Argentina has given the world several renowned artists such as Antonio Berni who is one of the creators of the impressive frescoes at Galerías Pacífico.
Berni also collaborated with Siqueiros on that cellar we talked about in the previous post. When a mall contains treasures such as these, it is well worth visiting. Don’t miss out on the extravagantly flavored ice cream (bottom level, next to the food court). You will find many other works from Berni at the Museum of Latin American Art such as “The Grand Illusion”:This work is a criticism of Capitalism and the illusions of beauty and wealth it promotes to the detriment of peace. It is certainly not meant to be pleasing to the eye. The Museum of Latin American Art was a highlight of our visit to Buenos Aires and I can’t recommend it enough. Although the museum is one of the few places in BA that charges admission, the guided tour itself is free and very much worth sticking around for. Among its many treasures is one by the most well-known Latin American artist ever: Frida Kahlo.A peculiar Argentinan artist is Xul Solar. His name means ‘light of the sun’ and he picked it himself. His former house has now been converted to a museum dedicated to his work. Solar was eccentric, believed in astrology and numerology, and was certain that flying cities were the answer to the problem of overpopulation. He wasn’t only a painter though, he invented games and musical instruments as well.He even went as far as to invent a new language: “Pan-Lingua”, even though he already had mastered 10 different ones! He believed that Pan Lingua, which is based on Mathematics and Music, would eventually become our universal language. Xul Solar was a dreamer. He was also best friends with Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina’s greatest author, and a very vocal critic of the Peróns.
A somewhat odd relationship considering that Borges was a conservative and Solar could easily be described as kooky.
And since we’re on the subject of writers, Buenos Aires is home to the second most spectacular bookstore in the world: El Ateneo. (number one is in The Netherlands in case you wondered) This bookstore is housed in the former building of the Teatro Gran Splendid which was opened in 1919. Today, the seats have been replaced with shelves, the stage has been converted to a café with occasional music acts, and the theater balconies have become reading rooms. I could easily have spent the entire day here.
Best thing was our hotel was just a few blocks away which after a long day of walking, believe me, matters.
No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without a stroll through “El Caminito”, the iconic BA postcard.
El Caminito is situated in the Boca neighborhood and although it is very touristic and hence quite safe, take a cab here. We were told the Subte station wasn’t safe even at midday. Here you can find Maradona,
Evita and Perón,
even the Pope!
as well as the Boca Juniors stadium.
Boca Juniors is the most successful Argentinian fútbol team, although that is debatable according to our taxi driver who didn’t hesitate to make his deeply held contrary opinion known.
If you happen to be in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, you must visit the enormous open air San Telmo market. All sorts of original wares are sold here and the food is fantastic. Try the empanadas, they are cheap, fast and oh so good, particularly the Margarita ones. Stop by the plaza where you can watch couples practicing their Tango moves.
At the far end of San Telmo you will find Mafalda and her friends.
Mafalda is the creation of Argentinian cartoonist Quino and as well known throughout Latin America as Snoopy is in the USA. While Mafalda is only 6 years old, she is prematurely worried about the world and concerned with politics. Mafalda taught me to be an environmentalist before I even knew the word existed. She was also the only girl I knew growing up for whom speaking her mind didn’t seem to be a problem and thus a role model, as silly as that may seem. The boys were horrified at how giddy I got when I found her sitting on a bench. Can you fault me for loving her?
I don’t want to end this post on Buenos Aires without recommending you visit Parrilla Peña, a restaurant whose specialty is “bife de chorizo”, the best steak you’ll ever have. The portions are huge, one meal can easily feed two grown men, and very reasonably priced (cash only). Not to mention that they will serve you empanadas as an appetizer, they’ve got inexpensive house wine, and their freshly-squeezed orange juice is to die for. They’re off the tourist track and most of their patrons are locals, that’s how you know it’s good. Get there early because it fills up but if you can’t, just walk up to the owner and he’ll get you on the waiting list. It is worth the wait and that’s coming from someone who never ever waits. Don’t despair if you can’t get to Parrilla Peña though, we found food in Buenos Aires to be good every place we tried. You can not go wrong simply sitting down at one of the many corner cafés for a bit of rest and people-watching.
I’ve got one more place to show you before I let you know why we came all the way here but it will have to wait for the next time. A bit more patience, it’ll be worth it.