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 PlazaMiserere, 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.