Warning: The magic method Revisr::__wakeup() must have public visibility in /home/dhorg/public_html/baires.elsur.org/wp-content/plugins/revisr/revisr.php on line 113
Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance » 2005 » July

July 2005

The Irish in Argentina

Somewhere, way back, I have some ancestors from Ireland. My last name of Barry is certainly very Irish. Imagine my surprise when I first saw the name Barry as a surname among a few Argentines. Of coure, it’s pretty rare and these folks have first names like Juan or Luis. I just imagine that my cousins back in Tennessee might find the idea of a Juan Barry rather humorous but the Irish/Argentine blend does exist. I aim to find out more about it and see if I can locate any long, long lost cousins. The best place to start such a search is with the Irish Argentine Historical Society, an international group that is examining the lives, settlements, and achievements of the Irish in Argentina. I don’t know why but genealogy and family history are big things for anyone with Irish roots.

Founded only in 2003, the Irish Argentine Historical Society is busy working on a number of research projects and educational programs. The executive committee consists of researchers and individuals from around the world who are interested in Irish migration patterns. (When I moved to Miami I also was surprised to learn that the Irish had also went to Cuba).

The Irish Argentine Historical Society’s web site consists of several fascinating sections. An introduction provides background for those with little knowledge of Irish emigration to Argentina. Another section provides information about the Irish counties with high rates of emigration to Latin America. The “Journey” section has articles about 19th and early 20th century travel to South America including a list of 7,000 names of Irish who arrived in Buenos Aires. The “settlement” section has an extensive list of Irish settlers in Argentina as well as burial records. Some oral histories are also available.

What an incredible resource! I’ll be spending a lot of time with this material!

Directory of Jewish Cemeteries in Buenos Aires

AMIA, the Jewish Community Center of Buenos Aires, has an online database of grave locations for the four Jewish cemeteries [update: this link is updated and now works again. ] in Buenos Aires: Berazategui, Ciudadela, Liniers, and Tablada. You can search by last name. AMIA also provides directions and information (in Spanish) for visiting each of the cemeteries.

Update: AMIA has changed their web site, so the link to the online database of the cemeteries isn’t working. I also couldn’t find it on their new site. Perhaps they will add that back in the future. It was a good resource.

Update October 15, 2009: The link to the online database of Jewish cemeteries in Buenos Aires is now working again.

I did update the link to the page with directions to each of the cemeteries, but that page – for now – is only in Spanish.

Note: Comments closed due to excessive spam.

“You look maahhhvelous”

Billy Crystal as Fernando LamasSo, how did I not know until now that Fernando Lamas, that suave icon of bad TV acting in the 1970s was from Buenos Aires? Of course, Lamas, who died in 1982, is mostly remembered for Billy Crystal’s Saturday Night Live impersonation of him and the famous catchphrase “You look maahhhvelous”….now, I won’t be able to get those words out of my head when walking through Barrio Norte.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Mercedes Sosa!

July 9 is not only Argentina’s Independence Day but today is also the 70th birthday of singer Mercedes Sosa.

Mercedes Sosa is one of the most well-known singers from Argentina. She sings folklore, songs of protest and social concern that were inspired by her native heritage and her roots in the provinces. In the 1970s her songs were censored by the military dictatorship ruling Argentina. She went into exile in 1979 until 1982 when the the dictatorship ended.

Since the 1960s Mercedes Sosa has performed throughout the world at top venues including Carnegie Hall in New York City.

I was fortunate to see Mercedes Sosa perform in Miami Beach a couple of years ago at the Jackie Gleason Theater. I had gotten seats fairly close to the front and it was an incredible concert. For weeks afterwards, I had one of her CDs in my stereo set to wake me up every morning with the sound of her voice.

Read these reviews of her concert performances, from London’s Guardian and from Colombian singer Marta Gomez who writes a wonderful entry about Mercedes Sosa, for whom she opened the concert at Boston’s Berklee Performance Center in 2003.

At 70 Mercedes Sosa is not performing so much anymore but if you get a chance to see her in concert then you definitely should go. If you don’t own one or more her albums, then go get one today.

Xul Solar

Xul Solar (1887-1963) is one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, yet he is little known outside of his native Argentina.


Repeatedly, I have asked people with art history degrees about Xul Solar and have been met with only blank stares. Since first seeing Xul Solar’s incredible watercolors two years ago, I’ve been fascinated by his work and the story of his life. His friend Jorge Luis Borges referred to Xul Solar as the most intellectual person that he knew.

Admirers and newcomers to Xul Solar’s artwork are in luck. A wonderful exhibition Xul Solar: Visiones y Revelaciones featuring over 150 of his works are on display at MALBA until August 15, 2005. The exhibition will then travel to the Pinacoteca in Sao Paulo. A beautifully illustrated exhibit catalogue with in-depth essays is also for sale from the museum’s bookstore.

If you cannot visit Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo during the exhibits, be sure not to miss the Museo Xul Solar in Buenos Aires. The museum building itself is an excellent renovation of Xul Solar’s Palermo home.

Reprints of Xul Solar’s paintings do not prepare you for the vibrant colors of the actual works. You really need to see the art of Xul Solar in person to appreciate it fully.

I’m fascinated by the early 20th century avant-garde that existed in Buenos Aires. It was one of the most dynamic cultural movements of the age yet is poorly documented in English. I’ll be posting more about Xul Solar and his contemporaries as I continue my research in this area.

Cromagnon, Memories of Young Lives Lost

At the corner of calles Mitre and Ecuador in Buenos Aires, 194 lives were lost amid the fumes and smoke that engulfed club Cromagnon on the night of December 30, 2004.


They had come on a warm night of the austral summer to hear Callejeros, one of the more popular bands on Argentina’s rock scene. When starting that evening never did they imagine that their lives would end here.

As so often with the tragic death of the young a makeshift memorial emerged. Six months later, this one remains, filled with expressions of sorrow by those who lived and those who were left behind. Gently placed on the ground or hung from a wire stretched across the now closed street are dozens of rosaries along with the remnants of everyday items once touched by those who died. What seems ordinary in life becomes cherished in death: a girl’s white tube top with the name of a favorite band delicately written on the ink in pink and black.

I first heard about this tragedy while sitting in a remote cabin high up in the northern Patagonian Andes. We had planned for several weeks without TV over the holidays. But on the drive from Neuquén we had heard about the tsunami on the radio while stopped at a gas station. As news junkies we were dismayed that we had spent several days traveling without hearing about the tsunami. After arriving at the cabin, we glad to see that it had DirecTV. As we watched the endless coverage of the tsunami, news of the nightclub fire in Buenos Aires crawled along the bottom of the screen. I called Ceci into the room from the kitchen and we turned to CNN Español, hoping for a live report from Buenos Aires.

Walking upon the club Cromagnon today, one is met with a sense of surprise and a heavy feeling as one realizes what happened here. This area of town, around Estación Once, is not so far from the well-heeled barrios where the tourists flock. But a tourist will never find his way here. Outside the train station on calle Mitre, a dozen city buses continuously drop off and pick-up passengers. Bordering calles Mitre and Ecuador is the formerly grand Plaza Miserere. At the center of the plaza is a large mausoleum containing the remains of Bernardino Rivadavia, Argentina’s first president. Standing guard around the tomb, and seemingly the only ones to care anymore about its existence, are dozens of feral cats. From their perch on the tomb the cats must have watched the horror that unfolded across the street on the night that the Cromagnon burned.

Stretched between poles and street signs outside the club are graffiti covered bedsheets, hanging like prayer flags outside a temple. The writings on these banners, that sway in the breeze, speak of a family’s sudden loss: “Voices. Voices. I hear voices in my head. Where is my daughter? Where is my sister?” [translated from the Spanish].

Above the street, shoes dangle by their laces over the electrical wire. Empty shoes, never to be worn again, have become one of the symbols of the tragedy. One of the most moving parts of the memorial is a pile of dozens of shoes that belonged to the kids who were trapped in the burning club, the emergency exits locked shut.

Stretched in front of the memorial next to the club are four rows of seats, arranged as if a meeting is about to take place. Then you realize that the seats are for families to come, sit, rest, and remember. It’s like a waiting room on the street. The rows of chairs look like they came from an actual waiting room, perhaps from the train station down the street. Some of the chairs are covered by an awning. The same awning stretches over the items left at the memorial. Between the rows of chairs has been placed a locked wooden collection box that is obviously for donations.

Scattered among the items in the memorial are a few toys, such as a stuffed “Barney”. One of the more shocking aspects of the tragedy is that among the dead included a number of very young children who had accompanied their parents to the club.

The walls outside the club are covered with haunting murals. Camping tents have been thrown up outside the doors of the club. The men staying there keep watch over the memorial. The emotional toil on the families and friends of the victims, as well as the survivors, must be tremendous. This is the kind of trauma that one never really gets over. Eventually, with time, one just learns to cope and to live with it – every day.

« Previous Page