Porteño portrait.

There’s only a way to define my desire to describe a community of 13 million people after visiting it for a mere handful of days: preposterous.
Still, this is what I’ll attempt here. This is my final tribute to Buenos Aires, to this city sandwiched between the blue ocean and a sea of green grass. I might probably fail but, deep inside me, I feel compelled to make at least an attempt. I must.
There are, in this city, constant reminders of Rio de Janeiro. It’s not just the warmth of an off-season, at least for me, sun; it’s also the fresh fruit, the multi-faceted urban texture that blends colonial stunners and 1970s eyesores, Armenian churches and swanky condos and that sub-tropical decay that seems to hit only the public infrastructure. Yet, there’s a difference. Despite the criminality, economic uncertainty and the never-ending procession of crooked politicians, Cariocas struck me as being, generally, in a good mood. Maybe it’s the musicality of Brazilian Portuguese, perhaps they genuinely are; whatever the truth,  the same can’t be said of the Porteños.
I guess it was the heat sapping their energy, but the Porteños looked tired as they lingered in the air conditioned cars of el Subte for a tad longer than one would normally do, or when they fanned themselves with newspapers and leapt from shadow to shadow in an exahusted pas de danse. They didn’t, by far and large, appear to be enjoying the hot season.

The Argentines seem a lot more pugnaceous than their northerly neighbours. Proofs of this heightened social awareness are legion on the city’s walls. Peronismo Militante is a slogan common throughout San Telmo. Macri mafioso says a tag scribbled on a kiosk within spitting distance from Congress. Victims of the society’s machismo or the police’s heavy hand – Lucía Pérez and Santiago Maldonado – are remembered in posters affixed everywhere.
It isn’t just this, though. To limit one’s analysis at protest marches and wall-tagging would be shallow and, more importantly, ungenerous towards the porteños. It’s not all just Evita and pressure group offices festooned with slogans such as Luchamos por su derechos. There’s more than that to this city, a lot more.
There’s the young lad who takes the time to explain to this lanky visitor how to recharge his Subte card. There’s the car on Line B erupting in a spontaneous applause at the end of a saxophonist’s exibition. Commuters on Line C do the same for a rapper. There’s the care with which everyone handles the notes, scribbled on scraps of paper, left by a young beggar working the train line, giving them back to him with a few coins. There’s the kindness shown by every single commuter, at Plaza Miserere, in dealing with the homeless man selling soft-tip pens to make ends meet.

Of all the facets and behaviours I’d seen of Buenos Aires’ inhabitants, the aspect that will remain with me the longest will be their humanity.
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19 Responses to Porteño portrait.

  1. Ahh, this last is the only important aspect. As for good mood, I’d say your compatriots, at least around me and in Rome, are guilty of it big time. Still, I’d love to go among the Porteños.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J.D. Riso says:

    Having been to Rio, it’s interesting to read your comparison of the locals to that of Buenos Aires. Love that street art. Something very real about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d love to go and this makes me want to go even more. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MELewis says:

    This portrait gave me a strong sense of the place and the people. Like any sketch, it’s only an impression rather than a deep understanding, but it was very evocative!

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Merci! Yes, it’s partial and perhaps embellished by what I wanted to see, but I really really enjoyed the people in Buenos Aires. Without them, it’d have a fifth of the character it has.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You are no more preposterous than I Fabrizio, who wrote a description of the Japanese after only 18 days. I think It’s possible to get a feel for place when one is on the outside looking in, a sense of what the community is like precisely because don’t live within it. We weren’t in BA during the heat, and it sounds tike this could have been a factor for their general grumpiness. I think you hit the nail on the head with your final sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Alison, thanks for your words. I think you’re right, you can get a feeling of a place after a while and then, I guess, one could spend years and years just refining that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think we can get a first impression and then as we spend more time we can get perhaps another deeper layer of understanding. It is precisely why we love to travel slowly. Of course one does not always have that luxury and sometimes we can only be in a place for a short time and we form our impressions on the time based on factors such as heat factor, quality of food, for me, even the expression on people’s faces in the street. Are they smiling or scowling?

    Heat is one thing that can make anyone grumpy, especially heat with no end in sight.

    I really do like your photos of the street art. Those are fascinating.


    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Peta,
      thanks for reading, and sorry for the delay in coming back to you. Yes, slow travelling would be a lot better but… alas, 26 days of leave is all I have! 😦


  7. equinoxio21 says:

    Grazie for tis glimpse on Buenos Aires. Argentinians have a bad reputation across South America. They come out as harsh. I have know many who do not fit the stereotype. Only been to B.A. once. 3 days of meetings and only an hour of walking the streets between two meetings. Must go back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lignum Draco says:

    Thank you for taking me there through your words and photos. Your ultimate description of Humanity makes this place somewhere I want to visit, to experience, to appreciate life.

    Liked by 1 person

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