Overview and History
Holy steak and tango! In Buenos Aires they eat more meat than anywhere else in the world. When I was in New York I met a woman from Argentina who told me, "My father says to eat steak with rice and beans three times a day and you will be strong."
Argentina has some of the best grasslands in the world for raising cattle. Warm climate and open space have allowed the beef industry to thrive here, and you will not be able to avoid noticing that trend when you go out to eat. Steak houses here are called parillas, which means "grills". You can't throw a rock without hitting two or three of them. Sink your teeth into La Cabrera and die happy.
Here are some facts for whoever likes to read words on a photo website: Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina. With its population of 13 million, it's the third largest city in Latin America. Buenos Aires was made known to the Europeans around the sixteenth century.
Juan Diaz de Solis, a Spaniard, was the first European to land there. That was in the year 1516, and Juan was killed by the natives. Next up came Pedro do Mendoza, who established the "City of our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds." Buenos Aires translates to fair winds, get it? Sailors, fair winds, trade routes, etc. It's a big city full of people who refer to themselves as "portenos" or people of the port. Portenos joke about how Mexicans come from the Aztecs, Peruvians from the Incas, and Portenos from the boats.
Back in the days of piracy on the high seas (who said those are gone?), rebellious portenos got annoyed with the Spanish policy of taxing all trade by requiring it to go through Lima. They set up a contraband trade route to circumvent Spanish taxation, eventually earning the status of an open port by the year 1700.
As in all places, a strong basis in trade led to financial independence for Buenos Aires. Word of the French Revolution spread there and its people began to seek their political independence as well, to become free of the Spanish crown.
Local militias successfully defended against two British invasions (1806 and 1807), and ran with that momentum to break free from Spain in 1810. May 25th is their national independence day, called May Revolution Day. Check out the Mataderos Fair or Feria de los Mataderos for local celebrations.
First, close your eyes and chant,"steak, steak, steak, steak," while rubbing the leather of your belt with one hand and a fork with the other. Did it work? No? Then try an airplane.
Okay, there are three airports in Buenos Aires: the J. Newbery AeroPark Airport, the Comandante Espora Aero Station Airport and the Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini International Airport. Ezeiza is the main international airport for traveling to Europe and other continents.
Here's a brief layout from Ezeiza to Buenos Aires center: $26 on the minibus, $45 by car service, $40 in a taxi. It's approximately 35km from airport to center, time depends on traffic. If you don't like those prices, hop on a city bus for $1.35.
First off, money talks and you'll need to stock your pockets with pesos to start speaking the language down in Argentina. That doesn't mean it's expensive, just that pesos are the local currency. The Euro is about $4.60 pesos, the dollar is around $3.42 pesos as of the time of this writing. What time is that? Time to catch a cab out of the airport.
Within the city you can use the bus, taxis, car services or the subway. Another few options are rental car agencies and the ferry services. The subway is the quickest way to move around the city but the above ground modes are way more fun, loud, jostling and everything else.
People and Culture
If you haven't been on a bus in South America before, you are in for a treat. Bus collectives operate the city busses, there may be as many as one hundred and fifty different operators. "Jesus guides my truck" and "I'm looking for a girl with no brothers" are some of the stickers you may see on the windshield. Forget about recognizing the company by its color scheme, every bus has a ton of colors on it in big wide stripes, and then as many hood ornaments as possible. I can't say enough about the busses, the luggage storage racks, the riding on the roof, the throwing trash out the windows, etc.
Bring some trainers, cleats, sneakers or whatever you call them to kick the football around in your down time in Buenos Aires. If Argentina wasn't 75% Roman Catholic, football would be the national religion.
Surprisingly, Buenos Aires has the second largest Jewish population in all of North and South America, second only to New York City. Who knew?
And if that wasn't enough to get you buying a plane ticket, Argentina ALSO has the largest Muslim population in the Americas. What could they be doing to attract all these people, besides eating amazing steak and dancing tango and salsa every day of their lives from birth? oh. right.
As for tango, people still dispute its origin but they do agree that the 1880's in Buenos Aires are the time when it blew up. In brothels, by the way. Ah, those sailors!
Things to do & Recommendations
Today the tango is developed to such an intricate and fluid dance that you can go see it performed professionally any night of the week.
For live music, check out Estudio Obras which is known as the "Cathedral of Rock."
Buenos Aires, being the most open-minded community in Latin America, has a thriving gay and lesbian scene.
Where to go? Try the areas around Recoleta cemetery even though it's tending towards the touristy stuff.
Arcos del ferrocarril (from Libertador y Infanta Isabel to Av. Sarmiento y Casares) is another place to poke around between Thursday and Sunday nights.
Dinner runs late. Clubbing starts at 2am (STARTS I said.) After hours spots, party people, loud sound systems... you can find it all in Buenos Aires. Now dance off some of that steak, man!
Text by Steve Smith.