Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mar Del Plata

Mar del Plata is a big beach town--a city really--about 5 hours southeast of the capital. I guess it's sort of like Atlantic City as it's the traditional beach escape for Buenos Aires and has been for 100 years, so it's enormous, with big hotels, casinos, Vegas-type shows and private beaches. It's a zoo during the summer months (January, February), but it was delightful tranquil in March.

It's also famous for odder things, such as the 11-story fall of a famous comedian/actor, Alberto Olmedo
the video:

and the place where the poet Alfonsina Storni walked into the sea (suicide)

and where a young girl named Evalina went on hunger strike in the hopes that Evita would be the vice presidential candidate when Peron was running for a second term in 1952. By this time, Evita's popularity was eclipsing her husband's, and his advisors (and probably Peron himself, an unsentimental powermonger and probably threatened by the fact she was outshining him) wouldn't allow it. It was the ulitmate betrayal of all she'd done for him. But he also knew she had cancer by then, and he kept it from her when the doctors informed him, so he used it ultimately as the excuse that she wasn't up for the job. Who knows, the drama and opera of the Perons is too much for anyone to get their head around. Sadly Evalina, who was fasting in one of these beach tents (lots of private beaches here--thank goodness this isn't allowed in California, pictured below, was washed out to sea when an enormous storm hit, or so the story goes.

This may all sound a tad morbid, but they're kind of into death here, in a very different way than in the US. It has a more religious feel here than a scandalous one, or as if it's a moment of failure. I don't know, this is a developing idea I guess, but I think death in America is treated sort of like poverty, as if it were a weakness. That's pretty twisted. There's a darkness here, but it's real so you sort of embrace it? Again, just a developing idea, as such things don't digest fast. But death is definitely not 'other' here.

The casino


I like the ceramic art on the building on the left

It was a relief to enjoy seafood for days on end, as it's hard to come by in meat-obsessed Buenos Aires.
We ate like pigs at Chichilo, a huge Seafood place down at the port, founded by an Italian family after WWII, where we enjoyed merluza, paella, rabas (squid) and bunuelos de algas marinas (seaweed and flour fritters)

the fat man post-feast. I'm running, but I'm gaining weight in this fat-centered diet. I need my fresh, light California cuisine!

Speaking of fat, these medialunas (the standard breakfast of Argentines, along with coffee) are the size of cats. One can choose between medialunas de grasa (that's fat as in meat fat) or medialunas de manteca (which is butter here). Either way, you're doomed. We called these giant puppies Media-planetas

I love to walk, and so does Ezequiel. We walked about 10 miles through Mar del Plata which is the best way to get to know a place and to find weird off the beaten track phenomena.

One comes across things like this when one gets away from the main thoroughfares. Evangelism. An invasion of God's love...nothing like military analogies to make one feel loved. This one features a sign with, I guess, an angel/cherub/infant, same difference (white-skinned and blue-eyed. This  makes one wince as there's a very pronounced color prejudice here. Note God's big nose and dark hair. Let's see, God is a Mediterranean with a corporate haircut but the angels are Norwegian?)
Nothing makes Catholicism a relief like the above. And wouldn't you know it, we next found a Lourdes Grotto in our peregrinations. And say what you will, but these places have good energy. I think because people bring their best selves here. A Lourdes Grotto attracts people who are in serious trouble sincerely asking for help. It was truly a sanctuary. I think people need to drop the theology and concentrate on the place. Quiet caves are good things.

But all good things must come to an end, and right next door to the grotto was this cheesy piece of Catholic kitsch, complete with mechanical assumption into heaven (and I mean loud, clunking chain mechanical)

It was a full-on model Holy Land, with over-sized ducks and creche figurines walking around. I spotted several magi, meandering about alone, looking lost, and way too many shepherds. Speaking of religion.....

Shoe store named for the city of my birth

This fountain was in front of our little worker co-op hotel. You can walk across those blue parts and there is a flame burning in the center. It memorializes local boys lost in the Malvinas War. Always so sad to see names with dates that add up to about 20 years.

Cervantes is everywhere. It's funny because there are Plaza San Martin's in every city (he's the great liberator who drove the Spanish out of Arg, Chile, Peru) and there's always a statue of San Martin in those plazas. In the Plaza de Espana's, also ubiquitous, there's always a Don Quixote.

 I like this sculpture but it's weirdly in honor of real estate brokers. Go figure. There are probably few people less heroic or commendable than real estate brokers.

This was too good to pass up (note fresh turd at left). The amount of dog shit and litter in Argentina is embarrassing.

Only a matter of time. Skater culture has finally been co-opted. Skater culture is big here, and I like it. It's like a way for young guys to be macho and aggressive without hurting anyone else. More skaters, less football, less war.

A typical Argentina suburban house. Weird architecture, I'm not quite sure what it is...a weird Spanish/Italian/German hybrid.
Then we bussed home in the rain....moving like a......

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