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Buenos Aires city guide – the passion and the icons

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Obelisk Buenos Aires Argentina

Buenos Aires

Alan tells us about Buenos Aires this week, a city that he fell in love with, and how following its icons can make for a fascinating way to get to know the city.

 

He writes:

“Argentina is a country of passions. The Argentines are a passionate people. It must be from their Italian inheritance.

You come across the passion everywhere in Buenos Aires, in all aspect of life. There is a passion for food, for love, for life.

In Buenos Aires you have to take a few hours, sit and have a coffee at a pavement cafe and watch the world go by. You will be engrossed by the people, the action, the sights, the smells, the noises and yes, the passion.

And this passion translates into many areas one of those being popular heroes.

Up until recently there were three: Carlos Gardel, Evita and Maradona. In 2013, after the Vatican conclave, Pope Francis joined the list – number four.

On my last visit to Buenos Aires I came face to face with many representations of Argentina’s four popular icons in many places.

 

Tango and Carlos Gardel

Dance is passion. Carlos Gardel was the man who introduced tango to the world.

Born at the end of the 19th Century, this young man hit the top of the music charts in 1917 with his recording of “Mi Noche Triste”. This is when many credit the “singing” of tango being born and the fashion for setting poetry to tango exploded.

Tango had its beginnings in the music and dance circles of men looking for work during the Great Depression  and Gardel helped popularize the style bringing it out of the underground dance salons. Film roles widened his appeal and his sudden death at the age of 45 in a plane crash catapulted him into worldwide stardom.

Part of a Buenos Aires experience has to be a tango show, and there will be no escaping a tune or two that had the touch of Carlos Gardel. I visited the Esquina de Carlos Gardel and was mesmerized by the show. I had expected a “tourist show” but what I witnessed was a slick, professional, mesmerizing spectacle.

 

Evita

Principles are passion. María Eva Duarte de Peron, better known as Evita, was the second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron. She started her professional life as an actress but on marrying Juan Peron her life took a dramatic turn.

Peron was elected president in 1946 and Evita, as his first lady, became heavily involved in politics focusing on workers’ rights, health and  women’s suffrage. She quickly won the nation’s hearts and minds. She died at the age of 33 from cancer, at the height of her popularity, and shortly before her death was given the title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” by the Argentine Congress.

Her tomb, at the Recoleta cemetery is a popular tourist attraction. I must say I was rather amused when I heard “Don’t cry for me Argentina” played on the radio on a recent visit. It was not that long ago when that song was actually banned by the military in Argentina.

 

Diego Maradona

Skill is passion. Diego Maradona is considered the world’s greatest football player ever by some, and more so the Argentines.

Football is a passion and Maradona represents this passion. He played in four World Cups.

He is still much remembered for the “Hand of God” goal as well as his second, one of the best World Cup goals ever, both of which he scored against England in 1986, the World Cup. Maradona captained and inspired Argentina to the top prize in football that year.

Even though the end of his career has been mired by drugs and alcohol this has not detracted from the loved the whole of Argentina feels for him.

In fact, my ears are still ringing from an exuberant exchange of words between some Porteño (from Buenos Aires) and Carioca (from Rio de Janeiro) friends – we had met for a quiet drink in Palermo Soho, a great area for nice bars in Buenos Aires –  when the subject of who was the best football player was, Pele or Maradona.

All hell broke loose. No agreement was reached.

Maradona, for part of his career, played for Boca Juniors football team. Another great activity, if in Buenos Aires at the time of a match, would be to get ticket to watch Boca play at home at La Bonbonera stadium.

 

Balcony puppets la boca Buenos Aires Argentina

Balcony puppets, La Boca, Buenos Aires 

 

Religion

Faith is Passion. On the 13th of March, 2013 the streets of Buenos Aires and all over Argentina  were filled with delirious crowds, chanting, singing, tooting horns and celebrating. It wasn’t a sporting victory but the unexpected election of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope.

A visit to the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, on the Plaza de Mayo, is one of the stops a visitor to the city should make and here you will also gain a glimpse into the man who has become one of Argentina’s newest icons.

What I found quite amusing was the fact that the cathedral does not look like a cathedral, and the building on the Plaza de Mayo that looks like a cathedral, the Cabildo de Buenos Aires is in fact a museum.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires Argentina

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires Argentina

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