The Neighborhoods of Buenos Aires
By Marina Sokoloyov
Yesterday, in a two hour guided bus tour I got to see what else exists in Buenos Aires beyond the four blocks I normally cover near the B.A.U.E.N. hotel.
Our tour began with a stop at the Plaza de Mayo, the center of the city. In addition to being surrounded by some of the Buenos Aires´ most famous buildings like the Catedral Metropolitana, Banco de la Nación (Nation’s Bank) and the Casa Rosada (Pink Government House) the area continues to host many political events.
For example, every Thursday the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a gathering of women who pray for their missing relatives from the 1980’s military rule, come together.
Next, as we headed to see the city´s barrios (neighborhoods- La Boca, Recoleta, Puerto Madero, San Telmo, Palermo, and El Centro), we passed by the Obelisco, Buenos Aires’ famous monument, located on the world´s widest street, the Avenida 9 de Julio.
Although all the neighborhoods mentioned have something special about them, my personal favorite is San Telmo due to its many artsy stores, indoor flea markets, old mansions, cafés, and bohemian nightlife. (On Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, it is also a site of tango).
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires´ port, was also really scenic and fun to see. I especially thought the two colonial ships ( the Corbeta Uruguay and the Fragata Sarmiento from the Argentine Armada) and the Puente de La Mujer ( an abstract bridge) were fascinating sites.
Our final visit was an excursión of the Recoleta Cemetery which holds bodies of once highly powerful individuals. One beloved soul resting in the cemetery is Eva Duarte de Peron, who more than 50 years after her death, is still a world icon.
How to cross the streets of Buenos Aires
Every time I cross the road in Buenos Aires I get scared. I feel like a pin at the end of a bowling lane, with someone aiming for me with a big ball; except in Buenos Aires, the ball is a car.
Normally, I believe it is unsafe and rude to J-walk but in the past days, I have changed my street habits. Like the natives, I now run through any colored light if there are no vehicles in sight.
Even if the pedestrian light says green, make sure that no cars are coming before crossing because the rules of the road in Buenos Aires is that there are none. Cars and buses can whip around corners at any time. Yesterday, I came close to a near death experience.
While crossing the street with two friends, a car flew out of nowhere and almost hit us. We dove for the pavement screaming, but people nearby only laughed. That drivers drive violently and are a danger to society is not new to Argentineans.
When my group takes a bus to the suburbs of Buenos Aires, our director Garciella is always alarmed for our safety when we near the street. It takes ten minutes to board the bus and finally I understand why. Its very easy to get hit.
While generally safe, some concerns I have heard about Buenos Aires are about it´s pickpocketers and economic problems; however, no attention has been given to crossing the streets. Buenos Aires might not have many people armed with guns, but they have individuals armed with cars. To me this is a life-threatening issue that travelers coming to Buenos Aires should be warned about.
My best advice for crossing the streets of the city is to take the lead of fellow pedestrians, they are expert street crossers.
Buenos Aires Part II: Wrapping Up
The experience and knowledge I gained in the past week are too much to fit into a single blog. For this reason, I will list, the top six things any traveler should know before going to Buenos Aires. I encourage you to further explore the topics.
1. Let’s Tango: In Argentina, tango is a popular and traditional dance practiced by Porteños (natives). Our itinerary included lessons at a non-touristy tango club, followed by a performance from the tango orchestra at Fervor de Buenos Aires.
Reservations can be made in advance and the cover charge is $10 pesos ($3 dollars). Also, as pointed out by a classmate, it must be acknowledged that Argentinean dance is more than just tango; there is also chamame, cuarteto, and Argentine Folk.
2. Performances: Buenos Aires has some impressive shows and I recommend reserving tickets online. We saw Circus – “Milagro”, an acrobatic program 5 minutes from the B.A.U.E.N.
3. Visit recovered factories. We explored three: El Global, (a Balloon Factory), Chilavert Gráfica (a printing press), and Crometel, (a metal factory). We were able to visit these factories through the Argentine Autonomista Project (AAP), an organization, in Buenos Aires offering technical and financial assistance to recovered factories. AAP offers internships and organizes trips like ours.
4. Taking transportation: In Buenos Aires, it is really common to take the Subte, or metro. However, if you get intimidated by big crowds or are claustrophobic, take a Radio taxi (avoid non-radio cabs if possible, they don’t pertain to an organization, thus there is no number to call for problems).
My teacher Gloria got separated from her husband on the Subte. It was peak time and crowded; she pushed and yelled to get out but nobody let her off. By the time she got to the door, her only choice was to jump out of a moving train (some trains are old and have wooden doors).
5. Dollars for Pesos: Argentina is one country that will not burn a hole in the pockets of Americans; the exchange rate is 3: 1. Argentina uses the American dollar sign to price its items, thus if you see some crazy figure, divide it by three to get the real price in dollars. Also, whenever you get money back, hold it up to the light and look for a man’s face, this will assure that it is not counterfeit.
6. Participate or watch Las Madres de La Plaza de Mayo: In 1976, the last military coup took over Argentina’s government. One result of this was the Dirty War (referred to by Argentineans as The Genocide). The mothers still march every Thursday in protest, trying to find their missing sons and daughters, abducted by Argentine government during that time.
I hope you enjoyed taking the journey with us to Buenos Aires, it was the ultimate learning experience and I hope to return soon.
Marina Solovyov lives in Tokyo, Japan.