As we made our way toward Buenos Aires I was treated to yet another reminder of how the world works.
The gentleman to the left is our captain, PJ van Maurik, an excellent captain indeed. Earlier in the afternoon he announced that paper charts were being discontinued after this voyage as all ships now are using e-charts. So, in the evening they would be auctioning off six charts used in our voyage in Antarctica. And, each of the charts were autographed by the ship’s officers.
The charts were put on display so we went to take a look at them. Now, I have a similar paper chart of my Lake Erie stompin’ grounds downstairs in the pool hall (which I have not yet bothered to sign). So I thought, what a nice complement one of these charts might be. I realized, of course, that there were plenty of people on this ship who could easily outbid me, but when the charts were displayed we saw very few people who even seemed interested in them
For that reason, I found myself seated on the edge of the pool on the Lido deck along with maybe a dozen other guys, ready to participate in the auction. I decided I would go as high as $50. OK, maybe a little higher, but only if caught up in the heat of the moment. So, the auction began.
Well, the bidding started at $100 so I just sat back and relaxed. But as soon as somebody came in at a hundred another guy holds up his hand with one of the auction flyers in it and he just keeps his hand up. Other guys would bid and the auctoineer would come back to this guy whose hand remained up the entire time. By the time the figure reached, say, $1,500 the other guys dropped out and the guy with the flyer won. OK next chart. The bidding starts and the same guy does the same thing all over again. SOLD! Again well over a thousand.
The highest price I recall for any one chart was well over $2,000. Didn’t matter. That one guy took them all. Final price tag: well over $10,000. And, I’m talkin’ USD’s! We have now reached an age where even the rich can’t keep up. A guy sitting next to me who also did not bid simply said, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” True, except when you have so much you can be as foolish as you want to be. When we got home I found a paper chart of The Antarctic Peninsula for $27. Hand us $10K and Dianne and I will both gladly sign it.
Not exactly the skyline we were hoping for. Buenos Aires has one of the busiest seaports in South America, as you might imagine. So, cruise ships and freighters all compete for the same dock space. As a result, we had to take a bus to the terminal so we could get on our bus. But, soon we were off to see the city!
We started out with this clock tower, a gift of the British apparently before the Falklands War. If you’ve been to Chicago and seen The Bean, this will look kind of familiar:
This is the Floralis Generica, a gift to the city by a local prominent architect. When working properly, the petals close at night.
This is the Spanish Monument, typical of hundreds of monuments all over the city.
On the way to our next stop we passed this recent statue of Eva Peron. More on her a little later Actually, Evita plays a prominent role in our next stop as well, Recoleta Cemetery.
Recoleta is one of the most popular tourist sites in Bueno Aires. I can’t say this for sure, but I wouldguess that you won’t find many places like it outside New Orleans.
Unlike most cemeteries where people try hard to stay out, this place they are clamoring to get in
Recoleta Cemetery occupies several city blocks and consists entirely of mausoleums built by and for the rich and famous of Argentina. Clearly, they spared no expense
It just goes on and on. And, of course, there is not shortage of sad stories to go along with it. For example,
This young lady died in her teens and was interred here. Later the family came to add the ornamentation and to place mementos inside the coffin. When they opened it, they found the coffin lid had numerous scratch marks. As they later found, much too late, she suffered from catalepsy. Since then, you don’t get in here until you’ve been, shall we say, processed. Of all the tombs, though, there is only one that many people come to see
This is the final resting place of Evita Peron. Eva Peron died in 1952, but her well-traveled and oft-times buried mummified earthly remains did not find their way here until 26 years later. It is a long and bizarre story, too long for this blog. If you want the details they are easily found on line.
Eva’s family is the Duarte’s which is why she is buried here. Juan Peron is located elsewhere in Recoleta.
This place is as much a shrine as it is a tomb and at certain times of the year flowers are everywhere
The tomb itself was designed by a company that specializes in bank vaults and her final resting place is said to be 20 feet under ground, twice as deep as Lincoln. It seems fairly certain she’ll be staying put for a while. But around here, who knows? Although this cemetery is a huge tourist attraction, you don’t have to look far to be reminded that it is solemn ground
This is the tomb of a young lady killed in a skiing accident. Below the statue is this plaque:
It is a poem written to her by her father. It is in Italian and if you haven’t had a good cry yet today, go ahead and translate it. If you’d rather not, all you need to know is the word “perche?” means why?
From here, we went to the heart of Buenos Aires, the Plaza de Mayo.
The Plaza de Mayo is the political center of Buenos Aries. If you are unhappy about something, this is the place to let everybody know. A more or less permanent protest is this one. These people are the, as yet, unpaid veterans of the Falklands war.
Some choose to live here, although my guess would be that if you push the envelope too far you might end up thinking you’re back IN the war. By far, the most iconic building on the Plaza de Mayo is this one:
This is the Casa Rosada, or as we know it, The Pink House. This building serves as the Presidential Palace. What better place to protest!?
This is the balcony from which Eva Peron gave her final address to the nation, before dying from cancer at age 33. She, of course appeared here many times with Peron as well. Some may find it more famous as the place where Madonna, cast as Evita to the horror of of Peron’s many worshipers, sang “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, in the movie.
On this quiet, sunny day, it was hard to imagine the Plaza de Mayo looking as it did in the early fifties:
Juan Peron was not a dictator in the traditional South American sense. He was freely elected to two six-term presidencies and another toward the end of his life. Juan and Eva championed the cause of the poor, much to the dismay of the upper class. And, although Peron was not a dictator, he knew how to act like one when he considered it necessary. He put down student protests, took over the media or kept a thumb on the media he didn’t control.
It was Eva, called affectionately Evita by the working class, who solidified Juan Peron’s power base. After Juan’s election she created a foundation. The poor would stand in line and she would personally write checks to them. Some said she used her foundation to buy votes. And so on. To this day people love her or hate her passionately. Regardless, all agree she could work a crowd:
In the early days of the Peron presidency Argentina was flush with cash, having inflated prices of beef, lumber and other goods to sell to a starving post-war Europe. However, by the the time of Evita’s death, the cash was running out. Within a year of her passing, in that grand South American style, Juan found himself looking down the wrong end of numerous guns pointed in his direction. What a surprise! A military coup!
Following the coup, Juan decided to take his leave for an extended vacation in Spain where, another surprise!, he just happened to remember the numbers of a few bank accounts in his name over there. Later, after several more coups, he once again won election, but by now he was almost 80. He died within the year.
Evita Peron was as close as the poor have ever gotten to having a true champion.What’s more she was a strong advocate for women’s rights. Rags to riches, she led a Cinderella life. There are far less deserving heroes around.
It has now been roughly 63 years since Evita’s passing. You might think Argentina has moved on.
Well, maybe not entirely.