For Semana Santa, I went to Buenos Aires with two of my closest friends. We flew out on Wednesday and had five days to get to know the autonomous city.
Our first day was spent exploring parts of the center close to our hostel. We walked down Florida Street while searching for an accessible atm and we were overwhelmed by the amount of people yelling “Cambio! Cambio!” The black market exchange between US dollars and pesos in Buenos Aires is massive and on one block of Florida Street my friends and I passed at least twenty people asking for exchanges. Later that night, we went out for pizza and Malbec at an Italian Restaurant. Afterwards we decided to get ice cream and go sit by the Obelisk since it was only three blocks from our hostel. Before coming to Buenos Aires, I had read about how it was a very dangerous city and how you have to be very careful wherever you are. I felt as though we had been very careful, but up until that point it seemed as though the danger of the city had been exaggerated. I guess I spoke too soon. While at the obelisk talking about life, love, and whatever else, we heard a woman screaming bloody murder. Immediately I turned around and noticed this woman on the ground with a man standing somewhat in front of her and he began to run away with her necklace in his hands. After that, my friends and I were very shaken up and decided to go back to the hostel to sleep. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, why the heck did I decide to come to a city as dangerous as this one? After that, we were very careful wherever we went and thankfully nothing else bad happened.
Our second day was spent also exploring the center. We walked to Plaza de Mayo to explore the main square in the center. We went to Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral has a transept with three aisles and chapels on the sides that can be reached through corridors. There is also a mausoleum for General José de San Martín, an Argentine general and the prime leader for the southern part of South America’s struggle for independence from the Spanish. The mausoleum has soldiers guarding it all hours and when I saw them changing shifts, I thought about how much I would hate to have that job. Later we went down to Puerto Madero to see Puente de la Mujer and relax for a while in a park. I was amazed by how windy the city was. It’s almost as though I had forgotten what wind felt like, because rarely is it windy in Santiago.
On the third day, we met up with one of my friends from high school to explore La Boca. Although it was very touristy, I really enjoyed visiting this neighborhood, walking along the colorful houses on Caminito and catching glimpses of tango artists dancing outside of restaurants. I also loved seeing all of the artwork along the streets. There was one man who was painting the most beautiful landscapes with his mouth! Later that night we went to a tango show at Café Tortoni. On our way to the show, I heard the most beautiful choir singing in Plaza de Mayo. Since it wasn’t so far away, my friends and I took a side route to go see what was happening. Since it was Good Friday, the Passion was being read aloud and acted out. There were hundreds of people on the street listening, watching and walking with Jesus and his cross. I loved seeing this because it reminded me that even in this broken city, there are people who have hope and trust in the Lord. As much as I wanted to stay there, we had reservations for the tango show in a few minutes. My friends and I were sitting at our table when a wonderful Brazilian woman asked if she could sit with us. Her name is Lourdes and she was so much fun. There was a young, attractive waiter waiting on the tables next to ours and she was blunt with him and asked if he could be our waiter because he was handsome. He said now and she started whining and then laughing, at that point our whole table was laughing. Throughout the entire show, she sang and danced to the music and she kept pointed out the most attractive male on stage saying how badly she wanted to dance with him. She even bought a very nice bottle of Malbec wine and shared it with us. It turns out she had been traveling to many different cities for the last month: New York, London, and now Buenos Aires, before heading home to Sao Paolo. It seemed like her adventure had been entertaining and here eyes were filling with tears as she was telling the waiter that she was heading home in three days. I don’t like the idea of being old, but Lourdes made me realize life is what you make of it no matter what your age is. The tango show itself was the most sensual thing I have ever seen, a part of a culture I had not known before, and I loved every minute of it. This night was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.
On the fourth day, my friends and I walked to Recoleta and explored the cemetery and the fair outside of it. I’ve talked a lot about cemeteries already, but I cannot emphasize enough how diverse and beautiful they are in Latin America. So if you find yourself in a country in Latin America, be sure to visit a cemetery. After visiting Recoleta, we went on a bike tour of Palermo. The tour was very relaxed, and we rode around the subdivisions of Palermo for four hours. Side story: Sometimes I have weird flashbacks of places in the United States that I miss whether it be the familiar drive to get to Woodfield mall, the walk to my cousin’s house, or my daily walk Marquette’s campus. This last week, I had a flashback of the bike ride through Palermo, twice. Buenos Aires is such a great city and I highly recommend you visit it if you have the opportunity.
On our Easter Sunday, I went to mass at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Lucy and then afterwards we went to the San Telmo Market and San Telmo in general to get to know the area better. It was here that I saw more gringos than I did throughout my entire trip in Buenos Aires. In comparison to the markets in Santiago, I felt that Buenos Aires had more authentic things to offer because what was sold was almost always hand crafted, each stand different from the next-with some occasional similarities of course. Later that day we relaxed, and then returned to San Telmo at night for our final dinner in Buenos Aires. We decided to go to La Brigada, because it is argued as the best steak in Buenos Aires. I don’t believe I am qualified to say whether it is indeed the best steak in Buenos Aires since I only had steak twice while I was there, but it was unquestionably the best steak I have ever had.
Before my trip, I had no idea of how different Buenos Aires would be in comparison to Santiago. In Buenos Aires, I loved seeing the European-style architecture, listening to their distinct dialect of castellano, experiencing the tango culture, and the rich food. It was sad for me to think that Buenos Aires has seen better days. Regardless of that, I would highly recommend visiting this city. One could argue that visiting Europe would be just the same, but in Buenos Aires, I was better able to understand European and Latin American characters coexist and together they create this uniqueness that the one could only know through experience.
Cheers to Semana de Santa in Buenos Aires; an adventure of new friends, Malbec every night, tango dancers, travel companions who made me laugh until I cried, and eating too much dulce de leche.
Mafalda and I