recommendations for Buenos Aires

Florianopolis Travel Blog

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  • Meet and hang out with the other students in the residencia.  They have been there for a lot longer and can clue you in to many things about BA.  You may be a little apprehensive because of the language barrier, but most will know a little English and are very welcoming if you show the initial effort to introduce yourself.  Good opportunity:  sit with people not from your group at meal times.
  • Go out with people other than your group, especially Argentine’s and people from other countries (students in the residencia where you stay are from all over Latin America and the world).  Avoid going out in big groups of Americans - you will have a much better time and a very different experience, learning more about their culture, and even about your own.  Even if you don’t speak a lot of Spanish, do it, you can make do just fine.
  • Do things on your own, don’t depend on being with another American for support or as a crutch.
  • Travel!  Especially by yourself.  Don’t be intimidated.  Buy a bus ticket.  Go to Mendoza, Bariloche, wherever.  Hike.  Bile.  Paraglide.  Hangout with hostel-ers.  Meet people on the bus.  Buses are cheap and comfy and there are tons of great places to go within bus-distance.  Round trip ticket between Buenos Aires and Bariloche, which includes 5 meals (3 there, 2 back) and over 40 hours of time on the bus total:  $88.  It was very comfy and I read a lot, slept a lot, talked with people around me, and read - the time went fast.  When busing, I would highly recommend the “cama” class, because it is not much more expensive (I think about 15 pesos for the Bariloche trip), and it makes the ride much more enjoyable - more spacious and the seats recline further.
  •  Be careful on the Subte!  Keep your hand on your wallet, especially when it is very crowded.  Mine was stolen out of my front pocket.
  • Knowing this, use Subte a lot, its cheap and very useful.
  • Get to know the bus system as well, don’t be intimidated by it.  Transportation is amazingly effective and cheap.  Talk to someone on the bus and get them to warn you when your stop is coming up, as it is hard to tell sometimes when your stop comes.
  • MY BEST INVESTMENT IN ARGENTINA:  To help you with the bus system,  Buy a “Guia-T” from the little magazine kiosks you see all over.  It is a great map (one of the only that uses true North), and it tells you where the buses go.
  • Walk lots of places.  Great opportunity to see the city plus get exercise - BA will make you fat. 
  • Play soccer, especially with locals.  I didn’t care for the sport, now I can’t get enough of it!
  • Eat in lots of the cafes around the city, the best places to get a feeling for the true culture of Buenos Aires, not the touristy side.
  • Eat lots of dulce-de-leche, pastries, medialunas, and café-con-leche, the delicacies of Buenos Aires.  I miss them already!
  • Try mate (an Argentine drink pronounced “mah-tay”) at least a few times.  Join in with people in the residencia who are drinking it, a great
  • There is a nice gym east of the intersection of Paraguay and Borges for 60 pesos a month.  I enjoyed using it.  Its got good weights and machines, decent cardio machines, and great classes - spinning, cardio kickboxing, etc.
  • PACK LIGHT!  Pack less than you think you will need.  Pack an extra empty duffle bag b/c you will be bringing stuff back with you, especially wine.  Laundry is cheap - $4 for 2 big loads washed, dried and folded; drop off morning, pick up afternoon.  All you really need is
    • a week’s worth of clothes,
    • toiletries (keep in mind you will be going out a lot, bring cologne, etc.)
    • shoes for going out, soccer, hiking, comfy walking, sandals.  Try to bring pairs that will cover more than one of those categories.  
    • Bathing suit for Brazil
    • Nice clothes for going out, at least two sets
    • T-shirts and clothes for for running, soccer, and gym
    • Bring a tie for the opera and various occasions.  I didn’t, but wish I did.
    • Make sure you have at least one bag that you can use for day trips - to class, or if you travel to Mendoza, etc. for the weekend.  You don’t want all your luggage to be massive.
    • Back-up credit card, don’t carry it with your wallet.  Very handy when my wallet got stolen.  Put cash in different places (different suitcases, bookbag, wallet, etc.) so that way if one gets lost or stolen, you’re not screwed.
  • People had problems with luggage going from Argentina to Brazil.  This combination worked for me: 
    • one big piece to check
    • a duffle bag that I carried-on on my flight from US to Argentina, but which I had to check on my way from Argentina to Brazil
    • a bookbag for laptop, food, book, etc.
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Argentina and Brazil have a history of underdevelopment.  For the majority of their histories (i.e. at the time when more developed countries were creating their national car firms) Argentina and Brazil lacked the industrial development necessary to manufacture cars and car parts.  One glaring factor common to most of the nations with home-grown car firms is their involvement major total-war engagements. 

“Warfare of the 20th century:  vast resources and emotional commitments of belligerent nations were marshaled to support military effort; resulted from impact of industrialization on the military effort reflecting technological innovation and organizational capacity” (Google define,

In Total War, nations devote all their manufacturing and production capacities to the effort, spurring economic development, innovation, and industrial growth, leading to an increase in post-war manufacturing capabilities: technology, knowledge, and manufacturing equipment and facilities.

The US introduced the first tanks in WW1.  Heavy machinery and military vehicles spur development of the automobile and other manufactured goods post-war.  Until WW2, most cars driven in the US were national.  WW2 accelerated the industrialization of the major allied and axis powers, most notably Japan and Germany.  By the 70’s, US has foreign brands from these countries flooding the market.

War affected creation of foreign markets indirectly as well:
“During the Korean War (1950 - 1953) the United States government ordered a large number of army trucks from Japanese automobile manufacturers. This was for two reasons: Japan was geographically close, and (until 1952) it was still under United States occupation. This stimulated the growth of Japan's auto industry, and the rapid increase in domestic demand and expansion into foreign markets in the 1970s boosted the growth even further” (wikipedia).

The only effect WW2 had on Brazil was to spur the growth of Brazil’s steel mills (Wikipedia, “Economic History of Brazil”), which is important for development of a car industry, but is not enough without significant industrial and manufacturing development as well.

So I have show that a slow start on manufacturing and industrial development inhibited growth of national car firms, but what caused the foreign firms to invade and set up shop?  A two part answer: 

  1. ISI, import-substitution industrialization
  2. Lobby Power of entrenched foreign car firms

In the ISI-focused governments of the ‘50s, imports were practically disallowed while direct foreign investment for local industry was more-than-highly encouraged.  Before this period, Argentina and Brazil still lacked major industrialization and manufacturing power.  I will use a hypothetical example to illustrate the effects of ISI on the car industries of Argentina and Brazil: 

Toyota couldn’t sell cars to Brazil anymore because imports were disallowed.  The solution?  To maintain access to the domestic market of Brazil, start making the cars inside Brazil.  ISI governments readily welcome this sort of investment, so it flourished during this period. 

So why can’t local, home-grown domestic companies develop along-side this foreign investment?  The answer:  LOBBY POWER OF THE FOREIGN COMPANIES!  Hundai, Toyota, Mitsubishi, etc. invest a lot of money; it is in their best interest to keep out local firms and maintain a monopoly on the national markets of Argentina and Brazil.  Their money buys power and influence, allowing them to lobby effectively to stop the creation of local automobile manufacturers.

Another hypothetical example:
If Ford wanted to sell cars to Japan, Ford could sell directly without having to set up shop IN Japan.  Why bother with making factories in Japan when you can use your pre-existing factories in the USA and just import them to Japan?  So, since there were no foreign car firms with significant investment in Japan (and therefore without lobby power), home-grown companies could develop without interference.

The bottom line: 

1. A history of underdevelopment and lack of industrialization in Argentina and Brazil prevented the creation of home-grown domestic car firms during the period when more developed nations were creating them,

2. ISI brought in the foreign firms to fill that void, and

3. the foreign firms’ subsequent lobby power prevented any future home-grown car firms from developing.

India, the exception.
The Indian government has been able to foster high levels of engineering, materials and other advanced industries, as well as steel production and manufactured goods (source:  Tata website) - all important parts of automobile creation and hallmarks of car-producing nations.  India has been able to obtain the prerequisites for creation of a local automobile industry - technology, knowledge, and manufacturing capabilities - without ever employing an ISI economic program.

Nearly half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics live in Latin America, making it a key region, but one where evangelical churches have been slowly converting the masses.  In Brazil, the world's largest Catholic population with 150 million followers, only 74 percent of the population is Catholic. In 1995, the number was 84 percent, and a century ago it was an overwhelming 99 percent.  From 1991 to 2000, the number of evangelicals in Brazil grew annually by 8 percent, while the number of Catholics grew by 0.28 percent.  Religious experts say that number has fallen to 70 percent of the population, while 20 percent, or about 30 million people, call themselves evangelicals. In Argentina, attendance at evangelical churches has climbed 10 percent a year over the past five years, reaching almost 7 million today, a figure which has increased greatly in the past 20 years.  Since the 1980s, Brazil and Argentina, both historically Roman Catholic nations, have experienced a growth in varieties of Protestantism. Protestant evangelism has grown so quickly that at present, 15 percent of Brazil’s population and 10 percent of Argentina’s population are Protestant.  This growth has significant consequences for these historically Catholic nations, but the strategies employed by these churches ensures that Roman Catholicism faces challenges in Latin America (Almos and Muello).

Evangelical Protestantism – The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

An example of one of these increasingly popular churches in Brazil is the controversial Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.  The Universal church was founded in 1977 in a converted Rio mortuary and is Brazil's fastest-growing evangelical church. In the past five years, it has increased its membership by 280 percent, from 900,000 to 3.5 million followers with 7,000 pastors and 2,100 temples.

The church was founded by Edir Macedo, a former state lottery administrator and self-annointed bishop. Mr. Macedo, 50, is known for his fiery sermons about the "war between God and the devil" and how faith can cure near-sightedness, cancer, AIDS and other diseases which are caused by demons. Mr. Macedo and other Universal pastors have long been giving rousing sermons against Catholics. They not only criticize their use of images but question Mary's virginity and refer to the Pope as "a false prophet" and the Vatican as "Babylonia."  Last April, for example, Mr. Macedo told 210,000 followers crowded into a Sao Paulo soccer stadium that "the Catholic Church is a disgrace to the Third World."  Universal pastors preach that miracles depend not only on faith but the size of one's financial contribution to the church. Its members are urged to pay a monthly tithe of 10 percent of their salary. "If you don't pay God, you pay the devil," Mr. Macedo has often said.  With the help of these massive donations, the church has purchased TV Record, the nation's third largest television network with 47 broadcasting stations, and 30 radio stations, two publishing houses, a bank, a recording studio, a newspaper, a furniture factory and a tourist agency. Overseas, it has opened 300 churches in 46 countries, including 22 in the United States, where it has targeted the Hispanic population on Spanish-speaking cable television stations. It even has its own political party in Portugal.

According to the Rio daily O Globo, the Universal church is a $735 million-a-year enterprise, making Mr. Macedo the leader of Brazil's 34th richest private company, ahead of Philip Morris and Goodyear. To administer his financial empire, Mr. Macedo is said to divide his time between homes in New York, Argentina and South Africa.  In the past four years, Mr. Macedo has been the target of several criminal investigations on suspicion of racketeering, tax evasion and illegal shipments of currency to overseas bank accounts.  Mr. Macedo, who rarely speaks to the press, insists that he has broken no laws. His lawyer, Marcio Thomaz Bastos, calls the investigation a product of an "inquisition against my client”.


There are numerous causes for the rise in evangelical Protestantism in Argentina and Brazil, including the 2001-2002 economic crisis in Argentina, the migration of Brazilians from the countryside to Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s, and the divisions and scandals afflicting the Catholic church.

One root of this growth can be traced to the 1960s, when the search for a better life set off a migration of tens of millions of Brazil's poorest out of rural villages and away from a culture of conformity and Catholicism.  This migration spawned megalopolises such as Rio and Sao Paulo, which became home to millions of Brazilians.  As a result, the cities gave "people options they never had," said the Rev. James Heneghan, an Irish missionary priest in Sao Paulo. "Before, they could never make individual decisions. Here, people go in their own directions."  The Catholic Church did not have the same stronghold in the city as it did in the countryside.  In addition, new faiths began to emerge.  For example, African religions such as Candomble, banned by some laws until the 1970s, came out of hiding, along with eight million followers.  Also, the everyday strains of modern urban life in crowded apartment towers or shantytown favelas brought many Brazilians to Pentecostalism. There, the Sao Paolo and Rio’s poor, many of whom faced addiction and poverty, could directly seek help from God.  "Most people come because they have problems - drinking, drugs or prostitution," said the Rev. Davi Araujo, an Assemblies of God pastor in Sao Paulo. "They're looking for salvation. They find it here" (Epstein).

Also, divisions and controversy, especially concerning issues of homosexuality and child abuse, have tainted the recent history of the Catholic Church.  The response from the Vatican and Church representatives has been divided as some publicly condemn child abuseres while others try to contain discussions within the walls of the Vatican.  In addition, the Roman Catholic Church has taken conservative and controversial views on sexuality, abortion, divorce, and priesthood for women.  All of these traditional and conservative views have created a division between the Church and the people of Latin America (Arocena).  The remedy, according to Luiz Alberto Gomez de Souza, Director of the Religious Statistics and Social Research Center in Rio, is to give more freedom of action to local bishops' conferences, address the abuse controversies that have plagued the Vatican, interact more with the community, open a dialogue with other churches and expand women's roles (Almos and Muello).  In this manner, varieties of Protestantism have been much more successful by maintaining a visage of unanimity and creating a more flexible structure between clergy and laity. The Pentecostal acceptance of women in leadership, in some cases even at the pastoral level (usually two-thirds of the congregations are women), adds to its popularity. Though most members of Pentecostal churches are poor and uneducated, an increase of middle and upper class members has brought the social classes together in a way unfamiliar to Latin American people. Similarly, the services bring together racial castes—descendants of the Native Americans, the European colonists, and the African slaves—in ways rare in some of the more prejudiced Latin countries (Moreno).


Evangelical churches employ various strategies to gain followers including media use, addressing everyday challenges of the poor, and emotional and promising liturgies.

Perhaps pragmatism largely explains the spread of evangelical movements since one possible cause for the upsurge in evangelism in Brazil and Argentina could be the direct involvement of these churches to affect the everyday instead of focusing on ultimate salvation.  While the Catholic Church focuses on saving souls, many of the evangelical movements tackle day-to-day problems while making just enough doctrines or demands to satisfy the Brazilian rage for mysticism. The emphasis of many of these movements on demonology, exorcism and miraculous cures offers relief to the masses of people living in misery and faced with a health system in collapse. "They offer a diagnosis, that demons are at work, and a solution, that Jesus cures, can resolve problems in your family and bring you financial prosperity if you give donations," says Ricardo Mariano, a sociologist studying Pentecostalism in Brazil. "In a country where half the population is illiterate and the health system doesn't function, it's a plausible response to their needs".  Also, "the evangelists use language that's more easily understood by the poor," Benedito dos Santos, a Catholic bishop of Sao Paolo said. "They go house to house, and many preach the theology of prosperity: God brings money and social advancement” (Kamm).  Addressing the hardships of everyday life has proven to be successful in Argentina as well, especially after the 2001-2002 economic crisis, which left almost 60 percent of the population in poverty. 

Then, of course, there is always the issue of grabbing the audience’s attention with emotional liturgies.  For example, worshippers listening to a mass in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God listen intently as a preacher tells them to ask for fulfillment of their innermost wishes -- a new car, a bigger house, health, or a better job.  However, worshippers inside a Roman Catholic Church sit silently in their pews, many yawning, as a priest drones on about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Clearly, one possible reason for an increase in converts to evangelism is a change of routine from Catholic masses to emotional liturgies involving singing, crying and the performance of miracles (Almos and Muello).

The most influencial strategy used by evangelical churches has been through the use of the media.  In Brazil, the Universal Church's purchase of Liberty Radio, from Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, shows that the church sees control of the media as crucial in its campaign to win over more converts.  For example, five years ago, the Universal Church held a campaign for the abolition of the annual public holiday to honor Brazil's patron saint, Our Lady Aparecida. One of its preachers, Sergio von Helder, created a storm by kicking and punching an effigy of the saint during a broadcast on the church's own television station, TV Record. TV Record’s rival, Globo, fanned the flames of controversy by re-transmitting the scene during its main nightly news bulletin, prompting some to disrupt the Universal Church's services and even to burn effigies of Mr von Helder.  TV Globo, whose founder Roberto Marinho has close links with senior conservative Catholic clerics in Brazil, subsequently raised the stakes by broadcasting videotaped footage which it said showed Mr. Macedo, Universal´s founder, counting piles of dollars and staying in luxury hotels. Clearly, this media battle indicates that the more power a church holds over the media, the greater support it will garner.


There are a variety of consequences that result from the rise of Protestantism in Argentina and Brazil.  Presidential elections must consider the evangelicals and there is a fear of a “holy war” between Protestant evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church.  However, there is also the possibility of the evangelical churches using their position to influence the government to better represent the people of Brazil.

One of the primary consequences of the rise in evangelism in Latin America has been the changing tide in presidential elections.  In 2002, leftist Workers Party's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or Lula, aimed for Brazil's growing number of Protestants.  The rapidly increasing faith was a powerful factor in Brazilian politics, and Lula and other candidates battled to win evangelical support because the electoral power of the “evangelicals” was too strong to ignore.  Lula left little to chance, and continuously made references to Jesus Christ, insisting to the crowd that he shared the same ideals as Jesus.  "Who in human history was more revolutionary than Jesus Christ? Who fought more for social justice?" Lula asked. "The same elite that is prejudiced against us today, had a prejudice against him."

However, the evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Anthony Garotinho, a former governor of Rio de Janeiro state and a Protestant evangelist.  Presently, more than 50 federal legislators are evangelicals. That is about 10 percent of the 513-member Chamber of Deputies, a decisive legislative group, especially when controversial issues arise.

"The evangelicals' vote is like a bloc. They vote en masse for their people," said Regina Novaes, an anthropologist at the Rio-based Religious Studies Center. "They have successfully transformed religious membership into votes."  The evangelicals' political clout has prompted worries from Catholics because Brazil’s evangelicals identify their faith with political participation in a way that Catholics do not.  This could create increasingly bitter battles during Brazil’s presidential elections, and as the evangelical movement continues to increase in Brazil, this battle will continue to become fiercer (Election Injects Religion).

With pastors more readily involved in politics, the government is more likely to listen to the voice of a people.  "What is different today," said the sociologist of religion from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) "is that the popular space is no longer controlled by partisan religious groups but by religious groups that enjoy a legitimacy that means they are consulted by governments to ask their opinion about social, cultural and employment plans they decide to introduce” Because of the evangelicals have such legitimacy, government representatives are increasingly turning to them for advice on social and cultural matters (Worldwide Faith News).

Along with the rise of evangelism comes the idea of a "holy war" between the Roman Catholic Church and the evangelicals.  Controversy ensued when an evangelical pastor, Sergio von Helder, repeatedly kicked and slapped a ceramic image of the nation's patron saint on national television.  Mr.von Helde, a senior pastor of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, called the likeness of Our Lady of Aparecida a "horrible, disgraceful doll" and told viewers of the Sao Paulo-based program The Awakening of Faith that the "Catholic Church lies. This image can't do anything for you."  Millions of Brazilians were outraged.  In the days that followed Mr. von Helde's attack, thousands of protesters took to the nation's streets carrying images of the saint. Others surrounded Universal temples, screaming obscenities and throwing rocks, eggs and tomatoes. In Rio de Janeiro, police were called to investigate several bomb threats against Universal temples.  Thus, it is clear that as different churches use mass media to gain more converts, controversy and fighting will ensue between them. 


Hence, the increase in varieties of Protestantism in the historically Roman Catholic nations of Argentina and Brazil present challenges to both nations.  Because of historic and present events, the Protestant movement in Argentina and Brazil have continued to increase, and with cunning strategies, these movements are gaining popularity quickly.  The positive and negative consequences are plenty, and Argentina and Brazil must adequately address these potential consequences to avoid religious violence.


Works Cited

Almos, Harold and Peter Muello.  Next Pope Faces Loss of Latin American Faithful To

            Evangelical Churches.”  Associated Press. 

 “Are Pastors Ready to be Involved in Politics?”  Worldwide Faith News.  15 Aug 2005.

Arocena, Felippe.  Universidad de San Salvadore.  Lecture on Catholicism.  22 May 2006.

Brazil Election Injects Religion.”  Associated Press.  02 Oct 2002.Olmos, Harold and Peter

Epstein, Jack.  Kicking of Icon Outrages Brasil Catholics.”  The Dallas Morning News. 

            24 Nov 1995.

Kamm, Thomas.  Evangelicals, Stressing Cures for Masses’ Misery, Make Inroads in Roman

            Catholic Latin America.  Wall Street Journal.  16 Oct 1991. 

Moreno, Pedro C.  Rapture and Renewal in Latin America.”  June/July 1997.

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