I have been in South America for four days, and as I sit basking in the warm sun outside of the Iguazu airport awaiting my travel companion, I can’t think of any better time to start my travel blog. So here it is, my first entry…
I’ve just arrived in Puerto Iguazu, my second destination in Argentina, and immediately I can sense that this city is starkly different from the sprawling metropolis that is Buenos Aires. The sounds of birds chirping have replaced the blaring horns and sirens that can be heard throughout the day and night in the city. The brisk, cold winds are gone. In fact, it is a nice, balmy eighty degrees here. The area feels very tropical. The vegetation is lush and green and mosquitoes are everywhere.
Puerto Iguazu is located in the northeast region of Argentina and can be reached from Buenos Aires by bus (18.5 hours) or by plane (90 minutes).
Needless to say, we chose the latter method of travel. We both experienced a few delays at the airport due to an airline strike. Despite the delay however, I am still very excited to be here. This was not the case when I arrived in Buenos Aires a few days ago.
When I landed in B.A., the city was cold, rainy, and unwelcoming. As I peered out of the back window of the taxi, B.A. didn’t appear to be any different from any other large city. My original summer travel plans were to travel to South Africa; however my travel companion cancelled a week before the trip, leaving me with a pretty hefty flight credit. Like a true Sagittarius, I decided to be spontaneous and turn “lemons into limonada.” I contacted a former colleague who was currently travelling through Argentina, and asked if I could join her. When she agreed, I changed my flight destination and left Los Angeles four days later.
I had done lots of research on Johannesburg, Durban, Soweto, and Cape Town (destinations in South Africa), but had read nothing on Argentina. I purchased a Frommer’s travel guide from Barnes and Noble the day before my trip with plans to read it on the plane.
Those plans were dashed when I saw that the in-flight movie was “21 Jump Street” (just the kind of mindless entertainment I needed for the first leg of my flight.) This was my second trip to South America. I visited Brazil in 2009, and I figured Argentina wouldn’t be very different. My assumption was incorrect. I quickly realized the error in my thinking when boarding my flight from Houston to Buenos Aires. A quick scan of the people in line to board made me acutely aware of one difference between us. I was the only “sista” headed to Argentina on a completely FULL flight.
I quickly googled information on Blacks in Argentina, and what I read didn’t do much to quell my fears. See http://expat-argentina.blogspot.com/2005/04/blacks-in-buenos-aires.html There were lots of posts from various travelers stating that black people are not well received in Argentina, and that the country has a tiny population of blacks. Immediately, I regretted my spontaneity. Why would I travel to a destination that I had not yet researched? Fortunately, it was too late to make any changes. All I could do was hope for the best.
Fast forward to today. Here I am, a few days later, in northern Argentina, pleased to report that while I did notice more than a few stares, I did not experience any blatant racism or ill will. For many people, I think I was the only black person they’d ever seen that was not on television. There were some Argentine men that whistled and cat-called professing their love for the “morena,” but no one was disrespectful or rude.
Often, I was mistaken for Brazilian which was fine by me. I assumed it was my curvaceous figure that Brazilian women are often known for that caused folks to make the mistake, but then again, maybe it was just my brown skin. A girl can dream, can’t she? During my entire stay in Buenos Aires, I saw 7 black people. I took it all in stride however, reasoning that it was nice to be exotic for a change. 😉
My first day in Buenos Aires was spent relaxing in my hotel and adjusting to the time difference. It was cold and rainy outside, and after flying for a little over 13 hours, I needed the rest and relaxation.
I flipped through several Spanish speaking channels on the television. I was happy to find one English channel, and even more delighted to see that a Sex and the City marathon was on, complete with Spanish subtitles. It was an episode from Season Six when Carrie moves to Paris to be with the artist. I curled up in bed and watched before drifting off to sleep.
The next day, I awoke to gorgeous blue skies and sunshine. Perfect weather for exploring the city. After learning that I had missed all of the tours offered by my hotel, I decided to explore the surrounding neighborhood on foot. Hotel Aspen Square is located in the Palermo Soho area of Buenos Aires which is known for its zoo, the botanical garden, and wonderful green spaces with manmade lakes. I walked about four blocks taking in all of the sights and scenery. On my walk, I found a McDonald’s, the Subte (Subway) entrance, and many stores where one could purchase food, electronics, leather goods, and clothing.
Walking a bit further, I found the US Embassy and a beautiful green park where people played with their pets, jogged, and rode their bikes. I rented a bike from a street vendor and took off on two wheels. The park was separated into plazas, with monuments to Argentine war heroes, and street murals. There were signs directing bicycle traffic and a great bike path that led me up a bridge to another park that had a small skateboard park within it. There, teenagers clad in skinny jeans and vans practiced ollies and tricks on their boards just like in the states.
The next day I took the guided city tour around B.A. I visited Casa Rosada, the equivalent to the US’s White House, except this house is pink and the president is a woman.
I visited Caminito, a colorful neighborhood in the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
And of course I went shopping on Florida Street, a long street with shops on both sides in Downtown Buenos Aires. Florida Street is adjacent to the largest mall in the city.
I took a bus, a train, and then a ferry through the Parana Deltas in Tigre on what felt like the coldest day of the year. I visited several of Argentina’s public universities which are FREE for students to attend!!! No student loans. I did a little clubbing at night, and attended the Feria De Matador, a local street fair where people danced in the street. I’d say I accomplished a lot in the four days I was in Buenos Aires, but now it’s time to chase waterfalls…