Stories from the Amazon
The view inside the Colon Theater from the President's Box in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Exploring the Special Sites of Buenos Aires
Argentina is a place that had escaped my wandering spirit, until now.
In Ecuador, I am limited to 90 days a year to visit in the country. So I must use the time wisely if I am going to take school materials to Achuar villages, lead group trips into the Amazon Rainforest and spend time with friends.
Therefore, I left for Argentina so I wouldn’t use up all my Ecuadorian visa days.
As long as I can remember, I have dreamed of going to the Patagonia region of Argentina. Just the name stirs up adventure in my heart. There is something magical about seeing mountains on the other side of the world.
On one of my trips to Ecuador, I met a couple who invited me to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was time to accept their invitation. Argentina is a large country, and the three weeks I had to explore would only scratch the surface.
I arrived in the capital city of Buenos Aires and my friends, Peter and Lupe Duggan, welcomed me; their home became my base. From their house, a 20-minute train ride would take me to the city center.
Buenos Aires is a special city. Built during the economic boom in Argentina, it feels more like Europe than South America. The city has many tall buildings with French architecture, expensive boutique shops, busy streets and great food – all woven together with Latin American flavor.
It’s a great place to explore. A few highlights included a walk through the Cemetery de la Recoleta, which the locals refer to as the city of the dead. Narrow streets are lined with hundreds of old crypts, some with ornate sculptures and designs and others in a state of decay. It is the place to wander and view names of the rich and famous.
The most popular stop in the city of the dead is the grave of former first lady Evita Peron, a heroine for the poor and for social justice in Argentina. All the politicians who want to be seen as a champion for the people mark their visit by placing a plaque at her resting place.
The giant Obelisk that stands in the heart of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the rallying point for demonstrations, left.
Tourists visit the grave of Evita, the former famous First Lady of Argentina in Beunos Aires, right.
One late evening the Duggans and I attended a milonga, a place where the traditional tango is danced. This dance has its origins in Argentina, and what better place to view it for the first time.
We walked through an open door barely noticeable on the street and went upstairs to a room packed with people sitting around the edge of the dance floor.
Walking into the room felt like going back in time. The women sat together on two sides and the men were on the other two sides. A whole series of nonverbal gestures happens before a woman will dance with a man.
The tension in the air was so thick you could literally slice it. But this was a positive tension, created by clear expectations. There was no drunken stumbling going on here, only precise movements of grace, elegance and passion across an old wooden dance floor.
When I had entered the room, women offered intense stares. I guessed they were evaluating me as to whether I knew how to dance. They say it takes two years to learn the tango, so there was no chance of that this night.
“People come here to dance; that is the primary goal,” my friend Peter explained. “This is not the time to learn the whole process and art.”
I happily watched from a safe place in a corner of the dance hall as the tango unfolded before my eyes.
A couple glide across the dance floor as they dance the Tango in a Milonga in downtown Buenos Aires.
Another highlight for me was a visit to the Colon Theater. Acoustically, the theater is considered to be among the five best concert venues in the world. For sure, the theater that first opened in 1908 is stunning.
As I walked into the performance hall on a tour, all I could say was, “Wow.”
With a seating capacity of 2,500 and standing room for another 500, my imagination drifted with a desire to see a performance in such a setting. But the performance season was over, according to our guide, so that dream will have to wait for another day.
“We believe we have the best opera house in the world,” the guide said.
With a recent three-year and $100-million renovation, that would appear to be true. I decided to add a new item to my bucket list to one day attend a performance at the Colon Theater in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For Argentina is a place that deserves more than one visit.
From the northern part of Argentina to the southern part, it is 2,300 miles. This is a country of open spaces, with long stretches of miles with no cities or even small towns.
With help from my friends, the Duggans, I bought a bus ticket to my next stop in Argentina. Puerto Madryn was a bus journey that would last 18 hours.
It was time to head south toward Patagonia.