Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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This is a great closure to my experiences in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  There are so many things from this city that I am going to miss.  I miss home (Atlanta, Georgia), but I feel like I part I me that I have discovered is being taken away when I leave.  I can not even begin to describe how great the friends, that are locals here, were to me and how much I will miss them when I leave.  I look forward to seeing them again soon (hopefully in December), and treating them to a great stay when they get the chances to come to the United States. 


This is just going to be a general overview of the culture and food that struck me as different.  Unfortunately I have grown to like these things in BsAs better than the situations in the United States.  The first couple of days here I hated getting used to the eating.  Your breakfast consists of some small medilunas (kind of like cresent rolls/pastries) and some café con leche (coffee with milk).  Lunch was very similar to the United States except it was around 1 or 2 pm instead of at noon.  Dinner was a lot later, after 9 pm, and usually was considered a huge ordeal that could last for hours.  From this my sleeping times were usually different, but luckily I don’t need much sleep at night to be re-energized.  You also can’t forget the frequency of clubs and night life in the city.  It was great!  There is always something to do during the day except whenever everyone takes their afternoon siestas. 


Some other things I loved were all the dances.  I saw both traditional Tango and Flamenco.  Both were great, but I like the fact that the Flamenco was more for locals and not built up for tourists like the Tango was.  There was also some small amounts of salsa and meringue, and don’t forget all of the disco clubs (aaah!).


Overall the food in Argentina became bland as time went on (someone please introduce the Argentines to hot sauce and black pepper), but there are some things I will miss that I need to note. The first to start is all of the drinks in glass bottles.  I am sure it does not truly change flavor, but everything is better out of a glass bottle than a plastic one.  However, you must remember that you pay a fee for this glass bottle, and you only get that money back if you return the bottle.  It is still worth it to me.  Another thing is alfajores.  There are so many kinds and they are all so good.  One of my favorites are the ones in the gold packages that begin with “T” and the ones by Havana.  Of course my favorite are the ones covered in chocolate and filled with dulce de leche.  That brings me to the wonderful world of dulce de leche.  This is basically, according to the locals, melted sugar and butter with cream.  There is nothing as great as this.  You can put it on everything, even cheese.  I was introduced to empanadas from my friend before I came on this trip, but I cannot begin to describe the efficiency of them.  They are much more healthy than US fast food, and much better for you.  I think more people in the US might want to pick this up.  Did I mention that you can buy empanadas on every street corner and they cost about $0.33 US dollars.  One of my favorite things in the world is a picada.  I requested this for my birthday, and another one was made especially for me the last time I saw some of my local friends.  Picada is I mix of cured meats, cheeses, and other additions like bread, olives, carrots, pickles, peanuts, etc.  Another great invention of this city is salsa golf.  This is the simple combination of ketchup and mayo.  It makes life so easy, and yes I visited this inventors tomb in Recoleta cemetery.  Another thing in BsAs that is easy to bring back to the states is the submarine.  This is like hot chocolate, but it is made with hot milk and a chocolate bar instead of powder.  The bar makes all the difference and I hope it kicks Nestle out of the hot chocolate market.  Lastly I can’t forget the mate.  I loved mate before I came to BsAs, but I have been drinking it often here.  Not only does it keep you awake it is also a hunger suppressant.  Many people use this in Argentina, but it does not compare to its frequency in Uruguay. 


I will miss everything that I have listed and more about BsAs, but I will see it again, and I will do my best to bring everything I love back to the US with me.        

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I had something that happened to me near the end of my Argentina visit that I expected to happen much sooner.  Unfortunately this is a harder topic to find research on, except for articles, to prove my point.  In the last week of my stay in Buenos Aires I went out with my Argentine friends (Leo, Gisela, Celina, and Douglas) and one of Leo’s friends Juan.  My friends new me and my beliefs on international relations and current world occurrences, however Juan knew nothing about me.  We went to the Hard Rock Café at Juan’s request (which is a United States establishment that I didn’t want to go to in the first place because I wanted to be able to experience more of Argentine food and culture).  It was a losing battle from there.  I was prejudged as an American with a certain set of ideals, and as a person who thought it was okay to bully everyone since my country has the most power.  Before I start to cover any more, I need to say that I believe anyone’s beliefs are fine, and that they have their own reasons for choosing what they did.  Nobody should be accused of making the right or wrong decisions.  The United States is great because it gives everyone the ability to form their own opinions and to not be persecuted for them.


Of course the first thing we talk about is the Presidency; “Who did you vote for”.  I knew this was not going to go over well, but I told him I voted for Bush.  I do not vote for a party, but for a person.  I think before I even told Juan of who I voted for he saw me as an American with a superiority complex who has no concern for the rest of the world.  I care greatly about the rest of the world, however the safety of myself and my country is more important.  Due to my age I was not able to vote in the first election between Bush and Gore.  However, I was old enough to vote in the latest election between Bush and Kerry.  In my opinion it was again the election of the lesser of two evils.  Kerry scared me.  I found him to be very weak, and to say he was going to do things different but to never tell you what he was going to do.  Bush also scares me but not as much.  I know exactly what he is going to do.  Looking only at the United States international relations, and no other problems, I believe Bush caused some huge disasters that will take years for us to overcome.  I decided to continue with my debate even though I knew it was not going to be possible to have a sound debate because he had already closed his mind off to what I had to say even though I was still open to his views.   


The international policies and relations of the United States kill me right now.  I believe the younger more educated class of the US (who usually have also gained more aspects on international policies from traveling some around the world) does not believe in the current policies that are occurring.  Unfortunately we are not the majority, and therefore have no real influence in the system.  I think with this not I finally started to win Juan over and he started to notice that maybe I wasn’t the person he stereotypes as American.  I can not hate him for stereotyping because we unfortunately all do it, even me even though I do my best no to.  We now need a complete overhaul on our international relations, however that would never happen.  There were a couple of issues with Clinton (before bush Jr.).  I don’t want to compare the economic situation of the US because I believe with Clinton there was no where for the economy to go but up (and it wasn’t necessarily him that was causing it to be so great), but Bush was handed what was soon to be a disaster.  There needed to be a recession, and it would have happened no matter who would have been president.  However, Clinton had incredible international policies that pushed the US into a new level.  I thought after winning him over with my viewpoints on international relations I was in the clear from being stamped as that stupid selfish American, but I was wrong.


I told Juan I worked at a battered women’s shelter or mission where Hispanic women, men, and even children come to seek help for any number of problems.  There has been a lot of news lately involving US immigration laws.  Immigrants, specifically I am talking about the ones from Central and South America are needed for the economy of the US to continue.  I believe we should change our policies and build a wall to tighten our borders if that is a concern of ours as a notion, however we need these immigrants.  I have an issue with illegal immigrants, but I am willing to except more immigrants to be legalized (not become citizens though).  This legalization includes having them be registered as anyone else in the US is and having them pay taxes as any other citizen does.  They are reaping the benefits of the country and should just be allowed to work here illegally.  I am so grateful for everything the immigrants of the country do for the US and the fat that we can provide a better life for them than they had in their home nation.  However, Juan turned this into the fact that I wanted to make immigrants slaves.  If this is the case then I am saying that very US citizen is a slave since our government knows so much more about us than they do any legalized immigrant right now.  Luckily at this dinner was over and it was time to leave.  I am glad my Argentine friends who really know me understood and listened to everything I had to say and didn’t judge me because of what nation I came from or any choices I had made.  They all, including Juan, said they we do the same things that the US is doing if there were in our situation.


In the end I don’t know if I got anywhere with him, but at least I got my ideas out there.  I will continue to do my best to improve all international relations and the representation of Americans (US) no matter how often I am stereotyped as and awful person.



I know many people of the study abroad program I am in have already blogged about smoking in BsAs, Argentina, but it is also something that has bothered me my entire trip thus far.  All of me clothes reek of smoke even after I have washed them.  My room at the residencia even got blamed once for smoking (both marijuana and cigarettes) even though it was the rooms around us and just came in through our open window.  I personally find it to be such a waste of money, and wonder how people in a city with economic difficulties can afford to buy such mass quantities of cigarettes.  Most people in BsAs are also chain smokers and not just occasional smokers as are a lot of people in the United States (smoke just when they go out and drink).


I found that virtually everywhere, even places I later found out are illegal, there are people smoking.  Besides its hideous smell and pollution of everyone’s air it adds to the dirtiness of the city.  It shocked me to see people smoking as they walked around the malls.  Also, now that I am adjusted to the laws in Georgia the smoking in the restaurants bothers me.


Just to give some statistics to prove that I am not overreacting, there is a population of 36 million people in Argentina.  Argentina is a tobacco producing country, and this has influence on taxation, general attitude to smoking, and tobacco control policies.  The smoking rates are higher in Argentina than in the United States or Europe.  46% of men smoke and 35% of women smoke.  The overall tobacco consumption (per capita) and smoking rates are the highest in the continent of South America.  It is estimated that 16% of the annual deaths in Argentina are due to smoking (lead by lung cancer for men under the age of 65 years, stroke for women under 65 years, and cardiovascular disease for people over 65).  Currently, the prevalence for smoking is on the rise.


It was so different when I visited Uruguay.  It is more like the current Atlanta, in terms of smoking.  There are possibly even less people smoking in Colonia, as a percentage, than in Atlanta.  Our sinuses actually had a break.  Everyone significantly felt better here and had a chance to cure and sickness that they might have had.  The place overall seemed cleaner (and I am taking into affect that it is not a city packed with people).


After coming back from Colonia the study abroad group visited the Argentine Secretary of State for Drugs, Dr. Jose Ramon Granero.  We discussed many issues within Argentina, but the one that stuck out the most was the issue of drugs, specifically tobacco use.  Apparently it is illegal to smoke in public buildings.  The term “public” is different than the one we use in the United States.  In the United States we describe the term “public” as one that includes:  malls, movie theaters, now restaurants, official buildings, most business buildings, etc.  In Argentina the term “public” means only official buildings.  However, in these official buildings there is still usually a smoking room so that the smokers do not have to leave the building to satisfy their addiction.


I wish the people of Argentina would wake up on this matter!  Smoking is anybodies right, but as in any other country the people that smoke waste so much money on this habit.  However, the people of Argentina affect non-smokers much more frequently than in the United States.  I believe there need to be more restrictions placed on tobacco use in this country.  It is a beautiful city with excellent people, but they are killing themselves, everyone around them, and the splendor of their city.

Your political economy blog is a mini-business plan.  A group of investors with cash in the US has learned that you are experts in Argentina, and they are looking to invest money in the country.  They want you to provide a recommendation about the risks and benefits and to identify the best businesses to invest in and the sectors to avoid.

Argentina`s market for foreign investments has greatly expanded in the past five years.  In 2001, the financial crisis in Argentina threatened the country`s stability and forced many investors to pull out of the market, most with negative returns on their investments.  The main risk involved in investing in Argentina rests in the recent economic crash alongside the political instability that existed a mere thirty years ago.  Many other emerging markets, such as India or a handful of East Asian economies, would likely seem an easier road to travel in terms of investments.  Many of these other markets have had a longer track record of stability, while also being equally as promising as the Argentina markets.


Argentina does, however, have a long list of benefits that nearly seem to trump all the factors holding foreigners back from investing in Argentina markets.  As the old investment banker`s adage reads, "with greater risks, come greater rewards."  This obvious benefit shows that if one invests in markets that have been more risky or unstable in the recent past, and things indeed turn out in favor of the investor, than the reward will be all the greater after bearing the initial risks.  Aside from the risk and return tradeoff, many other notable benefits exist that promote foreign investment.  The regulations and laws set by the Argentine government surrounding foreign investment were created in a manner that makes investing look infinitely more appealing.  As opposed to the norm in most Latin American countries, foreign investors are not required to obtain permission to invest in Argentina, and in fact they are even allowed to wholly own a local company.


The educated and qualified work force would assist in allowing foreign investors to understand the culture and properly execute an investment in a way that will give the greatest yield considering the particular economic conditions of Argentina.  Argentina’s weaker currency also provides tremendous benefits to investors.  The currency exchange would allow for lower initial infrastructure investment and operating costs.  Outside of these surface financial benefits, one looming benefit always seems to resound when investors speak of Argentina.  While the country has been through some difficult times in the recent past, including a large financial crisis, it does have vast natural resources that outweigh most countries across the globe.  This can be seen with the unnaturally large profits that were made by the first ranchers to come to Argentina, when they hardly had to do anything besides sell the meat from their livestock.


Europe and America are the two largest investors in Argentina.  The types of foreign investments spans all across the board, ranging from retail to petroleum.  When making an investment, the investor must be aware of which industries to avoid in order to optimize their return.  The government of Argentina deregulated a number of industries following the financial crisis of 2001.  This deregulation was started in hopes of expanding the economy; however, the deregulation has not extended to all sectors.  These sectors, such as banking and electricity, that are still state-owned enterprises, should generally be avoided by investors for two main reasons.  First, state-owned businesses are highly dependent on the country’s government.  In the case of Argentina, this is not seen in a positive light due to the economic instability of the recent past.  Also, investments in private companies generally yield a higher rate of return than investments in state-owned enterprises.


With these sectors to be avoided in mind, the investor can now focus on which sectors seem most appealing.  We chose telecommunications and financial services as the two most promising sectors when considering risk, benefits, and rates of return.  Telecommunications is an industry that is growing all across the globe.  As countries become more modern, the demand for telecommunications products has a tendency to grow.  Argentina has recently recovered from a crisis, and as it does, salaries, standards of living, and desire for innovative technologies increase.  The educated labor force combined with Argentina’s surplus of natural resources and space help to make the telecommunications horizon even more appealing.  The financial services sector is also a promising market for potential investors.  Telecommunications seems to be a more competitive market than financial service, but both offer great returns.  As Argentina’s economy continues to grow, more companies are formed and current companies continue to expand.  As the business world in Argentina finds itself with more companies and employees, the demand for skilled financial experts also becomes an issue.  These financial services would be useful both for the company and for the individuals.  With Argentina’s markets and history in mind, telecommunications and financial services are both sectors that the educated investor would investigate.


After talking with a local Argentine, Leonardo Gayarre, we also have explored options in investing in hotels and wine exportation.  He believes that it is beneficial to invest in hotels because the exchange rate for Argentina is very good for the United States and Europe.  With the benefit of the exchange rate, the rate of return is increased so that the initial money invested is obtained quickly.  The beneficial exchange rate will be maintained for many years because the government needs to make sure there is a surplus of money flow into the country to continue to pay off the debts from the 2001 crisis and build the economy.  Also, this exchange rate helps to increase the rate of export of Argentine goods and the tourism markets increase.  The wine market in Argentina is continually increasing in quality and prestige around the world.  Because the exchange rate helps to lower the prices of exports, it is becoming more preferable for wine lovers in the United States and Europe to purchase Argentine wine instead of purchasing their usual choice of wines.


From both a foreign and local perspective the best options for investment in Argentina are telecommunications, financial services, hotels, and wine exportation.  These are the best options for investors due to the large educated labor force, an artificially low currency value of the Argentine peso and the increase in appeal of Argentine exports abroad.

Your group has been selected to participate in a USAID democracy consultant competition.  Argentina has decided to re-write their constitution and they wanted help.  Your job is to use your advanced knowledge and research to construct the electoral system.  You must find out first of course how the current system works, and then propose whether to keep it as is, or to change it (for example parliamentary system and how the executive and legislative branch is selected).  You must sell your plan.

Before investigating a plan to rewrite the constitution of Argentina and a possible change in the electoral system the current system needs to be examined.  In the Argentine electoral process, there is mandatory voting in elections for citizens between the ages of 18 and 70, with some exceptions.  In April 1994, a Constituent Assembly was formed to help modify the 1953 constitution with several reforms including:  reduction of the president’s terms from 6 to 4 years and creating the possibility of serving a second term, the adoption of a second round of voting if no candidate receives a majority in first round, and abolishing the electoral college system that was used before the 1995 election.

The electoral system is a set of electors that are empowered as a deliberate body to elect someone to a particular office.  The participants in the electoral college usually represent an organization or entity.  Each organization or entity is represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way.  Often the electors are important people whose wisdom provides the choice for a larger body of people.  Within the new system of the two-round direct election, a second round of voting is only necessary if no majority is reached.  A majority is achieved when the winner receives more than 45% of the vote or at least 40 % of the vote with a 10% lead over the runner-up.

Currently Argentina elects a head of state, which is the President, and elects a legislative branch.  The current legislative system is a bicameral process where the National Congress has 2 chambers.  It is made up of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate.  There are 257 deputies that are elected for 4 year terms and have the possibility of re-election and half of the Chamber of Deputies is renewed every 2 years.  There are Deputies elected for each electoral district (23 Providences and the Federal Capital) by proportional representation using the D’Hondt method.  There are 72 Senators that are elected for 6 year terms, and are elected according to procedure established in local provincial constitutions and one third of the Senators are renewed every 2 years.  The Senators are elected in 3-seat constituencies (23 Providences and the Federal Capital) where 2 seats are awarded according to the largest party or coalition and one seat to the second largest party or coalition.  It is important to note that the entire Senate was renewed in 2001.

The D’Hondt method is a highest averages method for allocating seats in party-list proportional representation.  The highest averages method requires the number of votes for each party to be divided successively by a series of divisors.  Seats are allocated to parties that secure the highest resulting quotient or average, up to the total number of seats available.  The most widely used divisors for this method are 1, 2, 3, 4…  The D’Hondt method slightly favors large parties where as the other the Sainte-Laguë is more neutral.  This system is more proportional and divides the votes with odd numbers using 1, 3, 5, 7…  This system can also be modified by replacing the first divisors with a non-whole number which has helped in small constituencies by prioritizing proportionality for larger parties over smaller ones at the allocation of the first few seats.

Even though Argentines current electoral system was just revised and altered in the 1990’s we still feel that the system should be re-examined and modified accordingly.  We looked to the electoral system that is currently being used in France as an optimal model for Argentine electoral reform.  This system is more suited for the current Argentine economy because Argentina still has structural political problems.  We verified this option with Argentine local Leonardo Gayarre.  The current electoral system in Argentina favors majorities, and similar to the United States two large parties dominate Argentine politics.  This two party system is a direct result of proportional representation.  The Argentine population is relatively homogenous, so with more parties it becomes more democratic.  In this situation the parliament chooses the prime minister and the people chose the president.  Both of these entities share the power but have different responsibilities.

In France, the president is directly elected by the people. The president serves a 5 year term and can be re-elected an unlimited amount of terms. The president is directly responsible for the election of the prime minister and presides over the cabinet and is the head of the armed forces. The French legislature is a bicameral process where the Parliament has 2 chambers.  It is made up of a National Assembly and a Senate.  This legislature system is virtually the same as Argentina’s.  France operates under a multiparty system, allowing a range of parties to voice their opinions.  “The French multiple-party system has an advantage: it gives every group of any size a voice in government, a chance to get its program considered, a chance to get certain laws passed” (Miquelon Org).  This is exactly what is needed in Argentina to insure that more citizens have an opportunity to actively participate in the government.

In addition, the system utilizing a president and prime minister is easier than the presidential system in the relinquishing of offices.  The fixed presidential system makes transitions more difficult as party regimes are changed quickly.  This therefore makes it difficult for popular presidents to stay in power and unpopular presidents to be removed quickly.  For example, the United States impeachment process has only occurred twice due to the length of the procedure.  With a parliamentary system the prime minister can be removed quickly from office when his abilities to represent the entire populace come under scrutiny.  This strength creates a buffer between elected officials during the transition.

The French system is more suitable for the current situation in Argentina because of its continued structural problems.  The electoral system needs to be more flexible so that if another crisis occurs, even if it is less severe than the economic crisis in 2001, the government will not collapse.  A prime minister can be changed out without affecting the nation.  Overall, this system is more dynamic than the current method.  A system that is able to swiftly adapt in the time of crisis is crucial for Argentina.

Works Cited


http://www.miquelon.org/gripes/109.html:  Miquelon Org.



http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Elecdata/systems.html#arg: Overview of Latin American Electoral Systems

This is another topic that I cannot really talk about in terms of research but my experiences with my Argentine friends and what I have come to conclude from those experiences.  I am basing all of my information off of experiences I have obtained by spending time during the weekends and usually the entire weekend with my local friends in the BsAs.  There are no garage sales on the weekend to go to like in the United States, so most of the weekend time is spent with the family. 


I spoke specifically with one of my local Argentine friends, Leo, and we had difficulty thinking of what we did on the weekends.  It has usually become a repetitive ritual that we don’t remember what we do unless something out of the ordinary occurs.


For him, his wife, and his step son they usually spend it together with one of their families.  These usually include lunch, dinner, and don’t forget the gelato.  It also usually involves some sports games for fun (yeah right, there is no thing as just a game to Argentines, or me for that matter).  Usually the time during and between the meals is spent talking to family members and catching up on what was missed during the week.  Another big thing is to go to not only the large Boca Jr. games, but to also go to the lower level Velez soccer games.  Soccer is life in Argentina, and for many it is even more important than going to work.  Friday nights and Saturday nights are their times to go out late and party.  Of course, this changes with increased age and added responsibilities.  Usually every Sunday there is and asado.  And yes, I mean every Sunday.  I love my fathers cooking on the grill when I come out to their house, but it is nothing compared to an asado.  The average Argentine eats 65 kilos per year of meat.  This comes out to 143 pounds.  This account usually takes up most of Sunday, and they might go to an early show, and then to bed early for work on Monday.  Also, as with me and my family in the United States (not as frequently for me though), as the seasons change the activities on the weekend change.  There are many different regions around Buenos Aires (city, suburbs/provinces, country, beach, etc.).  People that live in the city, and are usually of the middle and upper classes, go out to their country homes from Friday evening until evening Sunday.  This is to get away from some of the pollution and fast paced city life.  Also, whenever weather permits they try to visit the beach.  Overall, the weekend life of the Argentine is similar to that of the same social class in the United States.    


For me I have my own apartment in Downtown/Buckhead, Atlanta where I spend most of my week.  On the weekend I usually go out to my parents’ home in the suburbs of Atlanta about 35 miles away for at least a day.  While I am out there I try to spend as much time with my family as possible.  Usually my father and I go out and play tennis.  I also usually do some time of yard work around the house.  I enjoy running errands or shopping with my mother.  As a family, we occasionally go out to see a movie while I am at my parents place.  Some of the greatest times I have on the weekend are the ones where my parents and I either have dinner and dessert (can’t forget that because it is very important for my mother and me) in (usually is cooking some kind of meat out on the grill) or out at a restaurant, and just sit around in the family room together watching TV or a movie.  In the time that I do not spend with my family I spend it with my best friend Valentine, who is also my roommate.  She has been my friend for so long that she is my family now.  The weekend is the only time we really get a break from life to talk and hang out since she is bus with work during the week and I have responsibilities with school.  Again, it isn’t the huge things that we might do that are important, but just hanging out together, talking, and breaking up the stressful work week.  I enjoy spending my weekends with the people I care about.  I believe everyone should work to live, and this fact should at all times possible be at a minimum appreciated during the weekend.     


Considering what I have been told, experienced, and already know both Argentine middle and upper class and I have similar occurrences on the weekend.  I believe the lower class, in both countries, is a little different however.  I believe they still do have some important family time on the weekend, but the people that do work usually have to also work on the weekend due to the monetary situations that they are faced with. I consider myself exceptionally lucky for the time that I do get to spend with my parents on the weekend and also look forward to it as the work or school week goes through its tiring process. 

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