We have had a great two days here in Buenos Aires. Our hotel, The Cocker, is fascinating. Recently remodeled, the place is gorgeous, and our room itself is an architectural marvel with the bed in an alcove underneath the bathroom. Interesting place to call home for a few days.
The evening of our arrival we met up with one of Megan's friends from the Brenham days who now lives in Buenos Aires. Erin and her boyfriend, Martin, offered an orientation to the city and excellent conversation while also guiding us to a restaurant that served our best steak yet.
We have spent most of our time meandering the city's boutiques and cultural sights. We wrapped up some Christmas shopping, and Megan ordered custom boots that should be gorgeous (the bootmaker has made boots and belts for multiple presidents of various countries, including the US, and recently designed a pair of boots for Carolina Herrera). The 2011 Dakar rally leaves from Buenos Aires in the morning, so we checked out the rally vehicles today. After seeing the fine art of off road vehicles, we went to the MALBA, which has an excellent collection of modern Latin American art (Rivera, Kahlo, Wilfredo Lam, Berni, Xul Solar, etc).
On Thursday, we went to the Plaza de Mayo to rally with the Madres of the Desaparacidos. Having studied revolutionary politics of Latin America in college, seeing the Madres was, for me, a pilgrimage of sorts. Even then, Megan and I found the experience overwhelming. For those who don't know, the Madres are mothers of people (largely students in their 20s) who were "disappeared" by Argentina's most recent dictatorship. 34 years ago, they began a weekly protest in a plaza surrounded by government buildings. The gathering continues weekly to this day. As one of the mothers said in a very moving speech: "This is the last march of the year, but of course this is not the last march for the Madres. The Madres will march forever." While the dictatorship fell (in part due to the Madres' relentless struggle), the Madres are a powerful reminder of the dangers of authoritarianism and the ability of normal people to make a profound difference in the world.
Tomorrow we head to the famous Ricoleta Cemetery and then join Erin and Martin for an afternoon in the park.
With respect to tonight's celebrations, we have learned of two new year traditions. First, people throw their calendars and shredded work papers from the year out the window. This has caused a huge mess in the business districts. Second, and a bigger problem for us, people in Buenos Aires celebrate the new year at home with family. As a result, nearly every restaurant and bar is closed tonight. The few that stay open are booked up, and we were not among those who had the foresight to make reservations. In a stroke of luck, we found a small cafe off the beaten path that has a fixed menu and an open table. Should provide more nourishment than our backup option of the Cliff bars leftover from our hikes.