Protesting, Shopping, and Dancing... Argentine Style

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Las Madres getting ready to do their weekly march

          Before I start my blog for Thursday, I just want to take the time to personally thank Luqman and Brandon for my birthday gifts. I was so touched by both of these wonderful men’s generosities. I felt like a princess with my bouquets, yes I used the plural form because they bought me not 1 but 2 bouquets of flowers, and my beautiful cake. Ladies, find yourselves quality men like them. They are scarce these days, but they do exist! I also want to thank Deona and her grad school buddies for coming out and celebrating my birthday as well. It truly was a birthday to remember. I mean how many people can say that they celebrated his/her birthday in Buenos Aires playing bridge until the wee hours of the night….

Banners at Plaza de Mayo supporting the Las Madres' Cause
? (wink)

            Well Thursday started off somewhat on a late note for me. I woke up a bit later than usual due to the in vigorous birthday bridge games that kept me up until the early hours. After I got changed and got ready to go, I asked if either of the guys wanted to come with me to see the Las Madres de la Plaza Mayo. Brandon declined the offer in order to pack and get ready for his flight home. But my amazing friend Luqman decided to accompany me, and with that, we were on our way.

            La Asociación de Madres de Plaza Mayo/ The Association of the Mothers of Plaza Mayo, is a group of Argentine mothers whose children “disappeared” under the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

One of the ornate altars in the Metropolitan Cathedral
The term “disappeared” is used because the government kidnapped and then systematically killed anyone that was leftist or against the government in charge during the dictatorship. In addition, many children and babies of the disappeared were stolen and illegally given to police, military, and government officials. Consequently, the Madres have fought for the right to re-unite with their abducted children and grandchildren as well as lobby for the government to punish those that were in power and responsible during the Dirty War. They wear white scarves to symbolize the white dove of peace and this symbol is painted along the main square in Plaza Mayo, which is where they protest. Every Thursday at 3:30 PM, they walk for half an hour around the Plaza in front of the Casa Rosada, the Pink House, which is where the President of the country goes about his affairs.
Mausoleum of Argentine National Hero Jose San Martin

            In the past, the protests have been more aggressive and more intense, but since January 2006, the Madres have declared that they will only be marching for a symbolic nature because they do not think the current government is hostile or indifferent. Much of this sentiment is on account of President Kirchner’s measures to try and bring justice for the more than 30,000 people who suffered during the Dirty War. In recent years, the Senate, with the President’s backing, has voted to abolish amnesty laws that had protected members of the former military government from taking responsibility for the human rights violations and abuses.

If you want more insight on how life was during this era, I highly recommend a movie called “La Historia Oficial” or “The Official History.

Statue Display of famous past inhabitants of Cafe Tortoni
” It is an Argentine movie that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1985. I also recommend reading Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, by Jacobo Timerman which recounts the author’s own personal experience being kidnapped and imprisoned during the Dirty War.


Okay, now that all of you are caught up with my fantastic mini history lesson, let’s move on. Luqman and I arrived at the Plaza around 3:20 PM. We arrived to a somewhat chaotic scene. There had been a junior league chess tournament earlier in the day and so there was a flurry of children that were in the Plaza. There were people who were trying to tidy up and put up tables and such in order to clear the area for the weekly protest.

Luqman enjoying a submarino at Cafe Tortoni
Finally, everything got cleared up and the Madres looked ready to march. There were many people who were there to watch and film the march. The Madres started walking behind a banner and proceeded to circle around the Plaza in front of the Casa Rosada. As they started walking, people from the crowd joined the march as well. After about the second lap, I also decided that I would march along the Madres. I believed in their cause and I wanted to show my support. Consequently, I marched a few laps with the Madres. Afterwards, Luqman and I bought tshirts to help the organization.

We proceeded to walk towards the subway, but made a detour when we noticed the historical buildings around us. On our tour last week, our guide had told us about the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Plaza that was the burial site of national hero, José San Martín. Since we were in the Plaza, we decided that it was the perfect opportunity to explore the cathedral.

Once we were inside, we were both taken aback by the detail and meticulous nature of the cathedral. Luqman described it as immaculate and the vast structure of the church made us feel very small. This beautiful cathedral was designed by Antonio Masella in a neoclassical style. It was constructed starting in 1753, but was not completed until almost a century later. We walked by the mausoleum of San Martín and spent some more time looking at the various stained glass windows, artwork, and ornate altars. Afterwards, we decided to check out one of Buenos Aires’s most famous cafés- Café Tortoni.

This unique café is located on Avenida de Mayo, which is less than a 5 minute walk from Plaza de Mayo. This café was first launched in 1858 by a French immigrant named Touan. It was named after a French café in Paris, in which the Parisienne elite gathered. Café Tortoni is also the meeting place and local hangout of many famous Argentines including Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel and even international figures such as Albert Einstein and Federico García Lorca. Currently, the basement holds as a stage for jazz and tango artists and hosts many poetry and literary contests.         

Luqman and I sat down at a nice table by the corner and ordered some traditional café cuisine of submarinos, croissants and churros. My favorite were the submarinos, which consists of hot milk in a cup and a chocolate bar that you mix in yourself. In essence, it’s a glorified hot chocolate, but oh so much better!

After enjoying our tasty beverage and treats, we started to make our way back to the subway station near Plaza de Mayo. However, Luqman saw a sign for an artisan market and of course, could not resist the opportunity to shop. We went in and to Luq’s delight, there were crafts galore. We both ended up purchasing gifts for some of our friends. Luq even got a custom made necklace for himself. We glanced at the time and realized that we were running behind schedule. We knew we had to get back in time to see Brandon off to the airport. 

We got back on the Avenida de Mayo and tried to hail a cab. We kept trying and trying but could not get one. I knew we were trying to hail a cab during rush hour, but this was ridiculous! Finally after 20 minutes or so, we were able to snag a cab. Our cab driver was a very pleasant, animated man. He was a huge River Plate fan and equated the performance of the Atlanta Hawks with Boca Juniors. After a long ride home due to the incessant traffic, we finally arrived at our apartment to say good-bye to Brandon.

We walked him to the main road, Santa Fe and he caught a cab to take him to the airport. I was very sad to see my buddy go! As we walked back to the apartment, Luq put his arm around me and declared “and then there were two.”

After a rousing dinner of empanadas, we both sat down to watch the Boca vs. Libertad game in the Copa Liberatadores. Due to the liveliness of the afternoon and not getting as much sleep as I needed from the previous Birthday night activities, I bid adieu to Luqman and went in to take a nap before the night’s festivities.

I set my alarm for midnight and get a much needed rest. I woke up to the sound of the television in the living room. I walked into the living room to find Luqman, fast asleep, curled up on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket. I hated waking him, but I knew I had to so that we could make it to the hip hop club with Deona. We both showered and got ready and then hopped in a cab to go pick up Deona at her apartment.

We picked up Deona and made our way to the club and arrived around 1:30 AM. This may seem like a late time. However, the clubs in Argentina don’t get hopping till about 2 or 3 AM. They also don’t have last call and close around 7 or 8 AM. Thus, we were arriving at the peak hour. We walked into Club Lost aka Club Araoz, and found ourselves in the midst of an interesting crowd. You could clearly spot the Americans by the way that they were dressed. It was refreshing to see a good number of black people there. Deona and I hit the bar for the popular and local drink of speed con vodka, red bull and vodka, and then watched the dance floor as people were having dance offs. Finally, around 2:15 AM or so, the crowd started mixing in and dancing. It was great to hear hip hop and popular American music. I had missed hearing it on a daily basis. After about 30 minutes or so, a guest DJ took over the spot.

We all looked at him and could tell he was an American. He was dressed in some baggy jeans and a jersey. If that didn’t give it away, his nationality was sure given away when he started speaking ENGLISH at an ARGENTINE club. However, when he said “Let me hear y’all scream…,” the crowd did react. The mix this DJ played was interesting. He had some random songs on there that NO ONE knew. I almost felt as though he was playing his cousin Ray Ray’s demo tapes or something…. Anyways, we all had a great time dancing and partying.

Okay folks, now for those of you who know Luqman, I know what you’re wondering. Did he dance? Did Luq get down on the dance floor and strut his stuff? Well unfortunately Luqman did not dance. He actually sat in the balcony area and read about ancient Egyptian culture while articulating his thoughts through prose. He took intermediate breaks to ponder about the fate of mankind as well as quench his thirst with some Sprite. Thus, Deona and I were left to find other male partners to dance with. As Luqman protectively, but not in a creepy manner, looked on, we danced into the wee hours of the morning. Finally, at 6:30 AM, Luq and I decided that we needed to call it a night/day. We carefully pried the big Cuban man off of Deona and took a cab to drop her off at her apartment. Luqman and I finally arrived home and both collapsed in bed after a very eventful day and an even more eventful night. (The above is based on a true story.  Any exaggerations or omissions were a result of an imperfect memory or an attempt to protect the innocent.  For an alternate ending to this saga, please contact me to purchase rights to the “My Life as Luqman Abdur-Rahman” story and we can work something out.  All rights reserved. Holla at yo girl!) 

biffbabe says:
I'm so jealous of all your travels! Bring me next time! ;)
Posted on: Jun 03, 2007
KDeeDoubleU says:
Believe it or not, Ray Ray's get around. There are American Blackies everywhere!
Posted on: Jun 02, 2007
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Las Madres getting ready to do the…
Las Madres getting ready to do th…
Banners at Plaza de Mayo supportin…
Banners at Plaza de Mayo supporti…
One of the ornate altars in the Me…
One of the ornate altars in the M…
Mausoleum of Argentine National He…
Mausoleum of Argentine National H…
Statue Display of famous past inha…
Statue Display of famous past inh…
Luqman enjoying a submarino at Caf…
Luqman enjoying a submarino at Ca…
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