What Mark Sanford did for love and Buenos Aires
This evening in Buenos Aires, I danced at Confíteria La Ideal, the salon where Madonna was filmed performing tango in Evita. Like so much of Argentina's capital, La Ideal with its marble stairs, Greek columns, beveled mirrors, and dark wood, is an architectural masterpiece but in a bit of disrepair. All of which adds to the romance for those of us who, like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, believe of Buenos Aires, “It’s a great city.”
As I walked home down Corrientes, “the street that never sleeps,” passing the floodlit Obelisco, late-night bookstores, cafes, and theaters, I thought what a collateral reward Sanford’s dalliance with Maria Belen Chapur might be for the city of Buenos Aires. When I decided to come live here part-time three years ago, I was amazed at the misconceptions rampant among even my most educated friends. Was I going to learn Portuguese? How was my samba? People confuse it with Rio de Janeiro, which, um, is---still---in neighboring Brazil, where they do speak Portuguese and dance samba.
For the record, a brief primer: as Mark and Maria can tell you Argentina’s official tongue is Castellano, Spain’s most widely spoken dialect. Let me also dispel the notion that Argentina is third world. It is a developed nation, rich in resources, most notably grazing land for its world-renowned grass-fed beef. Few people know that after World War II, Argentina was one of the world’s most wealthy countries. However, a bouncing back and forth between radical and military governments seems to have squandered much of that wealth. In contrast to heavily Amerindian countries like Peru and Bolivia, only about half of Argentina’s population has any indigenous blood.
Buenos Aires is a very European city. And it is incurably romantic. Its ornate, occasionally crumbling, facades are the legacy of Italian architects and French influence. Mark and Maria could have carried on their tryst in style. The city’s crown jewel, the Teatro Colon is closed for renovation, but another gem is the opulent and well-preserved Palace of Running Waters (Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes) on Riobamba Street. Inside, above the bland-as-water offices where Argentines pay their water bills, is a darkly lit museum, the scene of a macabre crime in Tomás Eloy Martínez’s acclaimed 2004 novel, The Tango Singer. It’s perfect for lovers who wish to lose the downtown crowds—or paparazzi. The mounted pipe fittings and rows of toilet tanks and bowls are not as prosaic as they may sound—even Paris, the City of Light, has made its sewers a top tourist attraction (Le Musée des Egouts). And you can run your hands over artful chunks of the enamel-inlaid building, also on display.
Rest of story and images my Web site: http://www.camillecusumano.com/uncategorized/romantic-buenos-aires/
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