Alexandra Lazar: Buenos Aires Blog
After arriving at the airport, we headed to our hotel. The Savoy Hotel is rich in history and has been graced by the presence of famous individuals, such as Eva Perón and Albert Einstein. At 2:30 p.m., we left to take a city tour.
Buenos Aires is unlike other Latin American cities in that it is extremely European. Even the architecture reflects this, and at times, one feels as if he or she is in Paris or Barcelona. Many of the people living in Buenos Aires have ancestors from countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. Our corporate presentations emphasized this idea: to treat Buenos Aires like other Latin American cities would be detrimental to your business strategy and would prevent you from conducting business successfully in this city.
During our city tour, we saw famous attractions and visited several neighborhoods. One of my favorite locations was La Boca, a neighborhood characterized by brightly painted houses and streets that are filled with artists, dancers, street performers and of course, tango dancers. Restaurants and cafés line the streets, and one can just sit down for a quick meal and enjoy tango dances.
We also visited Recoleta, considered one of the trendiest areas in Buenos Aires. Here, one can visit the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta, or the Recoleta Cemetery. This cemetery is often considered “a city within a city,” and it is the resting place for many famous politicians, artists, poets and military heroes. There are more than 4,000 vaults, and one can get lost just simply walking the streets within the cemetery. During our tour, we visited the grave of Eva Perón, commonly known as Evita. You might associate her with one of Madonna's movies or that song, “Don't Cry for Me Argentina.” However, I would argue that her legacy is so profound in Argentina that no movie can do her justice. She was the wife of President Juan Perón and during his presidency in the 1940s, she advocated reform to help the poor and fought for women's rights. She died a premature death at the age of 33, after losing her battle to cancer. Today, she is exalted by many Argentinians and is considered by most people to be one of the most influential individuals in Argentina's history.
Another attraction in Recoleta is the Floris Genérica, a famous metal sculpture in the United Nations Park. Designed by the architect Eduardo Fernando Catalano, the Floris Genérica is a flower and is considered an environmental structure. Its metallic petals are heavily influenced by solar rays, therefore the sculpture is fully opened during the day and closed at night.
Our city tour also contained a visit to Puerto Madero, one of the newest areas in Buenos Aires. This old port area has been renovated and modernized so that brick warehouses are now trendy restaurants, upscale apartments and office buildings with a beautiful view of the canals.
The city tour of Buenos Aires revealed the intriguing complexity of this beautiful city. From its old architecture to its skyscrapers, Buenos Aires resembles both a traditional and modern city.
Sunday, March 14
We had another free day, so I decided to do a boat tour of Le Tigre Delta. Le Tigre is a river that is also home to a community of residents. Some people live there all year round, while others go there on the weekend or in the summer. Their houses are extremely quaint, and it is hard not to feel envious of those who get to enjoy the serenity of living on the river. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking; it almost feels as if it is from a movie or storybook. It is not uncommon to see people on their boats, children playing on the docks, or individuals sunbathing or swimming in the water.
Monday, March 15
We attended presentations in the morning, which began promptly at 9:00 am. The purpose of these presentations was to learn more about the Argentine economy and to gain a better understanding of the business climate in Argentina. Our speakers included Andres Borenstein from Universidad de Palermo and Charles Ranado, the Commercial Attaché from the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Commercial Service. These presentations discussed the economics that affect Argentina, the government's interventionist role, and the norms and values that guide successful business relationships in the country.
Later that day, my fellow classmates and I went back to Recoleta to walk around and enjoy a delicious dinner. We passed the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, and it was great to observe Argentine students who were close in age to us. We also went back to visit the Floris Genérica in order to see its petals close at night.
Tuesday, March 16
We left the hotel at 4:45 am in order to drive to the location of our corporate visit. The company I have been studying this semester, Los Grobo, is 4 hours away from Buenos Aires. It is located in the fertile region of Las Pampas, where agriculture is prevalent. Los Grobo, a corporation specializing in agribusiness, is perhaps one of the most innovative companies in Argentina right now. The company, which remains in the control of the family, has succeeded in using cutting-edge technology and vertical integration to create a valuable network of farmers, producers and distributors. Los Grobo not only specializes in soybean production but trades commodities according to prices listed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In addition, the company has its own legal and auditing departments. Los Grobo's innovative ideas have enabled it to influence what it means to be a “modern farmer” in Argentina.
Wednesday, March 17
For our last full day in Argentina, teachers and students went to an estancia, which is a large rural estate or ranch. Here, we enjoyed BBQ, empanadas and drinks. The BBQ was especially delicious, since steak is one of Argentina's claims to fame. In fact, Argentina has one of the world's highest meat consumption per capita. So all you steak lovers should definitely try to plan a trip to Argentina when you can. At the ranch, we also watched a gaucho show, where men displayed their skills on horseback. Gauchos are considered to be Argentina's version of “cowboys.” In addition, we had the opportunity to engage in leisurely activities, play sports and sit by the pool. It was truly a relaxing day and much needed after our busy corporate visits from the previous day. Unfortunately, our day at the estancia was bittersweet: we had the chance to spend quality time with our friends but we also had our imminent departure in the back of our minds. The next day, we departed from Argentina and headed home to the United States.
I leave for Argentina in exactly one week. Words cannot express how excited and curious I am to visit. I look forward to immersing myself in a new culture and gaining exposure to a different way of life. Oh, and the great weather doesn't hurt either.