Category Archives: Argentina

confusing bottles of water on cars

It’s really common to see a bottle of water – partly filled – sitting on top of a parked car. Someone once told me it was an Argentine folk belief that such a practice would keep the inside of your car cooler. Uh, okay. But now it’s the chilly autumn and I still see them around a lot. Today I learned the real story: it signals that the car is for sale.

Day in Buenos Aires, urban scenes

Dog walkers extraordinaire, large insects on display, and night lights around the big obelisk on the main drag.

Day in Buenos Aires, Jardín Japonés


After lunch we wandered uptown to the Japanese Gardens. These were established in the late 1960s as a gift from Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko. A nice oasis in an otherwise bustling part of the city. The koi are grotesquely overfed. Reminiscent of Marlon Brando in his later days.

Day in Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery


Emily and I spent the day in Buenos Aires yesterday. Our first stop was the Recoleta Cemetery, the posh place in BA to hang out for eternity. More than 20 (former) Argentine Presidents are buried there, plus many other well-known folks such as Evita Peron. Wednesday (May 7) had been Evita’s birthday, hence the unusually large amount of flowers outside her family’s mausoleum. We also found Emilio Mitre, the engineer whose name was given to the street where we used to live.
Emily’s real objective had been to see the 100 (!) cats who also call this place home but we learned that they all come out only in late afternoon (when well-meaning cat ladies visit and feed them). Our late morning visit wasn’t feline fruitful, but Em had a chance to learn more about Evita (whom she’s researching for an English report).

Argentina 2, Day 54 – In the news again

Now we hear that the agricultural strikes are to begin again, and that smoky ash in the sky is coming from Chile. What next? It’s like someone’s giving us a message that it’s time to go home. Oh, but they’re having small earthquakes there.

Animals of Argentina

Animals of Argentina

Guest Post by Julia I. Sinton
Almost every house in Argentina has either a cat or a dog. We give names to the animals we see a lot. Some have homes and some are stray.Ralphy is a dog who has a home but he dug a hole under his fence so he can get out. He likes to go around the neighborhood and this makes other dogs bark at him.

Bruce is really a girl but we gave her that name before we figured it out. Bruce is a very sturdy and fat dog who lives downtown. She’s a stray but she’s well-fed.

Shadow is also a stray but not so well-fed. Sometimes Dad calls her Lucky because she’s lucky to be alive. But Eric and Mom named her Shadow because sometimes she follows you around town when you’re walking. One time Dad let her inside our gate so she was on our property and gave her some food.

Daisy is our family’s favorite. She lives down our street and has a home. She is playful and energetic and always wants some petting. You don’t see her all the time because she’s inside her home a lot. She jumps up on the fence and wants to be pet, then she runs down to the next section of fence and wants petting there too, and then the last section of fence, even though there she has to get behind some prickly bushes to get her head to the petting place.

A couple of blocks down from Daisy’s house is a rundown house we call the Crazy Cat House. The Crazy Cat House has six kittens and four older cats. We give the cats food but they don’t let us pet them.

Cheetoh is an orange cat that has a home but wanders around the neighborhood. She loves to be petted and she doesn’t mind dogs.

Cowhead Jr. and Skittles Jr. are named after our cats in California. They look almost exactly like them. They love to be pet but we don’t see them everytime we go by. These cats even like to be picked up and put on Emily’s lap in her wheelchair.

This is the story of the animals of Argentina.

Argentina 2, Day 44 – the Andes

On Monday morning we helped to stimulate the Argentine economy by doing our fair share of shopping, then it was off to the mountains. Some clouds but none of the rain that had been forecast. It all looks a lot like the US Southwest – desert, red rocks, snowy mountains. On the morning news I’d heard about the mountain highway being closed to traffic because of a large snowstorm (something that often happens at the Chilean/Argentine border, like after this storm last year), and sure enough, at some point we were stopped by a highway patrol officer. But at that point we were all the way up in Upsalatta, a small town without much more than a mountain-base of the national guard, and it was getting dark, and the wines were waiting. Later that night we enjoyed a tasting at The Vines. I’m no good at remembering details of how each wine tasted, except that they were good and Kevin took a lot of mental notes. Eventually we made our way to a well-known Mendocino restaurant that was as busy as ever at 11 pm.

visiting La Plata

Yesterday we took the kids out of school and spent the afternoon in nearby La Plata. After many days in suburban City Bell (census says population here is 30,000 but it feels much smaller), the hustle and bustle of La Plata (almost 600,000 people) was exciting. Of course still manageable compared to metropolitan Buenos Aires (over 13 million).
La Plata was founded in the 1880s by a man named Dardo Rocha. He and his wife are encrypted in the basement of the neo-gothic cathedral that’s in the center of the city. Relatively young cathedral (towers were completed just in last decade) with nice French stained glass windows. It’s the tallest cathedral in all the Americas, higher than St Patricks in NYC and that new one somewhere in Mexico too. Or at least that’s what I think I understood from the man in the elevator, whose rapid Spanish was a challenge to non-native ears, but wikipedia concurs. From the top of the tower one can look out over City Hall and the gubernatorial buildings (the white one and the two adjacent towers); La Plata is the capital of the Provincia de Buenos Aires. It’s also known as an academic city and has a number of universities, including the national one with which Chris’s group is affiliated.
Ice cream, coffee and shopping rounded out the rest of the afternoon. Next time we’ll hit the well-known museum of natural history and some parks with good climbing trees.

Argentina 2, Day 38 – Earth Day

On Earth Day we could talk about the recent smoky air (which has cleared), the amount of electricity that an ancient refrigerator must use, the interesting biological experiment we have going on in our pool (which hasn’t been cleaned in over 6 weeks and is a massive mosquito breeding ground, in spite of the chlorine we’ve been dumping in), or what it’s been like to not drive a car for six weeks. Another fascinating topic: the attitudes and awareness of environmental issues in Argentina – how they might differ from the US, or between the rich and the poor, or more and less educated. I’ve seen people spray (bare-handed and whilst inhaling the air) small ant hills with enough strong poison to kill five cows. Likewise in the US. Mari also carefully washes out the same tiny ziplock baggie though it’s been used a dozen times (they’re remarkably expensive here). There’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while now, The Ecology of Rich and Poor. We’re all a bunch of contradictions, motivated by complex driving forces.
How about we discuss garbage. The bags had been hung on the tree stand with care, with visions of hungry dogs jumping high in the air. That’s the trick, putting out the bags high enough – or ensconced enough – so that a hungry dog won’t have dug out the meat bones before the truck comes by in the wee hours of the morning. Every garbage “stand” is different. Wooden, metal, plastic. Rustic, art deco, modern. Most are free-standing, some are nailed to trees, or some just are trees. Just like in the US, we carefully gather and tie up our refuse to be taken away by invisible people to some distant place. The garbage divide.
How about recycling, you ask. Nothing official. Empty wine bottles and plastic jugs can be placed on the ground below the garbage bags and sometimes the recycling elves, or young kids, whisk them away to a better life. We just read Michael Pollan’s NYT editorial on gardening and Chris has been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma while we’ve been here. It pains us to throw away banana peels, apple cores, and spinach stems but only the flies would appreciate a few-weeks-old compost pile. Or maybe we should just make a little pile out behind the avocado tree in the back anyway.

Argentina 2, Day 34 – smoke gets in your eyes

The massive agricultural strike ended; meat and milk are back on the shelves. Now the still-grumpy farmers have united in an interesting act of ecoterrorism. Hundreds of farmers synchronized their watches and agreed to all burn their fields at the same time. Traditionally field-burning is done on small scales to clear vestigal remains of harvested materials and return nutrients to the soils, but this (they say) is to clear additional land for cattle grazing now that their old grazing fields have been usurped for soybean production. The areas just happen to be directly upwind of the capital. The result? Smoke on the water, fire in the sky. I feel like I’m back in Southern California in October 2007 when the wildfires drove us indoors. The Buenos Aires airports have cancelled most of their flights today, the massive city bus station has shut down, and the PanAmerican Highway is blocked for great distances. These are pictures from our house at 8 am today, and for more info you can find stories and images from the Inter Press Service, BBC, Time, and NASA. Maternal worry of the day: I hope Eric’s asthma is under control out where he’s camping…