Monday, April 05, 2010


Just got back from my first trip to Latin America, which (the trip, not Latin America) consisted mostly of various parts of Argentina.

It's a damn big country, incidentally. My mother's packing advice was along the lines of "pack for the moderate climate, the glaciers, the rainforest and don't pack too much".

The first words that came to my mind upon seeing Buenos Aires were "old-world charm", which was strange, because I have never seen any in the old world. Or rather there is quite a lot of charm in the old world, but none of the kind that I have ever felt like calling old-world charm.

The second words were "that's fucking huge". Buenos Aires has some streets that are so huge that they have to be seen to be believed.

I expected Argentina to be a reasonably civilized third-world country, but it didn't feel particularly third-worldly to me. The general impression is similar to that of a poorer Western European country, for example Portugal. Nowhere where we'd been was in any way scary (we did not seek out slums, but we weren't careful of where we were going, either), tap water was drinkable though not tasty, the restaurant bills did not have any mysterious extra items, and there were fewer beggars than in Prague, or in fact fewer beggars than in Helsinki after Romania joined the EU. The general impression of Argentina was way more civilized than that of Hungary or Czech republic.

More later.


pjt said...

BTW Argentina never really was 3rd world, rather to the contrary - the 10th richest country in the world in 1913.

Wikipedia tells us:

"Domestic instability and global trends, however, contributed to Argentina's decline from its noteworthy position as the world's 10th wealthiest nation per capita in 1913 to that of an upper-middle income economy. Though no consensus exists explaining this, systemic problems have included increasingly burdensome debt, uncertainty over the monetary system, excessive regulation, barriers to free trade, and a weak rule of law coupled with corruption and a bloated bureaucracy."

Satu said...

> Buenos Aires has some streets that are so huge that they have to be seen to be believed.

Indeed! It takes the best part of twenty minutes for a pedestrian to cross Avenida 9 de Julio, and it's only partially because you have to wait for green lights three or four times.

pjt, that certainly rings a bell...