Category Archives: Buenos Aires

Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos “The space for memory and human rights”. Part 1.

Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos

“The space for memory and human rights”

Ex ESMA (Naval School of Mechanics)The space of Memory, Truth and Justice

My visit to the “museum” began as I entered the building. Faces of the victims fill the windows and glass walls that welcome you to the Officials House, a former site of both the Argentine Naval School of Mechanics and, beginning in 1977, one of the more than 600 clandestine detention centers the military dictatorship created as concentration, torture and extermination centers during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship from 1976-1983.

Fifteen buildings occupy the 42-acre property renamed the Space for Memory and Human Rights, known as ex ESMA. ESMA was the Spanish abbreviation for the former base of operations and living space for the officials who worked in this detention center, one of more than 600 detention centers located throughout Argentina. No wonder our bus driver corrected me when I indicated we wanted to exit the bus at ESMA. “EX ESMA?” he asked. “Si.” The space it formerly occupied no longer exists. It is undoubtedly EX ESMA now. I stand corrected.

So far I have visited four of the fifteen buildings so far: the “Casino de Oficiales”; the Casa por la Identidad; 30,000 Compañeros Presentes, and the Harold Conti Cultural Center. IMG_2882

Throughout the site appear various photographic, story panels that show some of those who were disappeared, telling the story of their short lives. Each records the dates of their entries into and disappearances from the ESMA detention center.

IMG_2878

Hand-painted portraits of political activists from those years through today appear on the exterior walls of some buildings, like this one of Milagro Sala, a political organizer in NW Argentina who was imprisoned in January 2016 for her beliefs and work on behalf of the people who live in the Tupac Amaru community.IMG_2922

Other buildings on the 42-acre property are vacant, some are being used for educational, artistic, research, film, music, theatre photography, workshops, guided visits for schools, seminars and debates, programs for young children and many educational and cultural events—a place where the power of art is transformative! In the following posts, I write about visiting three other buildings/exhibits on the property: the Harold Conti Cultural Center; 30,000 Compañeros Presente; and the Casa de la Identidad.

Espacio Memoria

In the actual detention and torture center, the former Casino de Oficiales, I toured the building with a Spanish-speaking guide. I wandered alone throughout the rest of the buildings and around the property itself. Except for 2 or 3 text explanations in English all of the text panels and printed materials are exclusively available in Spanish. And while it is true that a photograph is worth a thousand words, the words of those who survived this horrible place with its horrible activities, it is especially poignant to read from their memories. It is possible to arrange for a tour of this space and the property in general—in English, but I didn’t do so. With English speakers, however, I recommend an English-speaking guide so you don’t miss the moving testimonies of the survivors.

Much of what is known and spoke about in this space is based on survivors’ testimonies and various historical documents. Large video screens display interview excerpts with many survivors. The building, now empty, except for the display panels and multiple video screens it is stark and quiet. But not always. Not then. Then the torturers blared rock music throughout the detention center, though it rarely muffled the sounds emanating from the rooms where the detainees were kept. As if loud hard rock music could block out the screams from the men and women being questioned and tortured, while the capucho or hood blocked their faces from their captors and from each other.

 

The building tour took us to the military and prisoners’ housing spaces, bathroom, torture centers, and birthing center. Yes, this was where pregnant prisoners “dieron luz”, that is, where the women gave birth to their babies, and then lost their own lives as well as their newborns’. This space and its macabre reality struck me as very very powerful, and left me more than ready for the beautiful testimonies to the families of the disappeared children I saw on display in the Casa de la Identidad.

IMG_2763

How was it possible that children were born in this place?

INSIDE THE DETENTION CENTER

The Capucha

The principal space where the prisoners were kept was known as the “Capucha” (literally, the hood). Each small cubicle had a bed on the floor. Those detained had their hands and feet tied and each wore a hood or silk mask that covered their faces/eyes. Prisoners here weren’t known by their names, but by their numbers.

Some prisoners remained here for hours, days, or months, while others were kept here for years. Every Wednesday the guards would call a group of prisoners by their numbers. They were made to form a line and descend two flights of stairs down to the basement where they would be “transferred.”

Entryway to ESMA memorial site

Looking out from the former detention center

The basement

The basement was used for torturing and eliminating victims It was the first place where those abducted were taken to and gathered to be killed. Torture was the main activity of the center. Prisoners were taken their after arriveal, where they were interrogated. Officers wanted information from them aboth other political activisits. Also located here was the Infirmary where prisoners were kept alive after their torture and where the military gave prisoners sedatives for their “traslado” once it was determined that they would die. Here, wrote Alberto Girondo, “Torture happened practically every day and when I was in the infirmary I could hear perfectly well the screams of those being tortured, in spite of the music played to ‘cover up’ their screams and the voices of the torturers who also screamed very loudly to demand information from the prisoners.

IMG_2774  Los Traslados

The euphemism for death. “Traslado” (transfers) was what the military called the disappearance of those imprisoned here. Their prinicipal method of exterminating prisoners here consisted in rounding them up alive, drugging, stripping and dropping them from airplanes into the sea or the Rio de la Plata. This method was later known as the “death squad.”

Pieza de las Embarazadas

The registries show that more than 30 pregnant women were sent to ESMA, even though it is believed that the number is actually larger. A number of the children born here would be returned to their families (after 1983) thanks to the work of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. These women did and continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the children of those disappeared.

After the mothers were separated from their newborn children, their jailers would make them write a letter with the child’s details. They assured the mothers that they would get these letters to the families where their children would be sent. But it wasn’t so. A few days after giving birth most of the women were assassinated and their babies given away. There is only one exception to this. The son of Elizabeth Patricia Marcuzzo, who she named Sebastian, born on APRIL 15, 1978, is the ONLY child who was ever reunited with his biological family, in part because his mother Elizabeth’s letter actually did reach Sebastian’s new family.

A small photo appears in an exhibit focusing on the perpetrators of the crimes against the people. It shows the official Héctor Febrés, in charge of the clandestine efforts that took place here, where more than 30 children were given away. Febrés, the only one implicated during the first trial of those responsible died in his cell after taking cyanide pills only a few hours after being sentenced, in December of 2007.IMG_2915

Los Baños

It was in the bathrooms that those abducted by the Navy Intelligence Service were able to communicate with one another. If not actually speak, at least they could look at one another in the mirrors of those bathrooms. IMG_2767As a result, survivors identified many of the disappeared and their testimonies were part of the main evidence provided in the court trials afterwards.

Condemned

The last stop on our tour was a long, rectangular room with floor to ceiling windows separated by cement columns. It was completely empty, except for the 16 slide projectors overhead that projected onto all the walls photographs and histories of the military officials responsible for the disappeared at ESMA during these painful years. How moved I was to reach the end of this horrific slide show, to read the word Condenados and see the sentences meted out by Argentine courts to the torturers. Then. And now.

 Continue on to read Part Two: Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos, Casa de la Identidad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, Dirty War, Golpe Militar, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Los desaparecidos, Parque de la Memoria, Plaza de Mayo, The disappeared, Visiting Mendoza

A day away: Visiting San Antonio de Areco

IMG_1740San Antonio de Areco, along the banks of the Areco River, is an easy day trip from the city of Buenos Aires. It is just 70 miles northwest by car, so visiting San Antonio is a pleasant way to trade the frenzy of the city for the laid-back atmosphere of the Argentine countryside and this lovely little town. Home to many estancias it is an easy place to get to, relax in and explore on foot to enjoy its natural and man-made beauty and treasures.IMG_1778

There are lots of places to see gauchos in Argentina. Among them is the lovely, laid back town of San Antonio de Areco, located 70 miles northwest of the city of Buenos Aires. You can pay an agency $150/US for a day trip there to a private estancia (ranch), where you will see ranchers at work, enjoy local music, eat an authentic asado (barbecue) and take a stroll around these private estancias.

Or, you can rent a car with a GPS and drive to the town yourself and have the freedom to wander as you like. That’s what we did when my sister Josephine and her friend Jane visited from Chicago in March. Estrella, a Uruguayan friend who lives in Buenos Aires, joined us for our “día del campo” road trip.

IMG_1762

A 1-1/2hr. car ride brought us to the quiet, pretty central plaza where free parking was ample and a good starting point to enjoy the colonial architecture and relaxing atmosphere of the town. Among its highlights are the Museu Gauchesco and the Parque Ricardo Guiraldes, the Culture Centre Usina Vieja, the Town Museum and the Old Bridge.

A walk along the Puente Viejo (old bridge) takes you to the Gaucho Museum and the adjoining Pulperia de Blanqueada, once an old grocery store located alongside the museum, where in years past, the local gauchos shopped for their supplies. One part of the museum campus houses a local artesan who dyes wool with natural dyes, spins it herselfand makes beautiful blankets, carrying on the traditional methods that were followed during the 19th century. She enjoyed teaching us about the dyes, the weaving methods and the traditions carried down from her teacher’s teacher to her and so on.

Local artesans’ shops and cafes lined the old section of town. The town museum houses the newly initiated artesan’s cooperative where women artesans display and sell their crafts. A walk in the adjacent Ricardo Guiraldes Park, offers views of old farming equipment alongside flowering trees of the park, including a wide variety of birds from the La Pampa region, and huge cactus plants filled with the edible, deep red prickly pear fruit. We especially appreciated the colorful entrance to the city museum, webbed by interlocking, colored plastic cables and stays that appeared to form a sort of webbing that drew you inside.

A relaxed lunch at a parrilla restaurant along the river was the perfect spot to enjoy  IMG_1766

an asado, drink a beverage or two and take in the local scenery before heading back to the car, and eventually back to the busy city of Buenos Aires. While we never really saw any gauchos, we certainly enjoyed the outdoor beauty of the town where many have lived and armed over the past centuries.

For a day of greenery and relaxation, head to San Antonio de Areco!

2 Comments

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, Estancias, Travel in Argentina

Turning 25 in Buenos Aires

thumb_FullSizeRender_1024.jpgNoooo, not me. My blog. I’ve reached a milestone 25 posts on seebuenosaires.com since I started it five years ago. This post, #26, is really an index of the titles of each of my previous posts. I’ve written them to share my experiences, impressions and photos. Now in 2016 with almost 4,000 reader views I’m still finding new things I want to share. So far I’ve written about — well, go ahead, click, read, enjoy–and come visit to seebuenosaires for yourself!

Holy, holy, holy

On politics in Argentina: Without freedom of speech there is no democracy

Parque de la Memoria

Come along and walk with me if you like what you see: Morning walks in Buenos Aires

Viva Jujuy!

argentina image

La Vida Salteña

In red and white: walking against injustice

Your special Buenos Aires tour: the same and not the same

Carnaval 2014, Montevideo, Uruguay

Visit Buenos Aires in 2014

Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls

Buenos Aires Street Art Graffitti

From Ice to Fire: Visiting Tierra del Fuego

Visiting Argentina’s glaciers

January, 2013 from my southern home

Museum Afternoons

Visiting Mendoza: Argentina’s wine country

People to meet, places to go, food to eat
Welcoming 2012 in Buenos Aires

November

Cycling in Buenos Aires

Bienvenido a mi querida Buenos Aires

On language, culture and friendship

Tango Energy

See Buenos Aires with me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, MALBA, Montevideo, Mothers of the Disappeared, Museums in Buenos Aires, Parque de la Memoria, Plaza de Mayo, Politics, public art murals, Recoleta Cemetery, Religious buildings, Street Art, The disappeared, Travel in Argentina, Ushuaia, Visiting Jujuy, Visiting Mendoza, Visiting Salta the Beautiful, Visiting Uruguay

Holy, holy, holy

Thanks to friends who asked me what I knew about Jews in Buenos Aires, in 2015 I began to learn more about the various cultural groups and religious faiths  here. First up: religions and religious institutions.

l had heard that Argentina was pretty much a Catholic country, although I’d never participated in  religious ceremonies of any kind when I’ve travelled within Buenos Aires and Argentina. While 70% of Argentinans identify as Catholics, down from 90% previously, there is indeed religious diversity in Buenos Aires. Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Mormons, as well as various Protestant and Christian groups each have their own places of worship, and in some cases, of burial too. Let me take you on a tour of the major religions and their institutions.

thumb_IMG_0757_1024

Altars, Metropolitan Cathedral

thumb_IMG_0763_1024

Side altar, Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral, the most important Catholic Church in the area, is filled with marvelous tilework (not unlike the spectacular Teatro Colon’s), among its many altars and statues. The Cathedral was once the home parish of Pope Francis Bergoglio, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires who lived next door to the cathedral in a simple apartment so he could minister easily to his flock. The cathedral is set across from the Plaza de Mayo.

thumb_IMG_0681_1024

Overlooking Recoleta Cemetery

Not exclusively a Catholic cemetery but filled with many catholics, the Recoleta Cemetery where many of BA’s nobility and military elite are buried, dates from the early 18th century. Prior to becoming a cemetery, this area was once part of the land attached to a Catholic cloister with the church–La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar—below it.

 

thumb_DSCF0041_1024

From the cloisters overlooking the Recoleta Cemetery

While the land became the burial ground of Argentina’s rich and famous, the church still stands, as does it’s former cloisters. It is possible to visit what has become an interesting museum of Catholic religious art including various oil paintings, carvings, pictures, silverware, books, furniture, and liturgical vestments, etc. that date from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. The view from the cloisters offers a panoramic view of this famous cemetery.

 

The largest mosque in all of Latin America, the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center, is located in the Palermo neighborhood.

thumb_DSCF0242_1024

Mosque entryway

thumb_DSCF0247_1024Both a mosque and a center for Islamic culture, the center hosts a primary and secondary school, as well as a divinities school and a dormitory for 50 students. The mosque is home to about 1% (400,000-500,000 people) of the city’s population.

I had the unique opportunity to visit the mosque during a visit from Chicagoan Fadwa Hasan in 2011. The cultural center has very limited visiting hours, but when my Arabic-speaking colleague said we hadn’t come to visit but to pray, we were immediately welcomed in and taken to the room where women prepare themselves to enter the mosque proper for prayer.

 

thumb_DSCF0246_1024With shawls covering our hair, we were to remove our shoes, bathe our hands and elbows before entering the 2nd floor of the mosque (the first floor being reserved for the men). There we prayed silently before touring the rest of the center, and speaking informally with a young man who had also entered for silent prayer. He explained that when his parents migrated to Argentina they were attracted to the temple and after studying Islam, they converted and are now temple members, as is he.

Another half million people, according to the Mormon’s website, participate in the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Buenos Aires. Yes, there are Argentinian Mormons, and one of the country’s two Mormon temples is situated just outside the city limits in the suburb Ciudad Evita. I’ve never been inside this majestic temple, but its presence in this small suburb a few miles from the international airport offers dramatic views, rising as the tallest building in the area.IMG_1436

Across the street from Parque Lezama in the San Telmo neighborhood sits the majestic Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity of Buenos Aires, also the largest church in South America of its denomination worldwide.

thumb_IMG_0676_1024

Russian Orthodox Church

thumb_IMG_0677_1024

Russian Orthodox Church, San Telmo

The church was built in 1901 and continues to hold weekly and special services. Its blue and white spires beckon visitors from the nearby Feria de San Telmo and the park.

There are many Jewish synagogues scattered throughout Buenos Aires. Templo Libertad, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Buenos Aires, is located next door to the Jewish Museum and just down the street from the famous Teatro Colon. Starting at the Jewish Museum, whose artifacts

IMG_0145_1024

Hebrew typewriter

tell the history of the Jewish people in Buenos Aires and in Argentina overall, you can then visit the synagogue proper, with its beautiful stained glass windows.

IMG_0149_1024

Synagogue

IMG_0148_1024

Chandelier in Synagogue

IMG_0154_1024

Stained glass, synagogue

Although not specifically religious centers but cultural ones, the Jewish Holocause or Shoah Museum and the AMIA Jewish Community Center also reflect the religious and cultural life of many of the city’s Jewish residents. (Both the Holocaust museum and AMIA Center will be featured in a future post. Subscribe now.)

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Buenos Aires, Parque de la Memoria, Plaza de Mayo, Recoleta Cemetery, Religious buildings, Visiting Mendoza

On politics in Argentina: Without freedom of speech there is no democracy

I’ve been coming to Buenos Aires since 2002. In these past 15 years I’ve learned to speak Spanish, learned about Argentinian culture and have made wonderful friendships with many people here. But I’ve only just begun to learn about Argentine politics, as a new president is elected and policies and programs shift from liberal to conservative.

Political conversations seem common and frequent among everyone here. The multiple political parties and their respective perspectives are spread across the conservative-liberal spectrum. Often, as I would listen to others’ political discussions, someone would ask me if I understood what they were saying about various political issues and situations here, and I’d always told them no I did not. Everyone would always reassure me that it was okay not to understand, because even the Argentine people having those same discussions did not understand the politics here either! And we’d laugh at their self-critique and self-commentary.

That was then. I’m not laughing now.

My political education has begun.On December 10, 2015 Argentina elected a new president, Mauricio Macri—a conservative former governor of the city of Buenos Aires—who, it appears to me, wants to rollback and eliminate the social, political and economic policies established during the past twelve years of Kirchners in the presidency (Nestor for 4 and Cristina for 8 of the past 12 years). Slightly more than half of the voting public, 51%, chose Macri. Thus, in a country where popular political expression is a fact of daily life, I expect to see those who sympathized with the former president, Cristina Kirchner protesting in the streets. Kirchneristas–how those who supported her are often referred to in the media—are indeed taking to the streets to advocate for their interests. But once there, protestors are not being allowed the complete freedom of expression as was common during the presidency of Cristina Kirchner.

Kirchneristas (whose candidate Daniel Scioli garnered 49% of the presidential vote) are gathering almost daily in demonstrations against the latest in the series of conservative changes Macri has made in the lone month since he has occupied the presidency. In this short time, Macri has been responsible for firing 10,000 government workers, appointing two new Supreme Court justices and bypassing Congress’ approval. He has imprisoned a political activist, had the riot police attack protestors who were being fired from their jobs. Just what the newly unemployed need–not.  Along comes the 40% devaluation of the peso that impacts everyone’s lives.

Popular radio journalist Victor Hugo Morales was suddenly taken off the airwaves, likely for expressing anti-government views. Macri had already seen that the popular nightly political news analysis program “678” was taken off the air. Free speech seems to be facing swift attacks. The Argentine government has begun again to criminalize peaceful dissent, and to censor opposing points of view.

What is going on? I can understand people wanting change in their government. (The name of Macri’s center-right political party is just that: “Cambiemos”, “let’s change”). I have often voted against the leadership in my own city, state, and country. But what I don’t understand is how those who voted for Macri explain the big, quick shift to the right this conservative new president is taking the country in. And I understand even less why they are tolerating these changes. I wonder what they think about Macri’s actions this past month. Is this the Macri they expected? What now?

Macri’s actions remind me of the censorship and repression that Argentines faced during the military dictatorship of 1976-1973, known as the “dirty war,” when more than 30,000 people were tortured and “disappeared”, killed for their opposition to the dictatorship.  I can’t help but think that Macri is taking Argentines down that desolate path again, with these recent moves to punish and restrict dissent and free speech. Consider for yourself:

Timeline of presidential actions Dec. 12, 2015 – Jan. 17, 2016

  • Dec. 10 Macri elected to office.

  • Dec. 15   Macri bypasses the Congress and appoints “by decree” two Supreme Court Justices. The last time a president did so was in 1862.

  • Dec. 17 Macri undermines the media law and the popular public tv news analysis program “678” disappears from nightly tv.

  • In one week in early January Macri fires 10,000 government workers.

  • Jan. 7 unhappy that Macri dismissed them from their government jobs, public workers in La Plata, Argentina are attacked by riot police using rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters.

  • Jan. 11 Continental Radio journalist Victor Hugo Morales is fired from his job.  Morales believes he has been censored by the government for his criticisms of Macri’s actions.

  • Jan. 12 “Thousands march to Plaza de Mayo in support of Victor Hugo Morales” reported TeleSur TV network. “Without freedom of speech there is no democracy” was the slogan used by many of those carrying pickets in the demonstration.

  • Jan. 16 Popular Argentine indigenous leader Milagro Sala is arrested for criticizing the governor’s attacks on social programs in Jujuy. She is imprisoned and remains there under charges of inciting crime and stealing public funds.

Wonder what else I’ll learn in the coming days and months about politics in Argentina? Me too. Subscribe to my blog: http://www.seebuenosaires.com

Next post:Holy, holy, holy: Religion in Argentina

3 Comments

Filed under Buenos Aires, Dirty War, Golpe Militar, Plaza de Mayo, Politics

Come along and walk with me if you like what you see: morning walks in Buenos Aires

One of the joys of escaping Chicago’s winter is that I can take morning walks everyday, January through June (unless it’s already too humid and hot by 10:00am here). Buenos Aires is a very walkable city. I prefer to avoid the busy streets and broken sidewalks wherever possible so I head directly towards greener spots in the Recoleta neighborhood. I’m including this map of the area so you can “follow” my hour-long path if you wish.

my route

my route

I start out on Laprida Street (see yellow burst), head toward French, then over a few blocks on Pacheco de Melo to Austria Street and on to Sanchez de Bustamante. From there I head toward the green along Figueroa Alcorta and Ave. Liberator.

Flower kiosk

Ombú bush

Along the route I pass some lovely flower kiosks, and am never disappointed to see the enormous and beautiful Ombú bushes with their interesting and quite extensive network of roots. A species of evergreen, ombús can grow quite large and provide delightful shaded areas to sit, rest, and contemplate life.

I’ve seen too many “ghost bikes” in Chicago marking spots where cyclists were killed by passing vehicles, and I continue to be surprised by the amount of markers embedded along the streets like these rectangular memorials to some of the 30,000 disappeared during the dirty war. One reads: “Here lived Arcangel “Cacho” Herrera and Hilda Marcia Paz, popular activists detained and disappeared by the state terrorism. Neighborhoods in memory and justice.” Two appear side-by-side, in memory of seven young people from Austria and various provinces in Argentina, who were also disappeared. Memory is alive in this country!IMG_0979

On Agüero Street I pass a park alongside the National Library and pause to snap photos of this “lover’s spot” where couples promise undying love with locks attached to wrought iron window 20150117_121424bars20150117_121511 and am amused by the life-size sculptures of Evita and Juan Peron and their dog seated on a park bench. Only the angle of the morning sun prevents me from taking a selfie alongside them.20150114_105628Continuing my walk along Avenida Libertador, I ascend the steps of the Faculty de Derechos (Law School pictured above) and continue on to the Paseo Ruben Dario and the Plaza Francia near the Buenos Aires Design Mall (with the famous Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar, a 17th century Jesuit church and the 2nd oldest building in the country, in the center background).

20150117_125428

Passing a few runners and others out walking or cycling is a constant, but Saturdays and Sundays bring out many more locals and tourists alike, enjoying the same open green spaces as I do. There is a lot of city to walk, but it’s the greenery that brings me to this “route”. Enjoying this outdoor gallery of murals along Pacheco de Melo Street is definitely a visually exciting way for me to start each day! The quantity and diversity of public art murals along my walk just beg me to photo them. I can’t resist so I hope you’ll enjoy my sharing them with you. Many are 2013 artists’ interpretations of various sites throughout the city. Enjoy viewing them here and plan to come see them in person!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 Comments

February 10, 2015 · 7:20 pm

In white and in red: walking against injustice

Two recent actions shared center stage in Buenos Aires’ famous Plaza de Mayo, both made by groups of women, who in the choice of their actions, became walking witnesses against violence and injustice to women today and to all those who were disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War (1976-1983).

One year into that tragic period, it was ordinary women, housewives many, committed to being the center of their families—courageous women who took to the Plaza each week, walking together in silent protest against the dictatorship government’s actions of disappearing the young and political “dissidents” to their dictatorial rule. The mothers walked to plead for the return of their loved ones. During these years more than 30,000 people were “disappeared”, including infants and young children stolen from their parents to become the children of military families, university student activists who were kidnapped, disappeared, tortured and later murdered by being dropped into the Rio de la Plata during the night. The mothers’ silent walk demanded the government take action to find the disappeared. Every Thursday afternoon since their first march in April, 1977 the Mothers and the Grandmothers of the Disappeared have marched in silence in the Plaza. They are powerful in the presence, in their advocacy, in their continued political actions over the years, and in their silence, each Thursday afternoon, giving witness to the brutal injustices the government brought upon those who resisted them. Their story has been told by award-winning director Estela Bravo in a film, Who Am I?, and in print, Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina by Rita Arditti.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


On the particular Thursday I took these photos, the Mothers shared the Plaza space with another group of women, the Encuentro de las Trabajadores Bancarias, a professional organization of Women in Banking, during their 9th annual conference. The conference participants displayed their own silent witness in a public art action protesting injustice towards women, a “march” of multiple pairs of bright red women’s shoes. The red shoes formed a walking path, a silent presence and protest there, as did the mothers, in view of the Casa Rosada, the seat of the national government encouraging the government and the world, in their search for justice. It was powerfully moving to join alongside these two groups of women, with their powerful red and white symbols, marching for justice in Buenos Aires and around the world.

IMG_1196

9 Comments

Filed under Buenos Aires, Mothers of the Disappeared, Plaza de Mayo

Your special Buenos Aire tour: the same and not the same

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The sites to see in Buenos Aires remain basically the same, but yet each tour I give turns out to be a unique experience for a variety of reasons: time, local special events, and new places to visit, eat, enjoy! Such was definitely the case when Kathy P visited Buenos Aries for 11 days in March. It was Kathy’s first visit to South America,

Shopping. Old San Telmo Market

Shopping. Old San Telmo Market

and to Buenos Aires in particular, so it called for the basic tourist highlights: a bus tour of the city, the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires (MALBA), the Museo Evita, touring the famous Recoleta Cemetery, a day trip to Tigre, the Delta, another to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay and yet another to a unique feria just outside the city, the Feria de Mataderos. We were fortunate, too to attend some very special events: a live Joan Baez concert at Teatro Gran Rex, a tour of Teatro Colon Opera House with time to sit in on an orchestral rehearsal session. And frequently throughout Kathy’s 11 day visit, we enjoyed music, music,

AfroCultural Center drumming workshop

AfroCultural Center drumming workshop

Feria San Telmomusic, tango in the theatre and in the neighborhood.

Tango dancers. Esquina Homero Manzí

Tango dancers. Esquina Homero Manzi

Tango. Esquina Homero Manzi

Tango. Esquina Homero Manzi

The weather: late summer, early fall, with daytime highs in the low to mid 70’s, except for one day with afternoon and overnight rain. Sunny, blue skies with low humidity, a plus for visiting Buenos Aires late summer to early fall.

Having a travel-conscious traveler like Kathy here was wonderful as she continually gave me feedback about those events she thought were “must-do’s” for all my tour guests. Visiting the Feria de Mataderos was one of those.

More dancers near the "bar notable"Bar Oviedo in Mataderos

On Sundays from March through December, there are two adjacent arts and crafts fairs, one in the park of Nueva Chicago (no kidding, that’s really the name of the place) and the other in the Feria de Mataderos itself, where the culture of Northern Argentina shapes the arts and crafts, foods, music, lots of dancing, singing, and a gaucho skill riding “sortija” competition on display. Our lunch consisted of a “choripan” (what we know as a sausage sandwich on good French bread) cooked on the parrilla (barbecue grill), accompanied by your beverage of choice and papas frítas (French fries) for less than $8 per person.

Mataderos dancers 2Another of Kathy’s “musts” was to rent a vehicle to tour Colonia in style. And so we did!

 

 

 

 

 

Our "ride" in Colonia

Our “ride” in Colonia

Though a little noisier than a golf cart, our jeep cost us about $35 for the full day, and was easy to drive around the town, stopping at the now defunct Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring) for a few photos,

Inside the Plaza de Toros

Inside the Plaza de Toros

My kind of bull

My kind of bull

or at the swanky Sheridan Golf Resort and Hotel at the end of the river road to peek in at the lifestyles of the rich and well, rich, and naturally to use the bathrooms, check out the outrageous prices on their menus and head back to our jeep for the duration. Returning back to the center of this World Heritage town, we walked the plaza in the historic old part of town, enjoyed seeing the fun wares in some local boutique shops, climbed the lighthouse (well almost all the way to the top, I confess!) to see all of the city surrounding us, and stopped for quite a while taking in the newly created public art murals painted on the outside of the soccer stadium wall there

2013 mural series. Colonia

2013 mural series. Colonia

2013 stadium mural. Colonia

2013 stadium mural. Colonia

Political commentary abounds in Buenos Aires including here,

Protesting Monsanto. San Telmo

Protesting Monsanto. San Telmo

on the column of a newly restored historic building in San Telmo where protesters spray painted their message to Monsanto and passers-by like we were one Sunday morning. Two of the more moving political moments we shared during Kathy’s visit took place one afternoon at the Plaza de Mayo. There we witnessed the silent procession of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Disappeared, who have met and walked here every Thursday afternoon for the past 37 years, beginning as a new form of social protest during the Dirty War (1976-83) and continuing through today. Sharing the plaza that Thursday was an exhibit created by the 9th Conference of Women Bank Workers to protest discrimination against women.

Exhibition protesting discrimination against women

Exhibition protesting discrimination against women

The contrast between the white headscarves of the Madres, chosen to represent the diapers of their babies kidnapped and disappeared by the military dictatorship during the dirty war years,

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

alongside the pairs of bright red women’s shoes standing in silent contemporary witness against violence to women was moving. These two diverse groups of Argentinian women will take the stage in my next post.
Great weather formed the background for our March touring, and except for one rainy afternoon and evening, we enjoyed sunshine and temperatures from 70-80 degrees, the usual early March fare here. In other words—an ideal time to visit for those north Americans who don’t want summer’s heat but do want to escape the brutal winters in the Midwest and beyond.

Much sightseeing, eating, drinking, listening to music, enjoying the dancers and doing it all inexpensively were definitely the highlights of Kathy’s trip. As was watching the Mothers of the Disappeared present their symbolic white headscarf to Joan Baez at her concert (she was literally moved to tears!), spending a few hours enjoying every piece of the exhibition of the Argentinian painter-mystic Xul Solar

Museo Xul Solar

Museo Xul Solar

just a few blocks away from my apartment, and the art deco and art Nuevo on the streets and in the cafés, well, it’s quite something to experience.

Tango orchestra. Feria de San Telmo

Folkloric music from northern Argentina

 

Come see for yourself. I’m accepting reservations now on a limited basis for my personalized tours of Buenos Aires and beyond in 2015 (January through June). Don’t wait too long to visit the Paris of South America! I’ll show you a good time, no doubt.

What is real is invisible to the eye said the Little Prince.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.  from The Little Prince.  2013 Mural detail. Colonia

8 Comments

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento, Feria de Mataderos, MALBA, Museums in Buenos Aires, Street Art, Tigre, Travel in Argentina, Visiting Uruguay

Visit Buenos Aires in 2014

Want to gain 4 hrs of daylight and 70-80 degrees? Come let me guide your visit to Buenos Aires in 2014. I can’t think of a better winter getaway than to fly down to summer for awhile. Let the cold and snow melt away to long, sunny days and enchanted evenings as you enjoy the culture, food, sights and people of this South American wonderland. Let me help you plan your visit, or even become your personal BA tour guide and translator.

You can see, listen to and learn to dance tango, visit the city’s many art museums, shop for silver, leather, designer clothing, wine and more in the boutiques, elegant shopping malls, or the local San Telmo antiques street fair. Sample delicious Argentine cuisine–empanadas, wines, parrilla (barbecue), artesanal pastas, pizzas, gelatos. Walk the neighborhoods of Recoleta, Palermo, Barrio Norte, La Boca, Puerto Madero, and more.

Rodrigo el bandoneonista

Rodrigo playing the bandoneon at El Atenéo Bookstore

Ride the train to Tigre, the delta and have lunch as you cruise the channel between Argentina and Uruguay, learning about the ecology of this unique environment with guides who navigate the channels and know all the spots to see.  Old meets new in La Boca where waiters use their cell phones during breakSummer weekends bring everyone to the artesan´s ferias in Recoleta and San Telmo, and local murgas and marches with drummers and dancers in costumes winding through the streets of San Telmo and La Boca.

Symbol of the Mothers of the Disappeared, Plaza de Mayo

Symbol of the Mothers of the Disappeared, Plaza de Mayo

I can help make your reservations, be your translator, and take you every place you want to see, including those spots where locals go to eat, drink, and spend time with friends.

Interested in seeing more than BA? Iguazú Falls is a plane ride away. A 1-hr ferry boat ride can take us across the River Plate to Uruguay for a day of walking and browsing in Colonia del Sacramento, a Unesco World Heritage site.  Walk in silent memory and protest with the mothers and the grandmothers of the disappeared every Thursday in the Plaza de Mayo.  A day or two at a nearby estancia (ranch) will show you what the gauchos’ world is like. Wine lovers might want to fly up to the northwest wine capital, Mendoza, to sample Argentinian wines, or fly from BA to destinations throughout South America, including the wine country in Mendoza, Iguazu Falls, Bariloche in the Andes where you can ski all year round. Or head north towards the equator and tour the provinces of Salta or Jujuy.

Let’s plan your 2014 dream vacation to Argentina together! Hope to welcome you to my winter/summer home in Buenos Aires. And please spread the word. The sun sets at 8:10pm now, so lighten up your days in Buenos Aires.

2 Comments

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, Travel in Argentina

Argentina: a visit to Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friends north and south at Bar de Cao

Friends north and south at Bar de Cao

What will we do during our two weeks in Buenos Aires? My friends had lots of ideas, and so did I. How to plan a rich 2-week experience of El Sur was my challenge when four dear friends travelled to Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls, Argentina in February 2013 (summer in BA!). They wanted to see and do all that was possible, so that’s the trip we planned.

Housing, Air Travel Reservations
In advance of the trip, we searched online for suitable housing that met all their criteria (3 bedrooms, internet access, air conditioning, in the Recoleta neighborhood) and I located one that did exactly that—and just a block away from my own apartment there. I recommended a travel agent to them who assisted with their flight arrangements to Buenos Aires as well as a hotel stay and tour for their 2-day side trip north to see Iguazú Falls, a marvelous natural wonderland of 200 waterfalls, good hiking and lush vegetation at the border with Brazil.

Personalized
And for the entire two weeks of their South American vacation we enjoyed Buenos Aires as few tourists usually do. Not only did we visit all the typical tourist sites including excellent museums, outdoor weekend arts and crafts fairs, see a traditional tango show, but we also visited with my growing community of Argentinian friends, enjoying one another at the outdoor weekly tango concert/dance in Parque Patricios, friends’ lovely country house in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, where we discussed everything from local foods to film, politics, Argentine history and so much more!

Museums, food, music
In all, we saw exhibits at five museums, including the Museo de Belles Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), MALBA–Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, the Evita Museum, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, Fundación Próa, and the newest, the Museo del Bicentenario, around the corner from the Casa Rosada.

While their apartment had a full kitchen, the travelers preferred to sample from Buenos Aires’ many excellent restaurants and to sample lots of local specialty foods. We had the best grilled meat in the city, at the famous parrilla restaurant La Cabrera, enjoyed artisanal ice cream at Freddo’s (more than once), enjoyed empanadas and pizzas at Puntopizza, down the street from their apartment. Also close to “home” they enjoyed great sandwiches and salads at the local restaurants Delicious, Como en Casa, and Nuestros Sabores (wonderful risottos too). We visited the famous Cafe Tortoni and Las Violetas for late day cocktails and appetizers,

snacks, Las Violetas

snacks, Las Violetas

tried the picada meat/cheese/olives-and-more sampler and beers at my favorite, Bar de Cao.

Music in Buenos Aires was high on everyone’s list, and whether unplanned, like the solo bandoneon player who entertained us at El Ateneo Bookstore, and the weekly local tango dancing in Parque Patricios,

Tango, Parque Patricios Tango, Parque Patricios]

or planned, we saw the professional show of tango dancing, singing and music at Piazzolla Tango, the folkloric music of northern Argentina we shared at La Peña del Colorado and lastly the Lopez Ruiz Jazz Quartet at the jazz club Notorius.

Navigating BA
Our group of five travelled by boat,

Seeing the falls close up

Seeing the falls close up

buses, cars, taxis, plans, ferries and miles on foot. We went on guided tours of the Recoleta Cemetery, a city-sponsored bus tour of Buenos Aires, a driving tour of the San Telmo and La Boca neighborhoods, and the most expensive, a wonderful tour of the famous opera house the Teatro Colon. We scoured two weekend outdoor arts ferias in Recoleta and San Telmo. I wasn’t the only guide on the trip, either. I was delighted the evening Larra led us the La Cumaná restaurant, where we had a delicious dinner of food local to northern Argentina.

And more food and wine
Other Argentine gastronomy we had included: artesan ice cream (gelato), máte, medialunas and facturas, lots and lots of delicious Malbec, coffee, local beers, chivito sandwiches and Josefina’s homemade Pia nóno in Uruguay, fresh pastas and excellent risottos. Incredibly good grass fed, hormone-free beef and chorizos, along with cheeses, olives and artesanal breads. What’s not to like?

Ahh!
The trip, like most, presented us with its share of challenges. We thankfully escaped the bus thief who tried to steal Jacqui’s camera, but not the couple who got away with Donna’s purse (camera and $) on the final day of the trip. Kathleen survived her bee sting with a visit to the hospital emergency room, and everyone, me included, learned so much about ourselves as well as the marvelous city of Buenos Aires. Era un gran exito! (It was a great success!)

Join me and enjoy summer or fall in Buenos Aires in 2014!

2 Comments

Filed under bilingual American guide, Buenos Aires, Museums in Buenos Aires, Travel in Argentina