Sunday, December 23, 2007

Buenos Aires is Italian for Barcelona

This city has a disproportionate amount of Barcelona. For a place so far from Western Europe, it's got a lot of Catalan and Basque - as well as Napeolitan, Calabrian, and French bistro. If you've been to Barcelona you know what I mean - it's not exactly Spanish, it's got a Boho-edge-of-Europe, port-city feel to it. So does Buenos Aires, and the two cities seem to be connected. What's popular in Barcelona does well here too - mullet/rat tail haircut concoctions, tapas with no condiments, anarchy wishes and revolutionary dreams, and the music and Euro/gypsy, campfire-jam spectacle of Manu Chao and Tonino Carotone.
I'm not hating, nada que ver - definitely celebrating. This is my type of reggae-hippy, eurotrash party. If you're going to have hippies, I hope you'll please serve them in this variety. In fact, the silliness and light-hearted good times of these dreadheads just strips the hippy moniker from the whole thing. The American hippy subculture takes itself seriously. This brand of anti-establishment includes faux, soft-porn videos in costume and with mannequins, a personal style that combines soccer gear with indigenous beanies or leather blazers. There are orchestras and Tango dancing in a theater space that ends in a hand-holding sing-a-long. Adults with gray hair in suits embracing total chaos with cheers? It's a beautiful world, that of Tonino and Manu. Enough to inspire my rant over how much fun I find this video. That's okay, Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello finds it inspiring too - and look where it got him? Playing with Madonna and making some enz off his gypsy/anarchy mantras. A rat-tail 'do with an AmEx platinum card - it's an ever-changing playground of a world.

I'm in the middle of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, great reading from a participant in the mess that is American foreign policy. He was there when Iranian self determination was sabotaged by our great nation. Howard Zinn is a fan and I am too. I'm trying to read Las Venas Abiertas De America Latin, by Eduardo Galeano, but there's still so much vocabulary to learn I quit after a couple of pages each time I pick it up. An average native speaker of a language has an arsenal of 12,000 words at his disposal. Even Dubbya knows a few thousand possibly. I'm fluent by some standards now but far from the target number. So Las Venas will have to wait a bit while I practice with tabloid lit - Argentina's version of In Touch is a great teacher.

There's a lot of middle eastern influence here too - Syria and Lebanon represent in Buenos Aires. And there are Heebs - everywhere. It's a comfortable place to be a white minority but no other continents have historically been invited to the immigration fiesta. I miss black people very much. I get excited when I see a lone face in a crowd - it's weird seeing so few people of African or Asian decent. There is a growing community of Chinese many of whom came by way of Peru. Blacks in BA are from Africa, with the occasional US, French, Brazilian or British tourists. Everyone seems to be a new immigrant or a tourist - even Europe isn't this European.

You're probably wondering if there are any Latinos in this Latin American country. I'm still trying to figure out the big picture. Apparently, Buenos Aires has the least number of ethnically indigenous people in Argentina because it is the port and the capitol and has always been the center of immigration. Immigration here means European immigrants, or traditionally it has meant people coming from Europe - most recently from Eastern Europe. Though, of course, that fact has changed in the last few years as the Eastern Block's economic situation has undergone a dramatic change for the better.

The bulk of the visible Portenos trace their roots to when, in the 19th and 20th centuries, large numbers of Spanish and Italians came to Argentina for a new life. In the mid 1800's there was expansion into the Pampas, the middle of the country that is the nation's bread basket. For years the colonizers had been losing the battle over indigenous lands in the Pampas but that changed with one general's savage defeat of native fighters in a famous battle. He murdered or expelled 100% of the people in the area and that explains why so many people have remained ethnically European in this area of the country. There's recent immigration from Peru and Bolivia and there are native Argentines in the North and some in the South of the country, but here in the city there are few from what I can tell. Racial identity isn't a popular subject so I do my best to get an accurate perspective of my new home. One thing is certain, Argentines don't call themselves Latino. They do call themselves Latino Americano and view the name Latino to be a "Yanqui" construction. They call Americans Yanquis because they view all inhabitants of the Americas to be American. The few that do identify as Latino also identify with hip hop culture and the emcees here adopt a Puerto Rican accent when they rhyme. I guess it makes for a complex and interesting place to examine ethnic identity.

There were African-Argentines here once - people stolen from Africa and forced into slavery like in all the other colonies of the Americas. The story goes that in the mid 19th century, the government mandated military inscription for all black males in the war against Paraguay. When the war ended, no one was allowed back home. The women intermarried and the country has been white and aborigine ever since.

So I count the faces I hope to see increase in number. The population yearns for more global influence, as does the food. There's no spice, like I've told you before - no spice! Pepper is a special request in a restaurant. In this culture there is singing and dancing and warmth all over, despite the blandness of flavor. There's plenty of sausage and wine, como Barcelona.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Loved this blog Eve - you're perceptive and write well. What I want, as a brand new editor, is people who write as if they were writing a letter to their best friend.