Just for a change, I have posted a Google satellite view instead of the map that I usually place here.
Argentina is a big country with abundant natural resources and a relatively small population. At the turn of the 20th century it was the most prosperous and developed of South American countries but internal political strife, several disastrous military interventions and endemic corruption degraded the economy to the point of making it the "Rich Bankrupt Argentina" that I visited in 2004, when the country was still reeling from its 2002 financial crisis.
Now, five years later, the economy is recovering but the country's middle class whose savings were wiped out by the crisis is still impoverished. As for the poor, they are getting poorer, which is par for the course in Latin America.
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Here, I am leaving Montreal's Pierre Trudeau airport on a cold January afternoon.
Most of my friends in Argentina complain bitterly about the excessive heat in January the same way as I complain about the cold in Montreal. To be fair, I must admit that they have more cause to complain than I do because their January temperatures are rising while our winters are getting milder every year.
A few decades ago the Saint-Laurence river would be completely frozen over before the end of the year. In those days, the port authorities used to offer a gold pommeled cane to the captain of the first ship to dock in Montreal in the new year. Now, it is mostly ice free all year, indisputable evidence of global warming.
Two hours later we change to a larger aircraft in Newark for the flight to Buenos Aires with a stop in Houston to pick up passengers on the way. That's the Hudson river you see in the distance.
Inside the Newark airport. I was lucky this time for I did not have to put my shoes through the X ray machine. The American security paranoia is so obnoxious that I avoid flights that stop in the US whenever I can.
Sunrise over northern Argentina after a good night's sleep.
Approaching Buenos Aires around 10 AM local time after 20 hours of travel including the stops in Newark and Houston.
There is an excellent shuttle service from the Ezeiza airport to the hotel of your choice in the center of the capital some 30 km to the north.
Buenos Aires or "Baires" as the "porteños" (Buenos Aires residents) call it, is a big sprawling 11 million city with a wide variety of "barrios" (districts) from exclusive fenced-in and well guarded "countries" (from country club), to the most abject "villas miserias" (slums).
Income inequality in Argentina is amongst the highest in the world with a gini coefficient of 0.65. The superrich pay little taxes if any and they keep as much of their wealth as they can outside the country.
A perfect model for the way Bush is shaping the American society of tomorrow.
Of all the barrios of Baires, I chose to stay in the "microcentro" near the Obelisco where Avenida Corrientes meets the Avenida 9 de Julio because I am familiar with this part of town and also because three of the city's four subte (metro) lines radiate from here.
In this Google satellite image you can see the wide Avenida 9 de Julio with the Obelisco in the lower left where Corrientes crosses it. The yellow map pin in the center marks my apartment building at 486 Esmeralda on the corner with Lavalle (pronounced "Lavache" here).
This is my apartment building on the corner of Esmeralda and the Lavalle mall that is reserved for foot traffic.
My flat, just to the right of the yellow traffic light, was on "piso dos", that which we would call the 3rd floor in Montreal.
I had visited several furnished apartments at prices around 500 US$/month that did not suit me so when I saw this one I did not hesitate to grab it at 600 US$/month.
Having my own apartment made a world of difference as I could invite my friends for a beer or a meal which I could not do on previous trips in a hostel. Here, Jorge Vivar is telling me about his Wine and Travel club in Moron, one of Buenos Aires' satellite cities 30 km away.
Jorge invited me to talk about my travels to his Wine and Travel club and I accepted thinking we would be a dozen or so. The attendance turned out to be more than three times that number. I chose to show photos of India and Tibet to support comments on Hinduism and on the three forms of Buddhism, Therevada, Mayahana and Tantric Lamaism.
The corner of Lavalle and Esmeralda is an excellent spot from which to observe humanity while having an ice cold beer in one of the sidewalk cafes. (Beer is about one dollar for a litre bottle in the stores, about the same price as common wine in a tetrapac.)
There were four sidewalk cafes on this intersection. Two fancy and expensive ones on the shaded north side and two cheap and popular watering holes on the sunny side.
I love people watching. It's one of my favourite sports and I have indulged in it all over the world. It is always interesting wherever you are and it has the great advantage of not being too strenuous.
It also stimulates your imagination to guess the personality of these people, their preoccupations and joys, what they might have in common with you, what they might look like at home in different clothes, and in some cases, without...
Those of you who enjoy people watching as much as I do can enjoy an extensive sampling of the crowd that passes by here by clicking twice on this button. Use the "back" button of your browser to return here.
The foot traffic does slow down a little in the night but there is always someone coming or going as you can see in this collection of shots taken from my bedroom window. Clicking on any one of them will blow it up. Then you can cycle through the hours with the arrows or return with "Index".