Before the collapse Buenos Aires was one of the most expensive cities in the world, but today you can take a taxi across town or eat a fantastic steak dinner for about U.S. $10.
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The Caseros Prison in Buenos Aires is not just a regular jail. Used to lock up political prisoners during La Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) of Argentina, it is the cause of much controversy and criticism. Visiting the ‘carcel de Caseros’ is a sobering reminder of the turmoil of Argentina’s not-too-distant past. Caseros prison has long been abandoned, and from outside the formidable but crumbling walls you can see the imposing central tower, which stands like a silent, hollow sentinel.
About a year ago my wife and I went to the movies to distract us from a difficult period in our lives. I had no way of knowing then that one day I would end up in a shoe shop in downtown Buenos Aires wearing a Carlos Gardel hat while strutting the tango snugly against various young Argentine women in tight clothes. And not just with my wife’s permission, but it was her brilliant idea in the first place.
It’s strange to think that not more than five months before I was sitting at my father’s table engaged in a heated discussion on Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Funny vs. not funny; comedic performance vs. social responsibility. On the surface, this may look like a completely unimportant event, and perhaps, it was.
Fast forward to my time in Argentina. I was sitting at an outdoor café in Salta with a friend, having a beer and recounting the main points of this bitter argument. My friend, sharing my sense of humor, unpacked a set of Borat impressions, which caught the ear of a stranger walking past who promptly turned and delivered a spot-on impression of Borat. “In my country…” the stranger smiled mischieviously. Recognizing our common Borat bond, the stranger soon sat down and introduced himself.
Just a two hour bus ride from Buenos Aires and a few centuries back in time, there is a bona fide gaucho pueblo. San Antonio de Areco, 112 km from the capital city, is by presidential decree a historical town of national interest, and with good reason. Dispersed amongst the beautiful period houses are authentic pulperias, almacénes and the long-established workshops of craftsmen and artisans.