Tag Archives: Buenos Aires

Parque de la Memoria

When I read about a new photography exhibition at the Parque de la Memoria I decided it was the right time for me to return to this moving place I discovered accidentally when I took the wrong bus in 2014. My second visit there the other day confirmed this important place for locals and tourists alike to visit.  It is far from the city center, but close to the heart. I hope you will experience some of its power through the art highlighted in this post.

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The Parque de la Memoria  (http://parquedelamemoria.org.ar/), in Spanish “El Monumento a las Víctimas del Terrorismo de Estado”  a Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism) is a 14-acre sculpture park in Buenos Aires located near Costanera Norte, close to the City University, and adjacent to the Río de La Plata River. The park was completed in the early 1990’s as a reminder of the brutality of the dictatorships that were in power in Argentina and throughout Latin America during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

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A three-sectioned monument records the names and ages of everyone who disappeared during the period 1969 -1983. It is a site with sinister associations. Its proximity to the University of Buenos Aires is pertinent because many of the victims were of student age, and it is next to the Rio de la Plata, where many bodies ended up. The junta’s notorious “death flights” (vuelos de los muertos) would take off from a military airport right next to the park, and the prisoners would be thrown into the muddy waters below. From heights that killed them on impact (to learn more read The Story of the Night by Colm Toíbin).

The park project was a collaboration among human rights organizations, the University of Buenos Aires and the Executive and Legislative Powers of the city. Since my initial visit, the park now also houses  the Monumento a las Víctimas del Terrorismo de Estado, a public art program and the PAyS Room.

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The PAyS  Room – acronym for the slogan in Spanish: “Presentes, Ahora y Siempre” (“Present, Now and Forever”) –“ is a space for debate and reflection about State terrorism, human rights and the construction of a collective memory through art, investigation and educational activities.” It is also a venue for visual arts exhibitions, seminars, conferences, workshops, and other activities of general interest that aim for a critical thinking about State terrorism and the persistent scars it has inflicted on Argentine society.

“This place of memory does not pretend to close wounds or replace truth and justice, but rather to become a place of remembrance, homage, testimony and reflection. Its objective is for current and future generations who visit the site to become aware of the horror perpetrated by the State and the need to ensure that similar acts will NEVER AGAIN occur.” (park brochure)

Scattered throughout the park a number of sculptures add powerful witness to the fate of more than 30,000 people during the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina.

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One art piece I found to be amazingly powerful and educational was the installation Carteles de la memoria” (Memory Signs by Grupo de arte callejero), a series of 53 life-size traffic signs camouflaged to suggest a route through Argentina’s recent history.  Each sign has text accompanying it that explains in brief yet meaningful critical commentary, how state terrorism developed in Argentina. Though only a few are reproduced here, the full 53-sign series is an enormous history lesson to absorb.

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Some of the texts illuminate the role of the US in Argentina and Latin America’s dark dictatorial past. The text below this sign reads:  “CIA Plan Condor was the repressive cooperation that existed between the US CIA and the dictators of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brasil and Bolivia during this period.” Between 1950-1975 the Latin American military were trained in North American military facilities like the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal.  There they were taught courses about torture, interrogations, intelligence and military behavior against insurgents.  The objective was to protect North American interests and intervene in whatever countries whose political movements or situations of insurgency constituted an obstacle for advancing North American purposes.”

Or this text

360 detention centers found country-wide

360 detention centers found country-wide

showing the map of Argentina’s provinces where clandestine detention centers stood. More than 360 clandestine detention centers existed although official authorities denied their existence and  the destinies of those detained and tortured there.

IMG_0900On display in the PAYs Room was an equally powerful and moving contemporary photography exhibition, “Huellas de lo Real” (“Footprints of reality”), featuring the work of Juan Travnik, an Argentine who captures urban experience postdictatorshipIMG_0902 and Jonathan Moller, an American documentalist and human rights activist, whose work gives voice to the struggles of peasant populations during conflicts in Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The temporary exhibit brought the peasants’ faces and lives into the very center of this memorial space.IMG_0899

Another outdoor sculpture of a text cut into steel forms Maria Orensanz’s sculpture “Pensar es un hecho revolutionario.” (To think is a revolutionary act). The text has been installed in such a way that the viewer composes the text in his or her mind.  The piece alludes to the power of reflection and refers indirectly to the censorship of books and free thought.

Whether you are inside the PAYS room with its exhibits, walking the outdoor open space of the park along the Rio de la Plata, searching through the names honored in the monument, or viewing the sculptures and thinking and learning about the disappeared, a visit to the Parque de la Memoria in Buenos Aires is a special place–a space for reflection and remembrance. Worth the trip!

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Filed under Dirty War, Golpe Militar, Los desaparecidos, Parque de la Memoria, The disappeared

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

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