Here is a video that I have just produced on the bicentennial from last week. Now you can combine the story with text, photos, and video. Yay multimedia!
The celebrations for Argentina’s Bicentennial have finished now, though the stands and framework in the center will probably take days—maybe even a week—to tear down. Last night was the grand finale and the news said that over 2 million people crammed into the center to watch the events. I was down there earlier in the afternoon but was by myself and didn’t feel like sticking around solo, so I headed home and watched the rest on TV.
It was pretty impressive to see all of Avenida 9 de Julio filled with spectators, illuminated by the lights from the side stalls and the jumbo screens by the Obelisk. A little after 7 pm, the president began a speech at the Casa Rosada with the leaders of 7 South American nations, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. Once the speech was over the leaders made a symbolic march to the Cabildo, or old town hall, where they watched a 3D show on 200 years of history displayed on the bleach white building. I was impressed that they actually took note of the fact that the country had growth problems after the 1930s and the military dictatorship of the 1980s.
Once that show was finished the celebrations moved to Avenida 9 de Julio, just a few blocks to the west. 19 different ‘scenes’ were played out, varying from the murga (carnaval like dancing and music), memorials to the fallen soldiers from the Falklands War, and tributes to tango and folklore. After a while the celebrations got to be pretty boring, but ended before 11 pm.
So now the party is over and it’s back to work. I have to imagine that flag sales in Argentina went up by, oh let’s say, 1000% in the last week, and probably fell down to 0% today. And unless Argentina wins the World Cup, that’s the last time you’ll see such national pride for a while.
I headed back down to the center yesterday to meet up with my friend Brian and some of his hostel buddies. Originally I wanted to use the free day to check out the suburb of San Isidro, north of Buenos Aires, but with the lousy weather and no one to join me, I instead chose to meet up with the guys at 3 pm for the classic car and motorcycle parade. It was another gray and nasty kind of day, and rumors soon spread that the parade had been postponed because of the weather.
Since we didn’t see any cars, we instead walked down the length of 9 de Julio from Avenida Corrientes to Avenida Independencia. It’s maybe 10 blocks or more, but with the millions of people pushing, shoving, and shuffling like penguins, it took us at least an hour to get down there. Along the way we passed by the dozens of stands represented by the 24 provinces (and the “25th province”), and also passed by musical performances on side stages.
It was like salmon going upstream for a while, to the point that you just had to let the person in back of you do the pushing and hope to keep an eye on your friends in front. I gave in to my sweet tooth by buying an ice cream cone filled with dulce de leche, something which I probably could have done without. Later, the guys wanted some food, and though choripan (sausage sandwich) was being grilled everywhere, like an idiot I picked out the one place without a line. The reason? Those sausages were cold and probably cooked a day before. We all agreed they were the worst choripans we had ever eaten.
Occasionally a military flyover went the length of 9 de Julio, but to be fair, it was maybe the lamest military flyover ever. They had a few cargo jets followed by some propeller planes which might have been impressive in the 1940s. Later they had what looked like passenger planes from one of the major carriers. No fighter jets were seen, and the noise level was the same as if we were kind of near the airport. I wasn’t expecting the Blue Angels, but maybe something a little bit deafening.
As we walked by Independencia we finally saw some of the classic cars, but again, aside from their shiny colors, these cars weren’t too impressive. There were antique buses with the traditional fileteado painting designs, as well as two antique locomotives. The Argentina/Canada soccer game was being displayed on jumbo screens, but I had to get going and called it a day. Later on the Colon Theater was unveiled after 2 years of renovations, though I wasn’t around to see it.
I went down to the center to check out the military parade this afternoon. I expected a large crowd but coming up the steps from the Subte found myself taken aback by the amount of people. It was nearly impossible to get a sight of anything, and as a short guy, I struggled just to see the tops of heads walking by. People were hanging off of street lamps and leaning out of windows as helicopters flew by. I’ve been to parades before, so I knew that standing in one place would get boring quickly. I also remembered an old line from Mitch Hedberg. “If you find yourself bored while watching a parade, walk in the opposite direction. It’s like fast forwarding it.”
I moved along Avenida Corrientes towards the Obelisk trying to find a spot to get a peak, but again it was nearly impossible. At one point I was able to see a few historically dressed soldiers walk by, but it wasn’t until the mounted regiments came through that I could see more. I took a few photos and listened as the national anthem was played by the band. Some people in the crowd joined in as well, until the last troops moved past and the barricades were soon overrun. It took almost 30 minutes just to cross into the other end of the avenue, and after that point I’d lost all interest in standing around. It’s only the second day of the festivities, and I’ve got plans to meet up with friends on Tuesday for the closing events. Apparently that will be the best day to head over.
Otherwise, unless parades are really your thing, it might only be worth checking out once and for a few minutes. Just small doses. Many Porteños use this time off to get out of the city anyway, whereas people from the provinces come in to see the city. I’m considering taking a little afternoon trip to San Isidro, a northern town about 30 kilometers from the city, on Monday afternoon. We’ll see how it goes. Here are some photos from the day.
We have one week to go until Argentina’s bicentennial is celebrated with a 4-day weekend, and it seems as though most people are mainly excited for the extra time off. In my time here I haven’t seen too much patriotism, and even it terms of the national soccer team there isn’t much confidence. Yet the idea of a couple extra days off really appeals to people. And who can blame them?
I don’t know if I’ll be using that extra time to travel anywhere yet, though I’ll leave the window of possibility open just in case. However, there are some events throughout the city scheduled for those who de remain in Buenos Aires, and in reality the events began at the beginning of the year. Slowly, they have been happening more and more frequently, and over the last week Avenida 9 de Julio has had traffic jams as they set up a monster display by the Obelisk.
The famous Teatro Colón, which has been closed for repairs and renovations over the last 2 years, will reopen this week. If you are going to be visiting and want to get tickets to a show it could be difficult to do so anytime within the next year. A number of other performances or parades will go on, but in general the Argentinians aren’t too big on military displays, and therefore it will hardly be a star spangled event.
Add in the fact that we’re entering late fall and people are shuttering themselves in for a cold winter, which takes away the desire to be outdoors. It kind of makes me wonder why the revolution started this late in the year anyway. It seems to me that revolutions generally begin in the summer when it’s so hot that people react more violently. Statistics show that crime rises in the summer.
I’ll keep updating on the events that take place throughout the next week or so, and inform on what it’s like in a country celebrating 200 years of independence.