Every time we have come here, I have been reminded how important it is to have good government. This beautiful country has suffered greatly at the hands of incompetent, greedy and even cruel leadership. The current inflation rate of 48% makes it impossible to save. Large transactions like home purchases must be made in cash US dollars, not local peso currency. As we wander around down town, we hear a steady chorus of "cambio" from middle class looking people who want to exchange their pesos for dollars. If they can't get dollars today, they know that their pesos will be worth less tomorrow. What a way to live.
Our hotel is in the historic area near the pink Presidential Palace. Every day the street are blocked off around it in preparation for demonstrations by various occupational groups for more pay. When they get the raises, this drives the inflation rate up further. This all has become so routine, that some poor folks make a meagre living by being paid to participate in the protests, marching around holding signs they sometimes don't bother to read. Since we have been here we have seen the police presence blocking the streets, but no protests. Perhaps they have become virtual.
The Presidential Palace is pink, because the colors of the two sides that fought for primacy after liberation from Spain wore red and white. Pink is a sign of unification and compromise. Our neighborhood also includes the cathedral where Pope Francis ministered to the poor before his final elevation to Popedom. This cathedral houses the tomb of Jose Marti, the man who liberated Argentina from the Spanish and then took an army of horses across the Andes to help liberate Chile and Colombia as well.
Forty years ago when young people protested against the military dictators who ruled the country, they were arrested and no one ever saw them again. To this day their mothers gather in a weekly silent protest, wearing white head coverings and marching in front of the palace. Their white bonnets are depicted on the pavement, a fitting commemoration. Evidently most of the young protestors were thrown out of airplanes into the sea, which is why no one ever found them again. A few gave birth while in jail and their babies were given to loyal military families. So far about 180 have been united with their grandmothers due to DNA testing. A horrible story.
Our city tour took us past many neighborhoods, some very pricey, some poor but quaint. The old architecture calls back to a classic French influence, which I find very appealing. The new stuff is square with reflective glass panels, suffering from a lack of imagination and not nearly as interesting to me. We were glad to return to La Boca, an old neighborhood settled by Sicilian immigrants who built their homes and buildings out of whatever they could scrounge from the harbor. They loved bright colors and used left over paint to color the corrugated metal and wooden scraps. Struggling artists have been attracted to the area and funky statues, murals and graffiti abound. Just like last time, we wished that we could have spent more time here. There was a lot to notice.
It is ironic that every BA tour features a lengthy stop at the cemetery La Recoleta. Eva Peron is probably its most famous occupant, but for centuries everyone who was anyone was buried here. Each tomb has a memorial building and some of the streets in the cemetery are more special than others. It pays to be buried in the best neighborhoods. Some of the memorials are in poor repair, perhaps because all the family members are inside and there is no one left to pay for the upkeep. La Recoleta is a history tour covering the best and brightest of Argentinian society.
Throughout my life we have been afraid of the Russians. Every time we travel out of the country, it is clear to me that we should be much more worried about the Chinese. There are so many of them and they work twice as hard as we do. Here they are building grocery stores right and left; you can identify them by the AC sign near the entrance. These folks never go on strike; they are quietly taking over the world.