To start with, let’s get one thing straight; I haven’t been to Argentina recently. I wish I had, but I was last there in mid 2009, and then only briefly (spent more time there in 2005). This is a posthumous post, filling in some gaps in my back story. Last time I did this it confused a few people, but I’m persisting. The Philiad needs an Argentina category.
I’d been in Bolivia for about six months (longer according to the immigration officials on the border who cleaned out my wallet), and then in Paraguay for a couple of weeks. I’d loved both countries, loved their simplicity. They were so themselves, uncomplicated by cosmopolitanism (although Paraguay managed to be more cosmopolitan than Bolivia). In Bolivia I was excited when I saw the occasional Burger King; it was a sign of how little of that kind of stuff was around.
Then I left, crossing from Paraguay into Argentina and spending a single day in Córdoba, and all that other worldly stuff came clattering back. International brands and fashion everywhere; Argentinian politicians apparently didn’t nurture a fear of all things Western in the same way that their Bolivian buddies did.
The billboards and fast food chains and department stories were interesting only because I hadn’t seen anything like them for a while. What was really interesting was all the art. Bolivia had graffiti; most of it read Evo cumple or Evo carajo. Paraguay even had a little bit of street art. Córdoba, however, was covered in stencils, and other art. It was dizzying to walk the streets and be confronted by so many messages.
My 12ish hours in Córdoba passed in a heartbeat, and before I knew it I was leaving a country that already felt familiar, climbing through the Andes, and returning to Santiago, where my trip had started.
Plenty of Santiago was dull and grey – there may be less impulse to ornament in a city that enjoys the Andes as a constant backdrop – but some areas of the city were festooned with art (and this is nothing compared to Valparaiso).
Wandering around the neighbourhoods made fashionable by Pablo Neruda, the streets alternating between stark stencils and playful murals; it was a little bit like crashlanding in Oz and seeing the world in colour. Not that Bolivia was black-and white exactly; it had its own colours. There were just certain colours that didn’t feature on its palette.
I swooned about, snapping photos and wishing I had the money to blow in the open-fronted bars and international restaurants. The trip out of Bolivia had been hard; it felt too soon to be leaving. Still, if it had to happen (and my flagging bank account and the grim employment situation in Bolivia dictacted that it absolutely had to), then at least my return to the wider world could be made as easy on the eyes as possible…