This is no ordinary city and the usual travel summary simply doesn’t do it justice. Buenos Aires conjures up the essence of a Latino heartbeat with a European sheen. A myriad of iconic figures have left their stamp including charismatic leading lady Evita Peron. As a pious defender of the poor, her footprint can be seen in the many shelters and working class institutions left behind upon her death at age 33. Home to the tango and the fleshy Argentinean steak, this port city has it all, including a perfect name to match its efficacy; “Buenos Aires” translates into the expression “clean air”.
Bygone days of fascist regimes and dictator style rulers are dead and buried. The community sails a little closer to the wind these days with liberal attitudes sweeping their way past obsolete protocols. July 2010 set the scene with Buenos Aires being the first Latin American city to be granted all-embracing marriage and adoption equality. The city has grown by leaps and bounds and is now a thriving tourist destination. Historic architecture and grand public spaces are the aesthetically endearing features one might encounter upon arrival. However, treading off the main roads into the surreptitious back streets will lead you to the other side of this diverging metropolis.
The antithesis is a whole different animal. Colorful paint strokes cheer up basic building structures where the poverty stricken masses lie. Street sellers hustle for a pocket full of change and washing hangs from balconies that make you wonder when these erections might crumble. Buenos Aires has an ever-present widening gap between rich and poor. Angelic statues garland the large stately roads while overflowing rubbish bins are a bleak portrayal of life on the fringes of society.
Whichever side of the fence you’re living on the unmistakable echo of Tango can be heard. “Milonga’s” are all-night Tango parties that commence with a period of instruction, followed by a wild thrust of hips oscillating well into the wee hours of the morning. These folk were born to dance and have a musical beat running deep into their culture. If you’re looking to try one of these tango salons “La Virtua” will make you feel quite at home if you’re not a natural mover and shaker. There’s a great mix of locals and foreigners so you won’t stick out like a sore thumb.
The city is carved up into 48 “barrios” (neighborhoods), each with its own appeal. Recoleta, Palermo and San Telmo are all tributary gay districts, however gay life can be found everywhere you turn which leaves limitless opportunities to explore in comfort. Nightspots are untamed with most clubs starting late and finishing when coffee shops open up their doors the following morning. “Amerika” is a perfect example of this, a gargantuan club with a vivacious crowd. “Pride Café” is another hotspot that has an all day coffee sipping clientele that metamorphose into a drag party by nightfall. Buenos Aires Gay Pride has a huge following, more so now than ever before. Elated locals shake their hips and work their dancing toes with moves that would leave the Western world dumbstruck.
Photo: Buenos Aires Cuidad