Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Buenos Aires?

One of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, Buenos Aires has long been a city high on the list of travelers. But why exactly is that? Since I’ve been down here, I guess I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. I know why I’m here—trying to learn more about the country that my mother came from, as well as learning more about international relations and improving my Spanish. But why do other people want to come here?

This question was posed to me and a friend by my Argentinian roommate on Sunday night over dinner. ‘’What do tourists think about Buenos Aires?’’ she asked us, hoping for some insight into her own city. She wanted to know why people want to come here, because in her opinion, it’s not that great of a city. There are cracked streets with dog crap everywhere, buildings with graffiti all over there, corruption, protests, transit problems, etc. Basically, it’s got more in common with other cities in South America than with other cities in Europe, as it’s often referred to.

And she’s not exactly far off from her thoughts. After all, she has lived in Europe for four years, so she’s not basing this off of nothing. She comes from the south, however, and hasn’t spent her whole life in Buenos Aires. But the question remains. Why do people come here? Is it because they want to visit South America but prefer the city that is referred to as European? Or maybe the allure of the beef and wine culture?

In terms of culture, Argentina is certainly unique. But it’s a mix of many others as well, whether it is Italian, French, German, or English. I find myself looking at people’s last names and wondering where their ancestry is from, much like in the United States. But this isn’t the most "South American" city you can find. If you’re looking for the true pre-Columbian societies, you could head to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, etc. While indigenous cultures still exist in Argentina, they were mostly wiped out during the unification of the country.

I myself am still trying to figure out whether or not I really like this city. It’s certainly got charm, and if you can afford it, you can live pretty well and enjoy your surroundings. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to eat steak dinners with great wine every night, and sitting at a café every day is really something for a person with time to kill, despite what a guide book might suggest. I’m not totally in love with it yet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m waiting to see what will happen, and as every day goes by, I’m getting more and more comfortable here. It’s just something that takes time to develop and truly feel at home in a big city in another country.

Above: The Microcentro, Buenos Aires

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