Looking for home
(written at a restaurant in El Calafate, Argentina, over a locro dinner. Mar 30,2010)
As you all know I was looking forward to spending some time in Buenos Aires. I wanted to know whether I liked it enough to live there. Fellow travelers who have traveled to both Argentina and Brazil said one either falls in love with Brazil or Argentina. I couldn’t wait to find out which was my favourite. I compared Rio to BsAs and I was dying to find the outcome. I will not keep you guessing any longer. Here is the outcome – I liked Rio better. The following text is an explanation as to why.
I could only see myself living in three Latin American countries: Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. You are all familiar with my obsession with Mexico. It will always have a special place in my heart but it is not the subject of this post. Of the remaining two countries I could only live in Rio and Buenos Aires. The rest of the countries is beautiful but not exactly the life I’d choose for myself.
I arrived in Buenos Aires and visited the Recoletta cemetery which made a huge impression. The city of the dead was beautiful and one could spend hours wandering the tiny alleys. Then I went to La Boca, a working class neighborhood where I nearly got mugged (mentioned in a previous post). This kept me alert for the rest of my stay. It did shake me up. I didn’t feel safe in Buenos Aires compared to Rio where I felt perfectly at ease. Many visitors have mentioned how safe they felt in Buenos Aires just like many have complained about the dangers of Rio. And they are all right. To me though was the other way around. I attribute a lot of it to the fact I blended very well with the Brazilians. As long as I didn’t speak I was a local. The remote neighborhood where I stayed has also a lot to do with it. There were no tourists to attract the criminals.
I spent the following few days visiting parks, wandering the wide avenidas of Central Buenos Aires, watching tango preformances, looking for pearls at an antiques market, hanging out with locals and tourists alike. And I liked it. The city itself is beautiful – wide avenues, tall, light buildings, creating the sense of space, a wide variety of activities. There are great restaurants and bars, wonderful bookshops, and amazing performances. Art at its best. In this aspect BsAs has probably a bit more to offer compared to the ‘beach,beer’ culture of Rio.
Another aspect of BsAs that I liked is the wide range of fashion and music styles. Unlike Rio where most people dress very casually and much the same, BsAs has to offer various styles at prices for every pocket. High street fashion goes along high end designer shops and quirky accessories. Music also varies although the predominant style is deffinitely rock. I didn’t notice much of this in Rio. Music varied but it was all Brazilian.
A curious fact is the way men treated me in both cities. I was appaled by men in BsAs. For the first time since the beggining of my trip more then 5 months ago, I felt harrased. They would whistle and shout, honk their horns, and not just ordinary men. The police did it too! Men in Rio, although very unreliable, were very creative and charming. They came up with all sorts of ways to chat me up and then would shower you with sweet compliments. There was none of that disturbing behavior. Funny, because Brazil is considered the most sexualy liberated country in the world.
We get to the final and to me the most important aspect – the people. This is what made all the difference. I did not like the porteños (BsAs inhabitants). I did meet some very nice people but the majority of them I found very hard to communicate with. And I don’t mean language wise. Most of them I thought were rather backwards and grumpy. Others would be very polite but I didn’t feel they were sincere. They did it because they had to not because they wanted to. It didn’t come from the heart. In the contrary the cariocas were very easy-going and open. They did nice things for me all the time, small gestures (like holding my bag on a bus) that meant the world to me. And although I didn’t speak the language very well, communication just flowed. I felt accepted there.
To summarise, I would like to live in Rio because of the way I felt there, because of its people. Yes, it lacks an extensive art and fashion scene but the sincerity and generosity of its people is unbeatable.