16. 11. 2006
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Britské listy

ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
16. 11. 2006

A Letter from Argentina V.

Arrogant beef eating horse riders

You don't need to look hard to see that Buenos Aires has once been a very wealthy city. They used to refer to it, and I am sure many `porteños' (people from Buenos Aires) would still call it: "The European capital of South America". They like to believe, and are happy to inform any foreigner of this story whenever offered the opportunity, that Argentina, or even more cocky, just Buenos Aires, used to be part of Europe's main land. But only by a wimp of nature's force did it break of, dash down into the ocean and was cast all the way to South America.

The porteños consider themselves so much more European then South American, even related to the rest of their own country, that they see it as an ill belated faith that they had to sail all the way over here on their spewed out floating land rock. In this concept of believe, they might indeed seem a bit boastful towards other nations in the South American hemisphere, and even though very few Spanish speakers will argue with you that the Argentinean Spanish accent is the most beautiful and widely loved off all other accents, they will not hesitate to add that they, however, are not big fans of the arrogant beef eating horse riders.

The porteños have heaved themselves up onto some sort of imaginative mountaintop, believing to be above the others looking down on them. And as always this provokes the counter feeling of `the others' to be happy to shoot them off their illusion, making it plain that if they did so by cause of an accident lose their home continent, they sure did not manage to sail their rock right on to any great mountain. Thus basically stating they should shut up down there in the south of the Southern continent, on their flat piece of land. Not even a mountain or hill to discover in Buenos Aires or for miles around it, that is!

But Argentina did have a splendid economy for its ports through the 20th century, and therefore, for a while, really was "The capital of South America". Only did you notice the lacking of that one significant word?! It was an important city, both financially and economically, for the entire continent, through trade. And of course there was huge immigration to Buenos Aires, mainly from Spain and Italy but also Germany and France. So much even, that today almost everybody in Buenos Aires comes from European origins, which of course explains the variety of faces here and is why, as they say, you can find the most beautiful women here: origin most beautiful feature mix-up! So they say.

I have to say I kind of take a liking to the men, not having too much time to wonder about the women. I did notice they are rather thin though...or should I say skinny! Is this the time to mention that Argentina is one of the highest rated countries with eating disorder diseases? You know them surely, so there is no need for me to mention bulimia and anorexia. Could this be the pressure to keep up their pride of being known as worlds most beautiful women? Are we as tourist responsible for making them feel this responsibility? As we come over with our huge ultra sonic zoom camera lenses and start shooting away, everywhere, anytime, when they least expect it, just walking home from the gym: Snap!

We take their picture and this travels back home with us and we email it forth to our nationwide circle of friends, or even more simply, we stick them on the web. Or is it the high set of qualities and expectations the Argentine men hold of their women? Them going around saying: "Well then, if I live in the nation of most beautiful women I will go off and get myself a real winner. I will settle for nothing less!"

Buenos Aires, with its immense parks, big impressive statues and fountains everywhere scattered around the city indeed is something rather of a European looking concept. Enforced even more by its beautiful colonial buildings. A thing that keeps surprising me is that no matter where I am, if you stop walking and throw your head up in your neck and just look around above you, you always see the most amazing architecture, both very French and Spanish. And so Buenos Aires lies in its most splendour on the Atlantic Ocean.

And even though it is still absolutely marvelllous, you can tell good times have surpassed this city by now. The fountains are no longer spraying any water, their basins filled with fallen leaves and garbage. The statues are coffered in spray painting graffiti, screaming out political statements. The parks grass is dry and the flower beds are long gone. Unfortunately the scars made by the economical crisis that hit this country in 2001 and sent it off in deflation are still visible.

One phenomenon that never let's me forget the current situation of the people of this nation are the `cartoneros', people collecting carton on the streets to sell it to a recycling factory. Anything to make a bit of money. Before you saw few of them around the city, walking with shopping trolleys. Now, next to the park around the corner from my house, each afternoon, a little army of them get together and spread around collecting their carton loading it up onto a huge truck.

There is a creativity going around of finding any means to make money. There are the people that perform in the subways for example. Some just come in explaining their situation and ask you to help them, always full of dignity. They don't need your pity, just your help. Or there are those that play music or sing a song.

And there is the to me so famous little girl that always rides the same subway as I do on my way to the university. She wears a little Spiderman outfit, which has decayed by its frequent use and is too big for her thus she has to keep pulling up the sleeves. She juggles tree little blue balls in an impressive way for most people can't even stand up without holding on to something as the subways herds itself through the tunnels.

And there are the two funny guys that have invented subway theatre: they pretend to be two random people on the tube who get into a fight. Not punching each other or anything, its rather more of a word battle and highly amusing. Then when everybody is listening to them, exchanging looks of `what's going on here?' they start applauding each other and take a bow. Then the hat comes off and they go around collecting your collaboration.

Also, and this is my favourite, there is the symptom of the `dog walker'. You find yourself quietly walking down the street when all of the sudden towards you comes walking a guy holding up about twenty dogs on their leashes! I didn't know where to run or turn to first time I was confronted with this turmoil! And it makes you raise a question: if Buenos Aires mainly exists of small apartment flats on the such and such floor, with nothing like a garden but a small balcony, and people who are out working all day and therefore are never at home...why take a dog?

Yet, everyone has a dog, it seems! And so the dog walker conception was born. Young guys that go around collecting their little four footed friends from all their clients in the morning and return them home again after a good day of fun. Of course the prices between your average dog walker varies from those who just tie the dogs to a tree and piss off doing whatever suits them for the day and come back in the evening only to collect and return the dogs back home; you're cheap option and yet to smooth the owners conscience thinking the pet might have still enjoyed its day better in the fresh air then locked up in the apartment which leaves no room to swing a cat.

Or, the bit more extravagant yet dearer option of those dog walkers who will take care, enjoy, play with and pat the pet. I have a friend who performed this funny profession so I know the inside tricks! Fortunately he is one of those people that suffer dog mania or as he says; `I get along better with dogs then with people', so it seems the fitting job for him.

Unfortunately he is now stuck in a backdoor room with little light, bend over thick piles of law books as he sits and reads to correct them. As I said, there is creativity for odd jobs here! He had to leave his little hairball friends in order to get a serious job. Serious it is, and relevant for his law studies yet walking the dogs earned him more money.

Something not right here?! The deflation of the economy has devaluated a lot more then just that. You can imagine my joy as I walked through the park, and saw three old men sitting there with gardening tools.

Obsah vydání       16. 11. 2006
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