Peronista, Yay or Nay?

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Two major figures in Argentina’s past are Juan Peron, former Argentine President, and his wife, Eva (Evita) Peron, his wife.  The two as a group, based on their ruling policies, established what has come to be known as Peronism.  Peronism’s main focus was on social justice and improving the quality of life for the masses.  While Argentines either hate or love Peronism, I am in the gray area, commending them for their social gains, but also holding them responsible for Argentina’s later problems.

            The greatest achievement of the Peron regime was the advancement of social rights, especially for the poorer masses of workers.  Peron managed to guarantee wages and salaries for workers, as well as giving them set work week hours and health benefits.  This allowed greater freedom and stability in the lives of the workers, and they had more time to enjoy the leisures of life.  Under the Peron regime, the quality of life for these once scorned and politically ignored people improved tremendously.  The country became a welfare state, where the needy and less fortunate were helped by the government.  The Peron’s made the masses feel like a part of Argentina.

            However, despite these achievements, Peronism may have solidified or even caused problems for Argentina in the future.  First of all, Peronism spurned the elites of the Argentine nation, and focused almost solely on the masses.  It is never good politics to completely ignore a portion of the population, especially those that control most of the wealth.  By spurning the elites, the Perons were partially responsible for the military juntas in the future.  Peronism heightened the social conflict of the nation and resulted in political parties that represented certain social classes.  And because the elites represent a smaller portion of the country than the masses of workers, they could never get into office through elections, causing them to use the military to overthrow elected presidents.

            Also, by being a welfare state, Peron hindered the nation economically.  First of all, 100% employment, while good for the people, is bad for business.  Companies and industries were losing money in the fact that they had to guarantee wages to everybody.  Plus, 100% employment means workers didn’t have to be efficient, since their job was guaranteed.  Using the nation’s riches to help the poor and nearby countries resulted in the economy of Argentina declining.

            Overall, it is easy to see why the majority of the people loved the Perons; they were the first regime to ever listen to them and improve their lives.  However, what the Perons did to the economy (by draining the nation’s resources by dumping it into “welfare”) and to the future politics (splitting the nation’s political parties by social classes) prevents them from truly being great.  Their intent on silencing all opposition may have caused the social and political tragedies that occurred after Peron was ousted from office.

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Coming to Buenos Aires, due to its location in South America, I expected society to be very Hispanic.  Having been exposed to many Hispanics in the states, I expected the people here to be very socially conservative, for them to dress in high quality but simple clothing, and for all the food to be very Spanish.  Yet again, my assumptions were proved wrong as Buenos Aires turned out to be a very surprising, and European society.

            The main surprise was how liberal the people of Buenos Aires, specifically sexually liberal.  On many occasion, I have seen couples lip-locked or making out in public places, whether it be in a restaurant or in the park.  This is not childish kissing either, it is borderline rated R, stuff the FCC possibly wouldn’t allow on television.  Being predominantly catholic, where is the no sex before marriage?  The other day I saw pornographic magazines being openly sold in public.  And yet, mothers were not covering their children’s eyes, crying bloody murder.  What I have encountered is a laid back and sexually liberated society, not an uptight and prude society like the states.  At least in Buenos Aires, the attitude towards sex is very open, and I agree and am ok with it.  Besides, sex is a part of life and sustains life; it is perfectly natural.  I’m glad Argentinians are ok with it, while in the States, certain individuals believe they know what is best for me to watch.  The U.S. needs to learn from Argentina and begin educating society about sex, rather than attempting to hide it.

            In addition, to see how Buenos Aires is very European, simply look at their tastes in food and clothing.  Only expecting domestic and very Spanish dishes, imagine how shocked I was for there to be an abundance of pizza and pasta cafes.  These are obviously more Italian dishes, and walking down a side street of Buenos Aires feels more like you are in Italy than in South America.  Also, at least from the Hispanics I have encountered, they tend to dress simply (not fashionably), preferring quality of material over its appearance.  Being incorrect, the Argentines are very fashionable, with designer clothing stores popping up all over avenues, and “hip” clothes worn by teenagers and adults alike.  Such dress reminds me of a country like France, which is always leading the way in terms of fashion.

            Then there is the smoking;  just like Europeans, a good majority of the Argentine population smokes.  Let me compare the European Finnish students to our American group.  I would say at least 50% of the Fins smoke, while not one single person from our program regularly smokes cigarettes.  Even if you are going into a cafĂ© or a restaurant for lunch or dinner, you will never fail to smell like cigarettes when you come out.

            Argentina has turned out to be not very Latin American indeed, but rather, more European in regards to society.  It is the Argentine’s sexual liberation, taste in food and dress, and heavy smoking of cigarettes that possibly gives it the confusion it has faced for a while: “Are they South American or European?”

Another major difference between the U.S. society and the Argentine society is their sense of style and taste (I guess that is the way to put it).  Essentially what I am trying to say is that Argentines have different priorities as compared to Americans, the major areas I have seen being in automobiles and dress.

            In regards to automobiles, it is my opinion that Argentines see them as a means to an end.  They are solely for taking them lengthy distances that they would not be able to get to by using public transportation.  Their automobiles are not a means of self-expression.  There is no “Pimp My Ride”; rather, there are little to no spoilers, chrome rims or any unnecessary automobile accessories.  Perhaps it is the highly competitive American people who at any chance they can, will show off their wealth through their possessions.  For Argentines, cars are efficient and sufficient.

            However, while Argentines may not be too conscious of the vehicle that they drive, they are very conscious of fashion and there self-appearance.  For a great deal of people in the United States, this is not so.  We Americans often will just wear jeans and a t-shirt, demonstrating our great value of comfort over expensive fashionable clothes.  Americans are stereotypically always in a rush, and it shows in the fact that some people will just throw on whatever it is they can to get out of the house as quickly as possible.  Argentines definitely spend more time on their personal appearance.  Perhaps their society is different in that one’s personal dress is more of a means of self-expression as well as a way that people will perceive you.  Regardless, Argentines take the time to make sure they look good.

            So which do I agree with more?  I would have to say the Argentines.  With gas prices on the rise, an efficient car (rather than giant SUV’s) are more friendly to the wallet, and this money saved can be used for more luxurious necessities instead.  Also, what is the point of accessorizing your car?  Often times, people may see the car drive by, but never the person inside of it.  A “pimped out” car is pointless consumerism at its best.  Furthermore, I agree with being fashion conscious.  I hate to say it, but people often get their perceptions of an individual by their physical appearance.  If your appearance isn’t very stellar, people aren’t going to think very highly of you (of course you can possibly change that opinion through conversation).  Dressing well shows sophistication and allows for friendlier people, but of course, comfort cannot be compromised too much.

Living in the United States, it is very common to encounter an obese or overweight person on a regular basis.  As it is known, obesity is a growing problem in the United States and affects a sizeable portion of the population.  Coming to Buenos Aires, I never really expected the people of the city to be any different, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  On average, while out in public, I will encounter on average about 3 or 4 obese/overweight people out of 10, while in Buenos Aires, it is closer to about 1 out of 10, even if that.  The difference in the belt size of the two different sets of people is clearly noticeable, and I believe there are a couple of factors that provide explanation for why this is the case.

            First, smoking is extremely popular in the city.  While many Americans smoke, it is my impression that a greater percentage of the population here partakes in smoking cigarettes, from young adults to the elderly.  Despite its negative effects, smoking does have the positive effect of curbing one’s appetite, generally making the person have a desirable weight, which is evidenced by the fact that many smokers who quit put on some pounds.  Most likely, the Argentine’s addiction to smoking may actually assist them in keeping their weight down.

            Secondly, in the United States, there are a great number of fast food chains, from Taco Bell to McDonald’s.  However, right away, I could notice in Buenos Aires a great lack of such fattening fast food.  McDonald’s and Burger King do exist, but for the most part, the options for dining are café’s with pastas, salads, and other healthier foods.  In addition, the portions are sizeably smaller.  Anything from coffees to pizza are noticeably smaller in portion size when compared to the U.S., and very little places, if any, ever have an option to “super size” or “biggie size” your meal.  For the most part, Argentines eat enough to sustain themselves, something Americans need to adopt.

            Third of all, Buenos Aires is a very dense city with so much to do and explore, and every neighborhood is so packed with shops, cafĂ©s, and restaurants that a good majority of the population walk to get where it is they are going, or at least walk a decent bit.  In the U.S., while walking does occur to a certain degree in the cities, very few, if any cities are as alive as Buenos Aires to warrant walking everywhere (especially not Atlanta).  Its this simple everyday exercise that allows Argentines to remain for the most part at a healthy weight.

            Without a doubt, the U.S. is a nation with a “fat” society, while Buenos Aires (and all of Argentina?) are able to remain a thin people through smoking and healthier living.  While they may be killing themselves by other means, these habits are what currently allows Argentines to claim they have the most beautiful people in the world.

pacovera says:
Hello Phil
I agree the most.
En unos dias comentare como lo veo yo.
Saludos.
Posted on: May 21, 2006