They call Buenos Aires the Paris of South America. I'd have to agree.
My colectivo bus got in at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, leaving me few options but to walk around the city. I first hopped a cab to my hotel, the Plaza Hotel, and grabbed a breakfast. I was excited to find bacon at the buffet. I checked my bags with the Concierge, grabbed a map, and headed out. The day before at lunch I had read all about Buenos Aires in my Argentina guidebook and already had an idea of what to do today.
The hotel has a great central location, especially next to a long pedestrian street called Florida. It's known for all the stores and shopping along it. I walked down it many blocks checking out the stores until I got to the Avenida 9 de Mayo, another large thoroughfare. I saw the Plaza de Mayo where the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo march every Thursday (I want to go and see them tomorrow). At the end of the Plaza is the Casa Rosada, the offices of the President, and I saw that too. Evita Peron's balcony is part of the Casa Rosada. Here it is:
From the Plaza I could see the Obelisco, so I walked to that too. It's situated on the incredibly massive Avenida 9 de Julio, which is a block wide and 16 lanes across at its widest point. I admired it for a while and walked down it to see the Teatro Colon. Here's the Obelisco, and the open space around it is all the space the Avenida takes up.
From there I headed back toward the hotel. I walked around the Plaza San Martin and by chance caught a tour through the Palacio Paz, an obscenely opulent home full of marble, brass, bronze, and art built in the early 20th century. It was commissioned by José Paz, a magnate who started a large newspapercalled La Prensa (The Press) in Buenos Aires. They spent 12 years building it and importing nearly everything from Europe. Sadly he died a year before the palace was completed and his widow died a year after moving into it and it was bought out and is now a social club. I guess that's what you get for trying to build a house like that.
After kicking around a bit more I was finally able to check into my room, not a minute too soon as my feet were already killing me. For me being in Buenos Aires was incredibly exciting because it is the home to so much history and culture that I read, talked, and watched all about for so many years in college. In this vein, on Thursday I made my way back to the Plaza de Mayo at 3:30 to see the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo do their weekly march. They are the mothers and supporters of a number of children who were disappeared during the last dictatorship in Argentina, from about 1976-1983. The history of the Madres organization has gotten a bit tangled through the decades, but generally the current two factions march today advocating social change and demanding justice and answers for their murdered children. The Madres were a revolutionary group: at a time when everyone knew what was going on in the nation - the secret kidnappings and disappearances of citizens - but no one dared speak of them, a coalition of housewives and mothers vociferously denounced the governments' actions right in front of the President's offices, in a public square. Seeing them was surreal as I was so familiar with them from literature and studies, but to see the aged women marching in their symbolic white shawls with supporters behind them and placards of their missing children was shockingly and painfully tangible in person.
After this I opted for a bit less heavy Buenos Aires experience and began my hunt along Florida for a leather coat.
The next day I made my way up several blocks to the Recoleta neighborhood and Cemetery, home to the graves of some of the most important and influential figures in Argentine history, including Evita Duarte Peron. It was a place that was very interesting to walk around and admire.
From there I headed back home, picking up more souvenirs along the way. The day before I had discovered Silvia Y Mario Leather Factory, which was the answer to my prayers in my hunt for a leather coat. They let me pick out a coat design, the type and color of leather I wanted, and took my measurements, and had a custom-ordered leather coat ready for me in less than 24 hours, for less than $300 American. This might be my favorite souvenir from Argentina.
After talking to some characters in the hotel bar later that day, I caught my colectivo back to Cordoba, where a few hours later I began my mega plane trip back to Washington. Buenos Aires was an awesome city, and I was sad to have so little time there.
La nueva Porteña (The new Buenos Aires-ean),