd say this was in Europe. The streets have that flavor too.

    Did you get your Che tee?

    I didn't know that BA denizens are called Portenos. Did you feel the streets safe for exploring?

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  10. argentine tango in the plaza, i like!
    well, what's not to like, the place is like a huge museum. everything's an art.

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  11. MOKS™,
    para ring New York na may mga graffiti.

    princess_dyanie,
    actually, majority ng mga buildings sa MicroCentro lumang luma na.

    dong ho,
    parang alam ko na kung saan ka pupunta sa SA. pero ang layo pa ng 2016 ha.

    Linguist-in-Waiting,
    oh yes, Argentineans in general love wearing leather shoes. Plenty of cow hides I guess. The young ones are commonly seen wearing sneakers though.

    bertN,
    graffiti can be seen anywhere in major cities around the world but these ones in BA are quite audacious for being done on government, private & religious buildings & monuments.

    Sidney,
    BA is so European looking with Spanish that's spoken with Italian accent!

    docgelo,
    there are plenty of tango schools all over BA but I can't possibly learn this dance. I'm just happy watching.

    ardee sean,
    thanks for visiting my site! BA is far from the Philippines but who knows, you'll be able to visit it someday.

    Photo Cache,
    I felt safe although I'm sure there are petty crimes around. During my first visit, I remember a concerned local inside the subway motioned for me to put my DSLR inside the bag.
    No, I didn't buy any souvenir Che tshirt.

    Chyng,
    Tango is everywhere in BA, there are even dinner shows pero ang mahal kaya I didn't bother. At least with this street performance, you only need to "donate".

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  12. Thanks for the tour, definitely much better than history books. I don't know why but among all the great snapshots, I was drawn most to the cemetery shots.:)

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  13. It's like I also did the walking tour around Buenos Aires, beautiful snapshots of the daily grind in the city

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  14. witsandnuts,
    it's not everyday that we get to visit a cemetery but Recoleta is one great place to spend an afternoon just walking and looking around.

    lakwatsera de primera,
    thanks for walking vicariously with me!

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