This morning Gary and I set out for a half-day tour of Buenos Aires. Gary had taken the same tour when he was down here last year for the conference, but agreed to go with me so I made sure I had a photo spotter. We made it down to the lobby a bit early by skipping breakfast. Luckily, I have a stock of Wheat Thins to tide me over on occasions such as this. The tour ended up being just 5 people and it gave a sense of intimacy to the group.
Our first stop was Casa Rosada and the Plaza de Mayo. We discovered that one of the tour group was from the states and seemed to have a question or comment on just about everything that the guide had to say. Casa Rosada and the Plaza de Mayo are important areas in Buenos Aires. The Plaza is where every major demonstration in Argentina history has taken place, and the Casa is the Presidential offices. It is also the site of the famous balcony where Eva Peron gave her speeches. In fact, Madonna was here back in 1995 to film the balcony scene for the movie Evita. Our guide mentioned there was even a protest for that since the loyal Peron followers did not like the idea of Madonna playing the part.
Moving on we headed to San Telmo and La Boca – two historical districts of Buenos Aires that range from touristy to authentically historical to downright unsafe and scary. It was interesting listening to how these areas helped invent the Tango and how yellow fever changed the course of development in the area. What were once huge homes for the rich became tenement homes for the poor. In fact it was this closeness of the immigrants that led to the beginning of Tango in Argentina. When we stopped at La Boca, we saw tourism at its highest and lowest. There were the sleezy street performers like the ones they have outside of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, but instead of Spiderman, you get your photo with a fake tango performer. The street was nice and decorated, but it reminded me of some of the scary areas in downtown LA where. You had the sense of one street being patrolled and safe and then if you wander off the beaten path, you would be in an unsafe area.
It was time to board the minibus and head towards Recoleta. On the way, we passed by the port of La Boca as well as by Puerto Madera, past where our hotel was located and then towards the British Tower (which is now Monument Tower since the Falkland war of the early 1980s). We arrived at the Recoleta cemetery – the final resting place of Eva Peron. The cemetery was very interesting and lots of spectacular monuments and burial areas inside. Eva’s was not the most grand, it was the Duarte family plot, since after Peron fell from power via military coup, they removed her mausoleum, where the people of Argentina could just go by her body (just like Lenin). Her body went missing for a bit but they finally recovered it and the family interred it in the family grave at the Recoleta cemetery.
After taking some photos, our quick tour was done and we set off back to the hotel. On the way we dropped one couple off at the historic Alvear Palace Hotel and I was reminded I needed to come back another day to take a photo. Once we got back to the hotel, we dug in and spent the rest of the night preparing for the ISES conference tomorrow. It was a long night. We started helping around 2:00pm and we stayed downstairs and busy until 3:30am. We had a mini food break around 11pm which kept our energy going, but it was a scramble to get everything prepared and ready to go. Mom did not make it back at all except to shower and change for the opening of registration. I did not get much sleep as I had to be back downstairs at 6:45am