Sunday, September 30, 2007

South America Part V: Parting Thoughts

To those of you who left messages on this blog while I was out of the country, thanks for keeping in touch. Hearing from you made my day.

Our last day in Buenos Aires was spent on foot, as usual, with the exception of a ride on the Subte (the Subway) to the Museo Evita. But first, we stopped by the tiny Museo de la Cuidad. This nearly impossible-to-find place was an enigma: Half of the displays were dedicated to the great religions of the world; the other half was devoted to the history of toys. I’m still trying to figure out the connection.

The Museo Evita, not to be missed, is in the beautiful Recoleta area. An enormous botanic park is just around the corner, as well as the city zoo. The museum is immaculate. That it is under the direction of Evita’s niece accounts for the obvious adulation of the subject. The propagandistic presentation (likely a sign of the times) of the life of Eva PerĂ³n damages her credibility. Her social and political reforms -- voting for women and a foundation for orphans -- could speak for themselves. Other than the film montages, highlights for this visitor included the displays of Evita’s clothes, which are so meticulously preserved that they look almost new. Also interesting were the accompanying photographs of Evita in those very dresses and hats. Her shoes were wonderful. Made in France, they would be stylish today. (Her feet, if I were to guess, were about size five.)

Evita wasn’t universally loved. After she died at age 33 of cervical cancer, some cried out, “God bless cancer!” Her body was stolen, recovered and reburied elsewhere, finally ending up in the family crypt in Buenos Aires.

In a touching speech, Evita’s sister tells of posthumous wounds inflicted on Evita’s head and body by those who hated her. Someone even cut off a finger. What is surprising is that they didn’t cut her hair, which is shown in a film as still long and flowing.

Just outside the Recoleta Cemetery is this enormous tree, planted in 1800:

After Evita, for some levity, we went to the zoo. We stayed for a long time, mesmerized by the animals. Some were species we had never seen before. Some were just plain wacky.

Back near our hotel, we encountered the stray dogs which were now familiar to us. One was a small white shepherd—a skinny old male—who likes to hang out with the Prefecture. (The Prefecture is/are sort of rent-a-cops who like to stand around in groups to talk, smoke, and tell jokes. Their apparent job is to guard each other.) I’m assuming that they’ve adopted this dog and hope that they’re feeding him. When I called to him, he ambled over and put his head in my lap. When I stroked his head I felt bumps that could have been ticks. Obviously, he receives no medical care. Looking now at my own beautiful dogs, I appreciate their good health and send good thoughts to that sweet stray.

Looking back, I’m glad we visited both Uruguay and Argentina. Anytime you travel way outside of your own zip code is good. The people we met were friendly to non-Spanish speaking tourists; the prices (relative to the US) were good; tipping wasn’t mandatory but 10% was welcome, if you were so inclined. Good food; good wine; good scenery.

What we missed were peanuts. We looked for them, but peanuts don’t seem to be available in either Uruguay or Argentina.

We also missed quick lunches and efficiently run airports. The crumbling, littered sidewalks seem a metaphor for the economic problems of these countries.

It’s wonderful to travel but better still to return. Even if things aren’t perfect in the US, being away makes you appreciate living here. Glad to be home.