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Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Topic: ¡Oigan Mis Campañeros!

One of my favorite shows to watch is "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." In particular, I love watching a segment called "Jay Walking." This segment involves Jay going on the streets of Los Angeles asking random people questions about politics, pop culture and other subjects. The humorous but somewhat alarming part is that 90% of the people do not know the answers to the question. I will admit it, I enjoy laughing at the expense of others. I should feel remorse that my fellow Americans are so ignorant. However, let’s not lie here. Deep down inside, I feel good that I am smarter than these people. It makes me feel special to know that I may have my moments of stupidity, but at least I’m not as bad as these people on "Jay Walking." Now I can understand someone not knowing who George Clooney’s new girlfriend is or what is the new flavor of coke, but not knowing who the vice-president of the United States is or if the US still has troops in Iraq, is a problem.

Politics are a messy subject that people are told not to talk about in the American culture. At work, we are not supposed to talk about sex, religion or politics. These subjects conjure up intense feelings and sensitive matters. This is precisely why we are told to not engage in these topics. Accordingly, many people are ignorant and do not educate themselves in up to date politics. I mean why keep up with something that is not fun? What’s the point in talking about something that no one can agree with? There are more pleasant and important issues people can talk about…like who Lindsay Lohan is sleeping with and whether or not Ricky Martin is gay. Clearly we have our priorities straight (no pun intended) in America.

In Argentina, I have quickly found out that everyone has an opinion about politics. People engage in heated debates over politics that go on for hours and hours. They also like to rehash and argue over certain periods in history or significant political figures. This is not surprising due to Argentina’s tumultuous history. The country has endured 7 coup d’etats and struggled to survive the consequences of these hostile take overs.

A prime example is the Argentine’s fixation on Juan and Eva Perón. On last Thursday’s political tour, I was very impacted by the heavy influence of these two people, particularly Eva, or Evita as many affectionately called her. As I listened to Gabriel as well as our other guide in the Eva Perón Museum, I was in awe of Evita’s influence. This woman totally transformed Argentina and became a legend. Whether people hated or loved her, Evita’s presence will always be very prevalent in Argentina. The influence of Evita and the Peronista movement is colossal. I was quickly and greatly educated on this during the tour.

Now I will admit it, I did not know much about Evita or the Peronist movement. I vaguely knew about her life through 15 minute Spanish class discussions. And yes, I will admit it… I’ve seen the movie "Evita" with Madonna playing the lead part. And fine…okay… I’ll admit that I even know most of the lyrics to "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina." But I really never knew why Evita was such a big deal. However as I found out more about her life and as I met people who were effected by her, I realized that it wasn’t really Eva Perón that was such a big deal. It was what she represented that was so monumental.

The Peronists and in particular Evita, worked to give benefits to the poor. Evita had been shunned by the elite class in her life and made it her life’s goal to "give them the middle finger." Evita advocated for the advancement of social rights to the poor masses of the working class. President Perón gave higher wages and benefits to these workers. In essence, the poor and less fortunate felt validated as legitimate citizens of Argentina for the first time. Consequently, they saw Evita as an angel. She represented salvation and hope to them. Evita inspired people to believe that they could be somebody and that they could make a life for themselves. I certainly can understand this sentiment as a citizen of a county whose mantra is all about individualism and the self-made man.

Nonetheless, the Peronist movement resulted in many downfalls. The military take overs caused great conflicts such as the "Dirty War" which had an outcome of 30,000 individuals "disappearing." Also, the Peronists caused great economic problems that Argentina still struggles with today. This is precisely why some say that Evita was the devil and that the Perionists were bad for the country.

Regardless of all the debate, Juan and Eva Perón will never be forgotten. Argentines will be discussing the Perionist movement as well as Evita for the rest of time. She is a figure head that every Argentine knows about. In the United States, I don’t think there is a politician or any person for that matter, that every American has educated themselves about. The only person I can think of that everybody knows about is Paris Hilton. Yes, I know this is sad. Actually maybe two, I think everybody pretty much knows who Michael Jackson is…. Anyways, that’s beside the point. I respect that the Argentines are that passionate about politics and their country’s history. I admire how educated they are about local and national issues. I think it is impressive that Argentines will stand up for their beliefs and protest if necessary. In the future, I hope that more Americans will gain a passion for their beliefs and stand up for them if necessary. Isn’t this liberty… this freedom…this right… the reason why our fore fathers fought a revolutionary war for anyways?

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Topic: Tango!

I have been immersed in the world of dance my entire life. My mother is an avid lover of ballet. She was a dancer all of her life and tried her best to get me to become one as well. This goal was not obtained. However, I become a devoted lover of dance so my mother’s pursuit was not totally in vain. Consequently I was particularly excited to travel to Buenos Aires because it is the home of the TANGO!

The tango is a dance about passion. Every step, turn, dip and move is immersed with feeling and emotion. Accordingly, I was PSYCHED to go to Señor Tango. I was anxious to see the dancers and see the different styles of tango.

When we got to the theater, I was in awe of the set. The lights and backgrounds were breath taking. I felt as though I was in another world. I almost felt as though I was back in time in the 1940’s watching a tango production. However then the show started….

Okay, Okay…don’t get me wrong. I had a great time at Señor Tango. Nevertheless, the show reeked of a bad Las Vegas Show. I found the storyline quite cheesy and the format of the show made Wayne Newton and Barry Manilow resonate in my head. It didn’t help that Señor Tango himself looked like Robert Guille. In spite of this gaudiness, the emotions evoked from watching tango dancing still transcended. As I looked around at my peers and the rest of the audience, I saw the spellbinding looks on everyone’s face. After each dance, people clapped fervently and yelled "BRAVO!"

Afterwards, I thought to myself how strange it was that we were all so captivated by this show although there were no words exchanged during the dancing. But then I thought, this is precisely why I love dance. When you watch someone dance, they don’t need to say anything. Their thoughts and emotions are expressed silently through their motions. Sometimes dancing conveys more than speech. Emotions can also resonate more deeply with dancing. A person can emit their feelings as well as physically show and move to reinforce these sentiments. Sometimes you don’t even need music to dance. Watching the tango show reinforced the notion that people are more alike then we care to realize. Although many of us did not speak Spanish or have experience with tango dancing, every person in the audience could feel and understand the emotions evoked with the dancing. This demonstrated the power of dance, particularly the intensity of the tango. The passion of tango transcends all languages, nationalities, races and genders. ¡Viva la tango!

Topic: Fútbol!

I have a confession. When I saw that one of the courses for this study abroad program was "The Political Economy of Soccer," I couldn’t help but snicker. I thought "wow this will be a no brainer class." Like many… well let’s not lie… most things in life, I was wrong. There are so many important aspects to soccer that it is mind-blowing. The greatest example that I have experienced so far was my trip to watch the Boca Juniors championship game.

I have never seen anything like an Argentine soccer game. People were going crazy! There was a section of the stadium that did not sit down the ENTIRE time. I could barely hear among the chanting, singing and cheering by the massive amount of fans. There were people who climbed through barb wire to get close to the team. There were armed guards and police that stood in the section between the Boca fans and the visiting team sections. When I looked into the stadium it was literally a sea of blue and yellow. These Boca Junior fans made American fans look LAME.

Consequently, this fervent dedication conveys the strong cultural ties soccer has to Latin & South America. Soccer is a very big part of these people’s lives. It is a past time that is imperative to the livelihood of these countries. Families become divided between opposing soccer teams. Young boys are groomed to become great soccer players. Girls dream about marrying famous soccer players. Now some people may say that this passion is crazy. However, I personally admire the devotion. It is not easy to be so dedicated to something. It is very hard to stay committed and focused on a team, or rather on anything. It takes a certain type of person to be able to have that kind of passion and motivation. Thus, I find it refreshing that the Argentines as well as other Latinos care so much about soccer. It’s not everyday that I encounter people like this in the States.

Soccer is part of the heritage here. Each person is proud of the history of his/her home team. Our tour guide Gabriel is a devoted River Plate fan. He visibly conveyed this on the tour as we passed the River Plate stadium. He proudly told us that River Plate was the greatest team and it was not up for discussion or debate.

I wish we had something in the United States that united the country so fervently. However I don’t think we do because the United States offers so many opportunities to take up different sports. We have athletes in almost every sport imaginable. Whether it’s hockey, football, soccer, baseball, gymnastics or swimming, there is a sport for everyone. I believe this diversity makes people well rounded in the fact that they are involved and cognizant of all types of sports. Even so, I still think it would be great if we had a uniting sport like the Argentines. It would be nice to see opposing political sides, feuding states, different universities all come together for the love of a sport.

I don’t think soccer in the US will reach the fever it has in Latin & South America. However I think that it is a good thing that it doesn’t. This way, I can truly appreciate watching soccer in Argentina and really immerse myself into a distinctive and unique culture. As they say in Buenos Aires…. GOOOOOAAAALLLL!

Topic: Work it!

            Hair. Check.

Clothes. Check.

Make up. Check.

Manicure. Check.

Pedicure. Check.

Jewelry. Check.

Purse. Check.

Shoes. Check.

Cigarettes. Check.

 

This list seems pretty ridiculous. I mean who really needs to go through all this effort to just go out?! However looks are an important part of any culture. Everyone always wants to put their “best face” forward. In the United States, I know that I have been somewhat trained to care about looks when I am going out. But it really does get tiring. Consequently, I love to visit the cultures that don’t put so much emphasis on it. I naively thought that since Buenos Aires, Argentina is 5,021 miles away from Atlanta that I might be able to escape the appearance obsessed society. However I was wrong and I dare say that I traveled all those miles to come to a city that cares even more about looks than the United States.  

 

Observations:

            -Gym: Can I just that the Argentines know how to work up a SWEAT?! I have heard numerous stories from John Winn, Phil and others how hard how hard the Argentines, Porteños as they are called, work out to maintain their physique. These people really want to be fit! I am a proponent of working out to stay healthy. However I think working out should be enjoyable. You should feel good after working out. You shouldn’t feel so sore that you can’t even move which is precisely how I would feel if I worked out using the Argentine regiment. I am amazed and somewhat a tiny bit disturbed how hard core these people are. I don’t exactly know if it’s healthy for them. However on the bright side, this is somewhat beneficial to me because now I know that there are lots of men who can help me carry stuff…. so on that note… go ahead and WORK IT OUT!

 

            -Ladies: Wowsers! The women here are beautiful. They are well dressed, well groomed and can work it! I have heard SEVERAL of my fellow GT study abroaders (is that a word?) particularly the men, comment on how good looking the women are. Now I’m not jealous of these women… really I’m not. Although I would love to be a size 2 like the majority of them. The biggest size I have seen in stores is a size 8. In the United States, the average American woman is a size 12. This probably conveys the great difference in eating habits as well. I don’t think that I can spend the 1-3 hours most of these women spend a week to maintain themselves. In my opinion, I’d rather spend the time reading, hanging out with my friends or watching soap operas (yes they are my guilty pleasure).  However I think this conveys the culture of the Porteña women. Looks are a top priority for them. Although I may not agree with it being such an important priority, I genuinely admire how dedicated they are to a topic they deem a priority. So on that note… go head girl get down…

 

            -Smoking: Okay I’m going to say it now: I HATE smoking. I cannot stand the smell and it makes me cough and gag. However I have discovered that the Argentines do not share my abhorrence of smoking. EVERYBODY… I mean EVERYBODY… smokes. I have not been to one place in Buenos Aires that is completely smoke free. I find it interesting that we focus so much in the US with banning smoking in public places as well as educating the public on the dangers of smoking. This does not seem to be a priority in Argentina. Smoking seems glamorous and a favorite past time in Buenos Aires. I wonder if the government makes any effort to educate its citizens about lung cancer and emphysema. And if they do, do these people seriously still smoke?! Despite my dislike for smoking, I am grateful for one thing. I’m glad that I am in a country that totally goes against something I don’t like. I think this aspect makes me evaluate the dynamics of culture and the priorities of countries a lot closer. Being in an environment that is so different from mine makes me assess my priorities a lot more. It reinforces the message that the world truly is a big place because not everyone lives in the same lifestyle. So to all you smokers, here’s a message from the last movies I saw in the States: Thank you for smoking.

 

Final Thoughts:

            Buenos Aires is a city full of beautiful inhabitants. The women are thin and gorgeous. The men are buff and handsome. I am thankful for the Porteños. This is not because I’m happy that I’m surrounded by fine-looking people… although let’s not lie, that is an added bonus, I’m glad these people are around me because it inspires me to improve myself. I’m guilty of gaining the college freshman 15 and living the fast-food, workaholic life style. And I think being in an environment where people attend to their appearance will somewhat give me the motivation to make my health and in part my appearance more of a top priority in my life. And as far as the smoking… I think that can be inspirational as well. This does not mean that I want to try smoking or anything like that. Thinking about how smoking is an Argentine cultural aspect that is different from my culture inspires me to try new things that make me go outside my comfort zone. This a good thing because who wants to always stay in their comfort zone and just do “what everyone else does?” Safe is boring. Don’t follow the masses. Be an individual.

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