Bueno! Buenos Aires!

On a corner of the Plaza de Mayo is the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, where, until recently, a guy named Jorge Bergoglio served as Archbishop, then Cardinal. Then, surprise, surprise! He became Pope Francis!

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So, our bus pulls up in front and in we go!

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Naturally, we show up in the middle of a service.

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Of course, it was all in Spanish, so we had no idea what was going on. It seemed to involve these ladies. I was just glad I wasn’t wearing my usual shorts and ball cap.

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The cathedral has its typical 14 stations, each of which is a work of art.

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Unique to this cathedral, and what sets it apart from all the others in the world, is this:

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This is a tribute to all the victims of the holocaust as well as the more recent victims of the attack on the Israel Embassy and the AMIA bombing. This case contains prayer books and other artifacts rescued from Auschwitz and Treblinka.

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The AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires was bombed in 1994 and 85 people were killed. Somehow, the government just couldn’t quite figure out who might have done such a thing. You may have noticed, then, the recent headlines regarding a prosecuting attorney who just happened to turn up dead in his Argentine apartment, victim of a tragic suicide. Except, hold on now. It seems that he was just about to testify that he had found a link to the AMIA bombing, and a cover-up of the involvement of Iranian perpetrators, by the current president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner. Indeed, he had gone so far as to draft a warrant for her arrest!. Who wouldn’t blow their brains out when you’re under such stress? The day after we left Argentina another of those famous mass demonstrations was held demanding the truth. Good luck!

To get back to the cathedral, here is the only evidence we found that the first non-European Pope had come from here:

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OK Time to leave the Plaza de Mayo. Let’s take a look around town. Keep in mind, however, that this is a bus tour with limited photo ops and only lasts 4 hours, of which we have already used up plenty. I will say, though, that this was, by far, the best of the tours Travel With Alan put together. Off we go!

Just to give you my impression, Buenos Aires is as exciting and interesting as I expected it to be. It is a city worth a very long airplane ride to experience. And, we just got a small sampling. Here is a message, though, that I have for President Kirchner if she manages to stay out of hot water: Drop the reciprocity fee! Right now it costs $160 USD’s per person, just to come to Argentina. True, that fee is good for 10 years, but I’m sure I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I might be in Argentina in the next 10 years. By the way, this fee only applies to the US citizens. Canadians and Australians have to pay too, but their fee is less. Chile dropped their fee some time ago. Argentina should do the same. I would have organized a march about this at the Plaza de Mayo, but NanSea said I didn’t have enough time.

Parts of Buenos Aires are reminiscent of Paris.

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Some parts are shiny and new, with a lot of construction going on.

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So, we had a very delightful tour of the city. Then the bus pulls up here:

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Caminito is in the heart of the barrio called La Boca. And quite a place it is:

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Oh my! Do you want to dance the tango? No problemo:

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Actually the dancing goes on here throughout the day. You can join in if you like. We probably would have liked that and much more, but in our allotted 30 minutes we couldn’t even order a beverage. So, we shopped:

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Dianne bought a purse. I got a colorful magnet for the fridge. We would have loved to spend more time here. But, just to be on the safe side, instead we went back to our pick-up point and hung with NanSea.

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Caminito is only a few blocks long, then it becomes poorer.

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Our tour guide later told us that around sundown all the restaurants and shops close and the sidewalks are rolled up. It is very safe during the day, but we better not have our gringo fannies down here after dark. Well, OK then! Next!

Well, what was next was even worse. But let me add, when I get a tour I don’t just want the good news. I want to see what is really going on. This tour delivered:

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So, you might say, this is interesting, the poor have brick homes. Well, I wouldn’t go asking for a bill of sale from some brick yard. Instead I might go looking for a report of items missing from the local ship yard.

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Then, there is this:

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Juan Peron was forced into exile in the early fifties. When this happened factions from labor groups and various left-wing organizations began to organize and arm themselves. The ruling junta hunted them down and killed many of them. There never was much stability. Then, in the late seventies Peronists won election and Juan eventually returned and was himself re-elected. He only lived a year, however, His then-wife and vice-president, Isabella took over. She created the first of what would be many death squads targeting the extreme left wing. But, as so often happens, It wasn’t long until Isabella was ousted by yet another military coup. And so, around 1978 began what in now known as the Dirty War. From then until 1982 the ruling junta began targeting not only the left wing, but anyone perceived as sympathizing with the left wing, including labor leaders and students. Their victims became known as “The Disappeared” How many disappeared? Nobody knows. Few who have provided estimates put the numbers below five figures.

One day, on their way to work, passersby were horrified to find bodies stacked like cord wood under this overpass. Each white sign represents the name of a victim. In time, the mothers of The Disappeared began to organize and, putting their own safety aside, they began to demonstrate on the Plaza de Mayo by banging pots and pans in front of the Casa Rosada. The junta, already losing favor with the public. dismissed them as crazy at first. But the public did not.

In order to distract their detractors, they turned to that time-honored favorite among failing governments. They started a war! Where? The Falkland Islands! What finally removed them from power? They lost the war! So now, history fans, we have come full circle. The tour’s over.


The afternoon following the tour Dianne and I began the much-dreaded task of packing our bags.This would be our last night in South America.  Because we were scheduled to attend a Tango show that night with our TWA group, we were allowed to delay putting our bags out till after midnight. A true blessing.

At 8:00pm our bus pulled up in front of Esquina Carlos Gardel, one of the more popular tango clubs in Buenos Aires. (Alan got us a fantastic deal for this dinner and show!) We had made plans to sit with Ron and Mary Shafer, our best friends from the cruise, but unfortunately by the time we got in there were no longer four seats available. So they spit us up and put Dianne and me with a group of Canadians.

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While the seats were empty when we got there, by the time the show started they were full. And, this was a Tuesday night! We were served very nice dinners. Then the wine began to flow. It never stopped! Good one, Alan!

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Then, it was time for the show!

The tango, they say, is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Properly done, they say, it is slow and tragic; a love that cannot be. Well, this show had it all!

Here is a very small sample:

OK people! Shut off those computers, get out there and dance!

I wanna be a part of B.A./ Buenos Aires, Big Apple

As we made our way toward Buenos Aires I was treated to yet another reminder of how the world works.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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This is the Floralis Generica, a gift to the city by a local prominent architect. When working properly, the petals close at night.

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This is the Spanish Monument, typical of hundreds of monuments all over the city.

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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.

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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.

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Unlike most cemeteries where people try hard to stay out, this place they are clamoring to get in

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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

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It just goes on and on. And, of course, there is not shortage of sad stories to go along with it. For example,

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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

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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.

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Eva’s family is the Duarte’s which is why she is buried here. Juan Peron is located elsewhere in Recoleta.

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This place is as much a shrine as it is a tomb and at certain times of the year flowers are everywhere

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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

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This is the tomb of a young lady killed in a skiing accident. Below the statue is this plaque:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!?

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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.

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Well, maybe not entirely.