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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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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

Carnaval 2014, Montevideo, Uruguay

“If you can,” Susana wrote, “come to Montevideo this weekend for the fiesta.” She didn’t tell me the “fiesta” would actually be that of Carnaval, the largest celebration of the rich, fascinating annual African-Uruguayan cultural tradition known as El Candombe, or Desfile (Parade) de Las Llamadas.

Second only to the annual event held each February in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Carnaval Montevideo is celebrated and seen world-wide via live TV coverage and if you are lucky enough to purchase a seat along the route, to be there in person for this dynamic event. The parade took place over two nights, with 42 distinct comparsa groups, a total of more than 3,000 elaborately costumed performers–men, women and children–parading along a 12-block street route, lined by crowds of people like us, sitting, drinking, eating, laughing and taking photos of all the beautifully costumed participants and their elaborate facial make up.

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The parade is both celebration and competition, as there are monetary prizes awarded to the best performer in each category. Standard characters include the escobero, a man who walks and juggles a broom, two classic Mama Viejas (old mothers), flag bearers (portabanderos) whipping around large, colorful banderas, the vedette (star dancer), a large half moon and two stars carried high on large sticks, and the many other beautiful dancers followed by a band of at least 40 or more musicians playing their tambores (drums), creating vibrant rhythms that get even the most reluctant feet tapping and bodies swaying along with them.

There are at least 100 performers in each comparsa, sometimes more, each adorned in the specific colors of their group, with elaborate costumes and matching make-up, smiling and dancing and beating their tambores. Take a look, see the dancers and others, listen to the tamboriles striking their drums, and you might even start clapping as we onlookers did, singing out the names of the different comparsas, like “Elumbe”, Susana’s favorite:

The trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo is an easy one. Three hours by ferry or, in my case, I chose the quick 1 hr. ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguary where I spent a day visiting dear friends in their country home, then I rode the bus to Montevideo, 2-1/2 hr journey in an air conditioned, comfortable bus with free wifi access. In addition to going to the Carnaval parade on its final evening, I spent the weekend with friends

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exploring Montevideo: photo b2 photo b3

the famous Rambla that spans the coastline of the Rio de la Plata, the government buildings in the city center, the Teatro Solis, and the whole area where we strolled alongside arts and crafts vendors and enjoyed lunch

 at the old Mercado del Puerto, stopping for artesanal ice cream in a lovely little plaza,

photo 2a

shopping in the newly renovated Mercado Agrídulce, and sharing a Sunday afternoon parrilla uruguaya (barbecue uruguayan style) on the rooftop balcony of Susana’s apartment, eating, drinking, talking and laughing with friends.photo b3

What a wonderful way to spend a weekend in Uruguay! Invited back again for 2015 I definitely will return to enjoy Carnaval in Montevideo next year. Come join me!

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Filed under bilingual American guide, Carnaval, Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo, 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.

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

Argentina: a visit to Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls

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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!

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

Buenos Aires Street Art Graffiti

I’ve taken to carrying my camera with me whenever I’m outdoors in Buenos Aires so I can take pictures of interesting, creative, and unusual images and experiences. Along my travels I’ve taken photos of lots of graffiti or street art. Two distinctly different types of street art have surfaced in my collection, political and non-political or more decorative works. I’ve come across both types throughout the city, the nearby suburb of Quilmes, and across the Rio de la Plata in Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay, and in BA’s barrios, including Boedo, San Telmo, La Boca, Barrio Chino, and Parque Patricios. Colorful, abstract and concrete, these include some samples of traditional tagging, along with others where the street artists make the brick walls and doors their (and our) canvases. Scroll over the slideshows to pause, advance or return back to a previous photo.

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The political graffiti reflects local and universal themes of peace not war; celebrating public education; free, legal and safe abortions; the power of the community; demands of justice for the Once train wreck tragedy of February, 2012 in which 51 people died, and “Justice, justice, justice” in the city of Ushuaia at the very southern tip of the south American continent.

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Some street art keeps alive the symbols and memories of the painful dictatorship Argentina suffered during the Dirty War (1973-81) when injustice thrived and the young, the activists, and children were taken from their homes, tortured, traded, or thrown into the river to their death.

One such symbol of the justice seekers is the white head scarves of the Mothers de la Desaparecidos, the Mothers of the Disappeared, who marched and still march each week in silent protest to honor the more than 30, 000 Argentines, young and old, who were murdered by the terrorist state, military-led government.

A moving tile-inlaid square of glass and concrete sculpture along a San Telmo sidewalk keeps live the memory of local activist Guiller Moler, who was disappeared and detained by the military on June 24, 1978. “Neighborhood, memory and justice,” is written.

Children’s rights are everyone’s responsibility.

These stenciled busts of Eva Peron and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner line the pavement outside the famous Pink House, the Casa Rosada.

Demanding justice for those responsible for the negligence that led to the Feb. 2012 train derailment tragedy at the Once train station, at a march on the 1-yr anniversary of the Once tragedy.

These photos are just the tip of the graffiti iceberg, so to speak. A group of street artists and activists who are a part of graffitimundo.com (graffiti world) have been creating and showcasing various examples of murals and street art they’ve found all over the city. Committed to documenting the origins of the graffiti and street art scenes in Buenos Aires, they are in the process of completing work on a feature length documentary entitled “White Walls Say Nothing”. They also offer bike tours of BA street art, indoor exhibitions in pop-up spaces in London, Washington, DC. Having learned about them just as I was leaving Buenos Aires this summer, I have yet to take one of their walking or biking tours, but they will certainly be part of my BA agenda for 2014! Follow my blog to get the latest updates.

Stay tuned for my next post on what your 2-week visit to Buenos Aires might look like. See what four friends and I did during their visit to Argentina in February of 2013!

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Filed under Buenos Aires, Graffiti, Street Art, Travel in Argentina

From Ice to Fire: Visiting Tierra del Fuego

Afternoon, lagos Tierra del Fuego

Hidden Lake, Tierra del Fuego

You are here. End Rte. 3

It was difficult to leave the spectacular ice of the glaciers in El Calafate. At least I could share my photos with friends, via FB and my blog. But I still looked forward to the next stop on my Patagonian excursion –a trip to Ushuaia, called “El ciudad del fin del mundo” — city at the end of the world.

My travelling companion and I spent three days visiting Ushuaia, cruising the Beagle Channel, touring the Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego, with its snow-capped Andes mountains, dense forests, and the confluence of the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.  Tierra del Fuego got its name (land of fire) from the explorers who first saw the fires of the indigenous Yámana people in the 1800’s.

Beagle Channel

View of Ushuaia from the Beagle Channel

Just north of  Tierra del Fuego (the largest of the islands) is the Strait of Magellan and south of it is the Beagle Channel. We cruised the Beagle Channel one warm, sunny afternoon—atypical weather for this usually windy, cloudy, cold place—stopping to enjoy the sea lions and cormorant birds sharing the Sea Lion Island (Isla de los Lobos).

Sea lions and comorants

Sea lions and comorants

The channel is home to what people mistakenly refer to as the “faro del fin de mundo”(the Lighthouse at the End of the World, made famous by Jules Verne’s novel of the same name), but which is really the Los Eclaireurs Lighthouse.

Les Eclaires Lighthouse, known as the lighthouse at the end of the world

Les Eclaires Lighthouse, known as the lighthouse at the end of the world

Highway Rte. 3, which runs the length of Argentina, ends in the Tierra del Fuego national park, where we hiked one afternoon, after enjoying a delicious lunch of grilled Patagonian lamb (cordero) at a restaurant inside the park.

Grilling lamb

Grilling lamb

Our hotel room overlooked the harbor of Ushuaia,

Sunset, Ushuaia harbot

Sunset, Ushuaia harbor

a block from the main street of the city. The harbor and boats captivated me all day, from sunrise to sunset, on foot or from our dinner table where I ate lots of fresh king crab (centolla) au naturel,

King crab

King crab

in a crabmeat cocktail, or in sushi, or over a bed of spinach in a delicious casserole.I wanted to bring back some living memories of Ushuaia, so I purchased seeds to grow the Lupine flowers  which I found

Lupine flowers

Lupine flowers

near our tour bus one afternoon. I have many wonderful memories of the natural beauty I saw during my time in Patagonia, which my photos couldn’t really capture. Everywhere I went I found signs like this one message to canoeists in Spanish and in English encouraging canoeists and all visitors to protect the environment.  It reads:  “Canoeists, Let us respect life by caring for the environment.  We wish to preserve these surroundings as they are now for future generations.  For this we depend upon your goodwill.  Please respect the paths.”

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Filed under Travel in Argentina, Ushuaia

Visiting Argentina’s Glaciers

Stunning. Awesome. Fantastic. Beautiful. Marvelous. Gorgeous. Spectacular. These were just some of the words I used to describe my visit to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Argentina, Mar. 10-13, 2013.

I was thrilled to travel there, eager to visit places I’ve wanted to see for more than a decade—to El Calafate, the city that serves as the gateway to the National Glacier Park (in the province of Santa Cruz, southwest Argentina, along the Chilean-Argentinean border of the Andes Mountains). The huge ice field spans 220 miles in both Chile and Argentina. A total of 48 glaciers feed into Argentina’s largest lake, Lago Argentino. On its southern coast is the city of El Calafate, a 45-min. bus ride from the National Glacier Park. The city itself is tourist-oriented, where one can’t walk more than a few steps before encountering shops selling artesanal and winter goods, or restaurants offering grilled Patagonian lamb (cordero Patagonia a la parrilla). What captured me completely was seeing the majestic glaciers.

The first time I saw Perito Moreno, named to honor the 19th century explorer Francisco Moreno, was via a tourist cruise on a passenger catamaran and the second, from the viewing bluffs and walkways in the National Glacier Park.The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of South America. Within it are three of Lake Argentina’s tributaries that led our catamaran to the most famous glaciers here: Upsala, the Spegazzini Glacier and the most visited, most famous and likely most photographed of them all, the Glacier Perito Moreno. Perito Moreno is 3 miles wide and 19 miles long. It rises almost 200 feet above the water level and extends another 2,300 feet below the water level! Guides say the entire city of Buenos Aires could fit within it. Now that’s a lotta ice!

Standing on a bluff overlooking Moreno I could hear the booming and cracking sounds the glacier made as chunks of it exploded and collapsed into the water below. Watch and listen to the rumbling sounds Perito Moreno makes when ice eruptions or collapses, called calvings, occur in this YouTube video from 2012. The sounds you’ll hear were not made by airplanes flying overhead, but they are the sounds the glacier makes when parts of it – wherever on its surface—collapse into the waters of Lake Argentina.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suqptBOs2Yg

After enjoying the glaciers from the water and the shore, I capped it off with an afternoon trip to the new ice museum, the Glaciarium, a short bus ride from the heart of El Calafate. This is the place to learn about ice. There I learned that glacial ice is denser than ice made from melting snow, and that glacial ice absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue, so we see the ice reflecting blue. As crystal blue ice. As shimmering turquoise blue ice. Pale blue, variegated ice. Glacial ice.

Stunning. Awesome. Fantastic. Beautiful. Marvelous. Gorgeous. Spectacular. That’s what some FB friends told me when I shared a few of these photos from my trip to El Calafate. See more of them in the slide show I created.

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January 2013 from my southern home

Sunday lunch, Leda's patio

Sunday lunch, Leda’s patio

Back in Buenos Aires, January 2013

     It’s wonderful to be able to spend another summer in Buenos Aires and escape Chicago’s winter—however warm, snowless or cold it may be there!  Though the calendar says I’ve been here nearly a month, I feel like I only recently arrived.  Yet here I am in late January with temperatures in the mid-90’s all week!  Welcome back to my southern home.  A few new museums have opened since I was last here, and I’ll review them as soon as I can get to them all.

      Meanwhile, good food, good friends and good conversation have been my favorite trio for a long time, so it is delightful to be the guest at my “welcome dinners” with friends here, like this outdoor Sunday lunch with homemade pasta and lots of local treats.  

Nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than being stopped on the street by an Argentinian asking ME for directions. So I had a double smile yesterday as not one, but two different women, one in her 20’s, the other in her mid-forties, stopped to ask me for directions. As satisfying for me was actually being able to give them the information they wanted! Such moments make me really feel like a porteña (a local here)!

The amount and variety of free music here is wonderful. The city of Buenos Aires sponsors free music in what are called the “Bares Notables”, local bar-restaurants that are more than 100 years old. It’s a great way to support these places and the musicians that play in them.  Each weekend a local park offers milongas, with music, singing and dancing—all free. Another free music “find” was at an outdoor photo exhibit of the early years of the city’s famous Teatro Colon Opera House. There, speakers are positioned in the garden where opera music is played continually. Last Sunday as my friend Grizelda and I strolled through the park we viewed the photos while enjoying the music. Nearby in the park a group of young drummers and dancers practiced their routines, no doubt preparing for a murga, or marching parade of drum and dance clubs or groups. Such groups are common sights in various barrios during summer months, this one no doubt preparing for the upcoming two days of Carnaval to be celebrated Feb. 11-12.

Not so common–actually pretty rare I expect–is the sound of bagpipes here.  But that’s what I happened on to yesterday.  Imagine my surprise as I followed the sounds of “O come all ye faithful” played on bagpipes to discover a young Argentinian practicing away! My curiosity compelled me to talk with him, and I learned that he, Andres, a porteño, has been playing for 3 years on a set of Scottish bagpipes given to him by his Irish grandmother! Must be my karma–two days later as I rode a city bus we passed another bagpiper playing away on the street in the middle of the day.Bagpiper, Recoleta Mall

And yes, there is always tango to listen to, as I did with friends last Saturday, over dinner in a neighborhood spot in Boedo, La Cuarenta, where the owners, a couple, sang classic tangos and invited the diners to join them, adding another woman and 2 men to perform solos. Fun!

Lastly, I just have to share my photo of this car re-purposed as a travelling library that I’ve seen around the city.  Looking like a small tank, the sign on it reads “arm of massive instruction”! What a wonderful use for military tanks, don’t you think?  If only we could re-purpose all the weapons of mass destruction to be like this one.

arma de instruccion masiva1

Peace to you in 2013.

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Museum Afternoons

While I’ve visited Buenos Aires many times during the past 10 years, I’ve yet to see all the museums here. This summer I returned to my favorite ones—MALBA (The Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires), to the Museo de Evita and to the Museo Eduardo de Sivori, all three located in the Palermo neighborhood.  These three have been well described in most of the travel guide books, but some of the newer ones haven’t been widely written about thus far.  Let me introduce you to a few I’d never seen prior to this year.

Come with me to the Cerveceria Munich (Munich Beer House) located in Puerto Madero, the not-to-be-missed historical Museo del Bicentenario, a new museum located just behind the Casa Rosada, the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario in Recoleta and the Museo de la Ciudad in San Telmo.

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Because of these museum visits, along with a private tour my Argentine friend Daniel, an architect, gave me, I have been learning more about the history, architecture, and culture of the city and the country. I learned that the Casa Rosada was once two separate buildings (the presidential palace and the post office—joined together) and the Cabildo, across the Plaza de Mayo from the Pink House, was reduced in size from its full 12-arch length and shortened and slightly relocated for better visual harmony between the Plaza and the Obelisco, a panoramic view revealing the strong Parisian architectural influence at the time.

Some of the museums are noteworthy for the structures themselves, as is the Munich Beer House, while others shine more because of the specific exhibits on display, like the Museo de la Ciudad and the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario.  And the Museo del Bicentenario has it all—an impressive space on the 1580-1855 site of the former Forte de Buenos Aires (located behind the Casa Rosada), as well as its impressive exhibits.

I found the Museo del Bicentenario to be a perfect complement to Daniel’s architectural walking tour.  The museum, opened in May, 2011, celebrates 200 yrs of Argentine history (1810-2010)  in the remains of a the former fort of Buenos Aires and the original Customs House, through a series of audio-visual presentations that take the viewer through various periods in Argentina’s history.  All the video material and descriptions of objects are only available in Spanish, the videos displaying the physical changes in the city over this 200 year period, and video from the Dirty War (1976-83) are well worth a visit to history buffs in any language!  The contrast between the museum space itself and the brick-and-mortar (and cannon guns) remaining from the old fort provide quite the contrast.  A mural by the Mexican artist Siquieros, which had been boxed up for years, is on display.

At the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, its building constructed in 1913, I saw two exhibits, the permanent “Many Voices, One History: Argentina 1810-2010” and the temporary exhibit “Mercedes Sosa, Un Pueblo en mi voz” (A town in my voice).   “Many voices” is a video installation that takes the viewer through eight stages of the country’s historical, social, political, economic and cultural development through a series of mostly still photos, with quotes, narration and background music.  An interesting exhibit, but not as well constructed and informative for me as were the video clips at the Museo del Bicentenario.

The Mercedes Sosa exhibit showcases the life of this wonderful Argentine folksinger from Tucuman who was known as “La Negra.” A wonderful video with interviews of some of the artists she worked with, along with clips of some of her performances plays repeatedly sending her voice and music through the exhibit room, as you follow a timeline of her life and performance highlights.

Cerveceria Munich was empty the afternoon I visited except for me, two other visitors and a few staff members scattered throughout this former German Beer House along the southern coast of the Rio de la Plata, which operated from 1927 and 1957 as a central gathering place for middle class and well-to-do Porteños.  From its wonderful art deco style and exquisite stained glass windows, sculptured columns, water nymphs statues in the outdoor garden, to the late 19th century ambience inside, Cerveceria Munch is visually fascinating.  Built in 4 months in 1927, the building had the refrigeration capacity to cool and transport three thousand barrels every day via a series of pipes tunneled throughout the building.  A rich photo exhibit of old Quilmes posters added an additional turn-of-the-century flair.  Though alone, I could hear the music of the people and musicians that filled the cerveceria on weekend afternoons.    If only, I thought, if only I could sit down and enjoy a beer here—perhaps after the current restorative efforts have been completed in the coming year.  This definitely is a place I want to come back to again! Currently it houses the administrative office for the city’s museums, but I hope they have plans to re-open the main hall; it’s a marvelous space!

An exhibit of children’s toys from the early 19th century was one of three exhibits currently on display at the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), in the heart of the San Telmo barrio.  Here I learned that what I knew as an Erector Set was called Meccano in Spanish and it was very popular, too, in Argentina, during the 50’s and 60’s.  Replicas of early tin, wood, and metal toys, bikes, cars, dolls, and games from as far back as 1840, playfully filled the gallery, with early metal sand pails hanging above.  Another gallery showcased doors—wooden, marble, iron, glass—and the third gallery a display of an early Argentine magazine series.  There is no space for a permanent exhibit, so you can be assured you will encounter new objects with every visit!  Lunch with my friend Maria Teresa, at a restaurant on nearby Avenida de Mayo, followed by a quick visit to the Casa de la Cultura’s tienda, housed in an amazing building, rounded out one of my museum afternoons.

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Filed under Buenos Aires, Museums in Buenos Aires, Travel in Argentina