telecabinas vs. cell phones

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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            The Marlboro maxikioscos are one of my favorite parts of Buenos Aires.  This may sound a bit weird, and I suppose it may be.  I know what a typical 7-11 contains inside its walls, but can you get super panchos and empanadas at a 7-11?  Very doubtful, and if that was not enough to convince you, what do you make of the telecabinas inside the maxikioscos?  Telecabinas fascinate and confuse me at the same time. 


To clarify for those who haven’t experienced the joys of the maxikioscos, a telecabina is a tiny plexy glass booth in which you cant sit and use the telephone via the complex 27 digit phone cards the maxikiosco man sells.  Every time I go inside the Marlboro stand to grab a soda or snack, the telecabinas are occupied, and on many occasions, there is a waiting line.  I guess I am just confused as to why so many people use them.  I use them to call home, because its super long distance and I can’t any other way.


            If I was not a visiting foreigner, I doubt I would step into a telecabina nearly as often.  Alongside these telecabinas, there are also countless “locutorios,” which are basically the same idea as the maxikiosco minus all the yummy drinks and snacks.  These also seem to be filled constantly and are literally located on every block.  Relating to our group blog investment question, I am now thinking maybe we should just put all our money into locutorios, because they seem to do well and are always full : )


It almost seems like it is the 1980’s and people have to use telecabinas to make last minute phone calls, because cell phones are not in the picture yet.  However, cell phones are in the picture, and these telecabinas are used exponentially more frequently than phone booths two decades ago in the United States.  It makes me curious about the telephone industry in Argentina.  It was deregulated during the economic restructuring a few years ago.  While it may be a privatized company, maybe there is a monopoly or oligopoly that allow the companies to charge exorbitant fees.  Perhaps these phones cards combined with the telecabinas is the solution to the expensive phone companies. 


Another possibility is that many Argentines just cannot afford to pay for a telephone service whether it be home or mobile.  If this is the case, I can see how people would try to save money but buying phone for a minute rate rather than paying for an entire month when you may not even come close to using all of your minutes.  I am also interested to observe the progression as Argentines begin to save and make more and more money as their economy grows and improves.  Maybe telecabinas will lead to more home phone use or more widespread use of cell phones.


My roommate has a local cell phone and it is interesting to witness her telephone habits.  She very rarely actually uses her phone to make phone calls.  Most of the time she text messages instead.  I am not sure whether she does this because text messaging is cheaper or because she just finds it quicker and easier to use.  Either way, I definitely make the bold predictions that telecabinas will begin to disappear as cell phones take over Argentina, just like they have the rest of the world. 
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I am so very excited to have Portuguese classes when we arrive in Brazil! One of my best friends interned in Brazil last summer and he is interning there again right now. He continually tried to teach me Portuguese in the week before we left, and now that I have been in a country that speaks Spanish for a month, I feel that the transition will be astoundingly easy. To clarify this point, I am not assuming that Portuguese and Spanish are in any way the same language. I lived in France last summer and picked up the language and funny accent rather well through class and interactions with locals. After two and a half months there, I completely lost all traces of my Spanish that I learned in high school. Now that I have a little bit of Spanish and a little bit of French jumbled in my head, I think that I will make a fantastic Portuguese speaker. To me, the language sounds like Spanish, French, and some obscure African language all blended together. I really enjoyed the soccer movie in class, not just because Pele is amazing, but I enjoyed listening to him talk. It does however seem weird to me that one of most powerful countries of Latin America would speak a language that none of the other countries speak. I am told that most Brazilians do not know Spanish, and most other residents of Latin America do not know Portuguese. If Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil are so interconnected in travel and business, how do they even communicate? I understand that some of the more important or educated people probably know both languages, but it seems like it would foster relations as well as travel and the economy is these countries had an easier communication route than a translator. This language barrier also makes me wonder about the relationship between Brazil and Portugal. Do people travel to and from there often? Is business conducted between the two countries often or at all? While it seems like past relations and the same language would foster a good, double-sided relationship, perhaps it is quite the opposite or at least a neutral one. If you go m original mindset, the United States and England should be best buddies right? But in reality, I would guess people do business with and travel to Germany or France just as much as they do England. It seems strange that so many people across the globe feel a need to embrace their previous heritage in theory, and yet the previous “father countries” have so little influence on the lives of the average Brazilian or American. Either way, I plan to embrace the Brazilian culture and learn how to pronounce that crazy little squiggly “c” letter! Ciao!
Maradona… I just do not get it. Maradona, as we all well know by now is on of Argentina’s three main icons. He was a great soccer player in his day, and for this he will forever be worshipped by Argentines as well as fans all across the globe. In a way, I understand the need for the children of Argentina to have someone to look up to. Evita helped so many citizens of this country throughout their hard times and greatly promoted the ideals of equality for people of lower social classes. Gardel left Argentina with the legacy of tango, for which Argentina will forever be remembered and idolized. Maradona is a bit of a different story. From what I had heard from Argentines and on television, I assumed Maradona was a sports god up with the likes of Michael Jordan. However, after doing the assigned readings and seeing the videos in class, I am positive my mother would have a heart attack if I told her “I wanna be like Diego.” It is so interesting how Mardona is portrayed in such a positive light, as if all his past foibles and transgressions never even occurred. Diego was a drug addict with a nose for cocaine, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that many American superstars and sports stars have been busted for drugs. However, at home these types of activities are still looked down on and do leave a stigma on the person’s reputation. With Diego, the fans saw it as an accidental addiction for which he could not be blamed. In a song about him, it even compared cocaine to a game which he would eventually win. When was the last time that you heard a song at home cheering on a star and saying that their drug problem was ok because it was just something that they had yet to overcome. Hmmm I think that more that the drug problem, I am bothered by his personality and ethics. Role models are supposed to lead children in the right direction. I am obviously so far from perfect that its ridiculous, but I can only imagine how I might be different if my hero growing up was a cheater that taunted other people and their problems. There was a picture taken of Maradona in which he was wearing a Bin Laden mask and taunting the United States. Did it not cross his mind how many lives and families were destroyed in the 911 attacks. I think it did cross his mind and he just continued to taunt anyway, because he knew he could get away with it. Aside from the taunting, Diego actually admitted to cheating during the World Cup. He hit a soccer ball into the goal with his fist, which as any four year old Argentine knows, it so very far from legal in the game of soccer. However, the referees did not see the fist shot and so his goal counted and led to a win for the team. Everyone knew that it was not really a goal, but because Diego is god, they continue to celebrate his great victory in that game. Immediately after that goal, he did score a legitimate goal as well, but the fist goal is the one that I remember most. I think maybe Argentines celebrate Diego not only due to his soccer abilities but due to the fact that he makes mistakes, is a little devilish and therefore more close to a normal person than most superstars. In the most unusual distorted way, it almost seems that Diego is a message of hope. Countless Argentines struggle with poverty and hardships, and his life shows that you can make many many many mistakes, and even cheat and lie, but as long as you try, your life will turn out to be quite a nice one.
Uruguay seems to be a bit cleaner in general than Argentina. We went to Colonia this past weekend, and I was quite impressed. I understand that Colonia is a tourist town, but it was very enjoyable and quiet due to the winter season. We had a chance to take a tour and rent bicycles. Originally we had planned on renting scooters, but if you wreck a scooter it apparently costs you $800 USD! With my driving record, a bicycle seemed like a much safer choice. It literally took us 10 minutes to bike from one side of the town to the other side. As strange as it sounds, the main things that stood out to me in Uruguay were the things that were missing. I did not see any dog droppings on the sidewalk and noticed very few people smoking in public. I am not altogether too sure of the laws or lack thereof regarding dog droppings. It does seem a bit ridiculous to me that you can hardly walk 3 feet without having to step around it in order to save yourself some embarrassment and a trip to the bathroom. However, Uruguay did have much less of this. I am not sure if they have a law requiring people to actually clean up after their pets or not. Once I noticed the lack of it, I also noticed the lack of dogs in general. I am shocked on a daily basis by how many animals just roam the streets of Buenos Aires. Perhaps Uruguay has a humane society of sorts or people there gets their pets fixed so that the overpopulation exhibited by the “cat park” is not duplicated in Colonia. More important to me than the dog dropping issue is the smoking issue. In Buenos Aires, I have gone to bed many nights with a slight headache which I am nearly positive can be attributed to the mass amounts of smoke I have been inhaling in a daily basis. People here smoke on the street, in the bank, in cafes�"pretty much anywhere they get a craving I suppose. In cafes, if they do have a nonsmoking section, it usually consists of one table that is placed directly next to a smoking table, those silly Argentines! However, Felipe informed me that in Uruguay they recently passed a law forbidding people from smoking in any enclosed public places. This made a huge difference in my happiness level. I am sure that if Kirchner decided to pass a similar law in Argentina, there would be numerous protests and lord knows maybe even the first military coup in three decades! This infestation of smokers everywhere in the city brings me to the most ridiculous point of this blog. Uruguayans are not allowed to smoke in public places, and Argentines are allowed to smoke in public places. What right does Argentina have to tell Uruguay that they cannot build a pulp mill on their soil due to pollutants when Argentina has already managed to take multiple months off my life via lung deterioration in a period of three weeks?! Silly Argentines…
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