Photo Gregorio Dionikian, Argentina
The City of Buenos Aires is Santa María de los Buenos Aires
She was born in 1580, just a small port baptized Santa María de los Buenos Aires -with practically no population or housing. All she had were the munitions of a budding harbor controlled by the Crown of Spain to gain access the silver mines of Perú through the Rio de la Plata and control the expansion of the Portuguese. Once founded the strategic port located in the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata became a hotbed of illegal activities, her first residents came from Spain for the sole purpose of becoming instantly rich. England and Portugal negotiated with Spain to use the port to traffic in African slaves, who were later routed to Peru — where the purchasing power was.
Possibly starting life as part Indian but most likely white — like her father the conquistador – María de los Buenos Aires lived many lives.
By the late 1900s, international admiring eyes watched her ascendency, as the country grew to be one of the world’s five greatest economic powers, with abundant exports of meats, leather and wheat coveted by the entire world.
During the massive immigration from the mid 1880s to the 1920s, María had one foot among the poor living in the outskirts, and the other among the rich living in the city center. María spoke the native Castellano language of her father, the second-language French of the ruling class, and the lunfardo – a dialect born in the mix of the immigrants and locals.
We porteños, as city natives are called, love her earthiness and sophistication. We do not take for granted her passionate pulse, her warm invisible something that drips from every one of her pores, her air, her trees, her aged brick walls, her intimate neighborhoods, her bohemia of the night. We enjoy partaking in the awesomeness of hugs. This is the city of hugs, real hugs, tight and intimate. This is the city of looks. Real looking, eye to eye, looking at each other with gusto and offending no one.
What is it about this city that bewitches even those who pass by for just a few days? Is it the richness of her cultural life with the highest concentration of theatres in the world? It is something less tangible than her French architectural looks, or her Spanish-French-Italian cuisine compounded by the locals’ imagination? It is her people’s warmth, humor, imagination, and above all their honest desire to reach out and connect with strangers.
Many crises have fallen upon the city throughout its history. Yet no corrupt government or military junta to this date has been able to destroy her imaginative spirit. Creativity continues to flourish in all aspects of the arts and sciences, and porteños continue to make time to have a cafecito with friends when the opportunity arises.
Buenos Aires has been nicknamed as “the Paris of the South.” Not accurate. Paris goes to sleep at nine o’ clock whereas Buenos Aires gets ready to have dinner at nine o’clock. Buenos Aires is uniquely Buenos Aires. More aptly described as the land where human connections are “on” around the clock.
Stranger-danger does not exist here, not as a way of life. In Buenos Aires, as in tango, no stranger is an island.
Copyright © 2010 Beatriz Dujovne. All rights reserved.
Letters, Postcards and Wonderfully Tango
In Strangers’ Arms views the dance as inseparable from the total phenomenon that is Tango – with capital “T.”
Letters cover many facets beyond the dance: interviews of musicians, poets, singers and dancers; accounts from inside institutions that offer instruction – in subjects other than dance – such as music and history.
Postcards are snapshots I take while moving through the city of Buenos Aires with a tango mind.
Wonderfully Tango presents audiovisual recordings or transcriptions of events where the conversation is particularly and wonderfully Tango.