April 2006

Religious Advertising

Ever since I wrote the posting about Borges and Judas, then the one about Easter in Miramar, I’m seeing a lot of religious advertising on my blog …I’ve not become a holy roller…it’s from google’s adsense. If you read through an RSS reader, then you’re fortunate not to see it…evidently google’s context-sensitive ads need a little finetuning. So, I’m adding any ads about Jesus and God to my filter block in adsense…the whole ad thing has been an experiment anyway…it’s scarey the kind of ads that people place through google with titles like ‘blood of god’, ‘do jews believe in jesus’, ‘garbling the gospel’…even more disturbing is that people actually look those sites. Being from Tennessee, I’m used to religious fanatics but I don’t wan them advertising on my blog.

Street Crime in Buenos Aires

You are welcome to share your story if you are a tourist and victim of crime in Buenos Aires. Your experiences may help others avoid a problem.

Feb 8, 2012 WARNING: If you are mugged in Buenos Aires do NOT attempt to fight off the thieves. They are usually armed, either with gun or knife. This morning a tourist taking photographs was killed when three men attempted to steal his camera and bag. When he resisted he was stabbed and died moments later. This is particularly disturbing since Plaza San Martín is generally one of the safest spots for tourists. It’s a place I would consider safe for taking photographs and not getting robbed. But just be aware that crime can happen anywhere in the city. Be careful, be safe. Enjoy the city & don’t give up your life for a camera.

NOTE: Most people finding this post & leaving comments do so by searching Google for “street crime in Buenos Aires”. The comments below are generally from people who already have been victims of street crime in Buenos Aires. Potential tourists also should be aware that thousands of people visit Buenos Aires each year without encountering any problems. But problems with crime do exist.

I feel very safe walking around Buenos Aires and even where I live in San Telmo, which some people think is not a very safe area. But, again, today I was reminded that thieves come in all types.

Walking out to get the paper this afternoon, I saw two teenage girls chasing another teenage girl and a guy through the intersection of Tacuarí and Brasil.

At first, I didn’t think anything about it. There’s a school on this block and you often see teenagers chasing each other around, just playing. All the teens looked around the same age, appeared to be working class kids from the area.

So, I thought that it was just a game though the two people being chased were taking some chances darting out into traffic. And the girl being chased was smiling, as if it was all a joke, though I did notice she had a backpack in her hands, which is what the other girls appeared to be after.

By this time, a small crowd was gathering on the corner and the girls doing the chasing started shouting, “ladrón”. At that point, everyone standing around started to realize that it wasn’t fun and games. A couple of young guys standing next to me on the corner took off across the street and chased down the girl with the bag.

They finally got the bag back but not the girl or the guy who took it and not before whatever was in the bag was stolen. A policeman eventually arrived and the girl tearfully explained what had happened as she looked through her bag.

This is the third robbery that I have witnessed in the past year. Interestingly, all the victims of those three robberies were not American or European tourists – as one might expect – but South Americans. Indeed, the girl today definitely was local. We have a porteña friend who had her digital camera stolen, snatched straight from her hands while she was taking a photograph. And in front of the Obelisc we saw a man get his wallet lifted from his front pants pocket.

In the other two incidents, the thieves looked like thieving, low-life types. But today’s culprits appeared to be ordinary people, whom you would never suspect. But I don’t want to sound alarmist. I see people wandering around snapping photos with digital cameras all the time. So, I guess it’s just a reminder to be cautious – but not paranoid – of your valuables and your surroundings.

Ceci also saw a man get his wallet stolen as he tried to board a bus in front of Estación Constitución.

A final word about safety in San Telmo: in the past few months, I have noticed that there is now a policeman stationed on just about every other street corner. Their presence is quite obvious at night when the streets are rather empty, but they’re around during the day also. The problem during the day is that the policemen are often hanging out in some kiosk or chatting to the guy selling newspapers. So, you probably have to yell loudly to get their attention. And, I maybe I’m wrong, but somehow I just don’t get the impression that policemen here are going to do a TJ Hooker and chase anyone down. (Ok, I’m showing my age in that cultural reference to American TV). But I do feel safer knowing that the police are fairly visible.

Update: As of 7/29/2014, comments on this post are disabled due to spam.

Puerto Madero

I’ve never understood the fascination of porteños with Puerto Madero. Other than the bridge designed by Calatrava, I’ve never seen Puerto Madero as anything more than the typical riverfront development that can be found in many mid-sized U.S. cities. Yet, I’ve recently developed a new appreciation for the area.

A while ago, Ceci started to work with one of the many high-tech companies with offices in Puerto Madero. The office spaces in those buildings are very pleasant. Ceci works with a delightful group of people and it’s probably the best working experience of her life. I’m very happy for her, particularly since good jobs are hard to find in this country.

In the late afternoons, I often head over to Puerto Madero to meet her after work so that we can do something downtown or just walk back to San Telmo together. I often will arrive in Puerto Madero an hour or so earlier and find a seat on a shady bench. It’s actually quite relaxing. Compared with San Telmo, Puerto Madero is incredibly quiet.

Lately, I’ve also enjoyed going over to Costanera Sur, a short walk away. It gets rather crowded on weekends but during the week Costanera Sur is a place where one can really escape the noise and sometimes frantic pace of the city.

I still think that there’s no reason for tourists to spend time in Puerto Madero, though I continue to see a lot of them wandering around. There are just so many other fascinating parts to Buenos Aires to explore if you’re only here for a few days.

And I don’t really understand why anyone would want to live in Puerto Madero. The apartments, while surely nice, are way overpriced. Walking among those apartment buildings, I feel like I’m in some generic part of a boring U.S. city. There is nothing about Puerto Madero that is Buenos Aires.

But, indeed, I’ve come to realize that is also its appeal. Puerto Madero is where you go when you want to feel like you’re in some place other than Buenos Aires, or even South America for that matter.

Easter Holiday in Miramar

We spent the long holiday weekend in the coastal resort town of Miramar, which is about 50 km west of Mar del Plata. We went with a group of friends, one of whom – celebrating a birthday this weekend – has a summer home in Miramar.

While there was a record number of people traveling around the country this weekend, 2.3 million is the latest figure I read, you would never know that in Miramar. From the looks of it, Miramar appeared to be at only about 20% occupancy, which was fine by us. We really enjoyed the quiet nature of being away from Buenos Aires.

Miramar is a typical oceanfront town with high-rise apartment buildings on the coast. We stayed in one of those buildings and it was a remarkably nice apartment. Strong waves pound the coast and there were a number of surfers. The drive from Mar del Plata to Miramar offers some very nice scenery. I wanted to visit neighboring Mar del Sud, just 15 km from Miramar, but didn’t have the opportunity. Miramar has a nice walkway along the beach for enjoying the ocean views. I actually gotten to the point where I now prefer the beach on a cold, blustery day rather than warm, sunny ones. (I lived too long in Miami).

Miramar has a number of stores, if you’re into shopping. The place looks like it gets quite busy during the summer but the off-season is very tranquil. The nicest aspect of Miramar are the charming stone houses. While Miramar isn’t my favorite place on the coast (I actually prefer even smaller, more woodsy places), Miramar is a nice small, family-oriented town with good beaches and there is a forested area on the western edge of town. Also, there’s the unusual Bosque Energetico, which I will blog about in a future posting. I’ll also try to put up some photos from Miramar later.

The drive back on the autopista from Mar del Plata was incredibly congested. At one point the two-lane road north became four lanes as people drove on both shoulders of the road. But those impatient drivers got a surprise when they ran into the police blockade issuing citations.

We finally got home about 1 am after leaving Miramar at 5pm. We were in two cars following each other. At one point we got separated and had to wait at a Shell station for our friends to catch up. It was fortunate that we waited for them. Later, just as we went through the final toll booth before Buenos Aires, the car with our other friends broke down. So that was another long wait.

I slept late this morning, only to be awaken by a group of drum banging piqueteros marching down my street, welcoming me back to life in Buenos Aires.

Borges & Judas

National Geographic is getting a lot of publicity for its research on the Gospel of Judas, a heresy just in time for Holy Week. It’s actually quite interesting. But, in this age of the Da Vinci Code, I’m sure someone will soon be writing a bestselling novel about how modern-day descendants of Judas extract some rare, truth revealing, document from the Vatican library, or perhaps they will just sue the Vatican for defamation of character. Dan Brown or John Grisham, take your pick.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote two stories revolving around the tale of Judas, long before this new gospel was discovered. Both stories take the typical route in which Borges writes fiction about supposedly (and sometimes) real scholarly works. (If Borges were alive today, he probably would be up to all sorts of mischief inserting believable falsehoods into Wikipedia).

The first published in 1944 is Tres versiones de Judas, Three Versions of Judas about a gnostic scholar Nils Runeberg who published a study titled “Kristus och Judas”, which follows the premise that the “betrayal” by Judas was actually a sacrifice of Judas, one equivalent to the sacrifice of Jesus. Borges wrote “Judas refleja de algún modo a Jesús”, “Judas is somehow a reflection of Jesus”.

Thirty years later, in 1975, Borges published another story on the Judas theme, La Secta de los Treinta, The Sect of Thirty about a fourth century AD Latin manuscript in the library of the University of Leyden. Borges adds that Gibbon mentions the manuscript in a footnote to the 15th chapter of The Decline and Fall. (I don’t have a copy of Gibbon handy but I assume that it’s a false reference). The first paragraph of the story sets the context and the rest purports to be a translation of the ancient text, except for the final sentence which is one of Borges’ usual twists.

The manuscript is about a cult that worships both Jesus and Judas equally. The betrayal by Judas, thereby condemning himself to hell, was a premeditated act by Judas so that the divinity of Jesus could be demonstrated by the resurrection.

Find and read both stories this Holy Week, then ponder the actions of Judas.

Where am I?

I’ve been away from the blog for almost a month even though a lot happened this past month. There was the 30 year anniversary of the beginnings of the dictatorship, my own anniversary of living in Buenos Aires, the President’s campaign against buying beef, and other assorted items.

But I only have a limited capacity for writing and I’ve spent March working on another writing project: the completion of the first draft of a novel that I started last year. If you’re wondering, the novel is about a man in Buenos Aires who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of his neighbor.

I will try to blog more often now that the first draft is completed. But, now I’m working on the second draft and probably will be spending even more time writing than blogging, particularly since the novel is getting closer and closer to completion. But somehow I will try to fit the blog into my writing schedule.

I’ve also am now spending very little time online, sometimes not logging in for several days at at time. And when I do, only for a few minutes to check email and a few other things. I started using the Internet in 1990 and this is the first time in 16 years that I’ve been away from it for a significant amount of time. And, I’m actually enjoying not being online!