Ater 3 1/2 years living in Buenos Aires, we leave in 10 days. My relationship with this city has been love/hate and indifferent. How I feel about this city, the way I have lived here, is distinctly related to a particular mind-set. If one can use the word “soul” in this way, I have a European soul. I am most at home, most comfortable, when I am in Europe or a European-atmosphere. I most definitely do not have a Latin American soul; in fact, never once in my life did I feel interested in doing anything more in any part of Latin America than being a tourist through its standard destinations, and then not even near the top of any list of places I wanted to visit.
But then, Buenos Aires seems to be the most “Europeanized” city anywhere in Latin America. Virtually everyone you meet or see on the street could easily have just been teleported from Milan or Madrid, or even Paris. Almost all the prominent examples of architecture are more the style of Europe than Latin America.
So it doesn’t look like one is in Latin America when walking around Buenos Aires.
But you are. The people look European, the architecture looks European, but everything else is pure Latin America — from the banana republic politics to the lack of variety to the eternal mañana to the typical corruption and crime.
What I am certain to miss about Buenos Aires (when we are in Mexico City) is its European aspects: the café culture than can compete with the top three café societies in the world (Vienna, Paris, Rome), the leisurely social meals in restaurants, and the people who so willingly befriended and aided us.
I will miss the weather, which is as close to like the near-perfection of San Diego as any other place I’ve lived. I will miss the large green spaces and how well they are used by the people of Buenos Aires.
What I will not miss:
Leg-breaking, dog shit littered, decrepit excuses for sidewalks, which disguise pools of filthy water after rains or wash downs, that splatter from beneath the broken sidewalk tiles and drench your shoes and ankles.
The furious madness that consumes people when they get into a car, so the number one cause of death and maiming in this country is the result of traffic; and especially the bleating anger expressed through raging car horns, so loud that one cannot hold a conversation, even shouted, anywhere near any street.
A somewhat well-intended but dumbly xenophobic government that shoots itself in the foot (myopic protectionism, for a start) with almost every decision it makes.
Finally, what passes for “cuisine” here. This is the most bland and least imaginative diet I have encountered outside of the old Communist days in Eastern Europe. It is virtually impossible to get edible seafood anywhere here. Grilled meat dominates the cuisine. It lacks flavor, spices, and variety, and is on the whole, a heart-attack on a plate.
When I found out we were going to Mexico City next, the first thought that came to mind was: Fantastic! We will be able to eat again.
A few of my favorite cafés, the ones in which I spent the most time here.
So there it is, my last survey of living in Buenos Aires. I am ready to go.