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Kirchner & The Hostage Rescue Operation

December 30th, 2007 | 01:37 PM

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No Jingling All the Way This Holiday Season

December 29th, 2007 | 05:53 PM

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A sign in a San Telmo laundromat finds a polite way to remind
those dropping off their clothes to return with change in hand.

The sound of sleigh bells — something that may have seemed conspicuously absent to North Americans and Europeans who spent their first Christmas in Buenos Aires this week — was certainly not supplanted by what has become an increasingly unfamiliar phenomenon in Argentina: The sound of a coin-filled pocket or purse jingling as its owner walks down the street.

“No Hay Monedas” is a sign displayed as frequently in tiendas as “Fuera de Servicio” is on ATMs in Buenos Aires. And while a coin shortage should not surprise anyone living in a developing country, neither should the answer Reuters received from the Argentine Central Bank when the news agency recently asked why the bank did not release more coins.

“You have enough coins,” said the Bank to the people. “In fact, the reason you cannot find coins is because you are hoarding them in your homes.”

“Great. Thanks,” we reply. We return to searching for a gas station that sells Tic Tacs so we can break a two-peso bill for bus fare home.

The word among shopkeepers is that bus companies, which have been steadily consolidating since colectivos began to flourish after World War II, have made a business out of stockpiling coins and selling them back to shops at an inflated rate. The shopkeeper Reuters interviewed said the rate at which he buys coins from bus companies is roughly 97 pesos for 100. A Subte spokesman told BBC News in 2006 that transit companies were not the source of the problem, however: He said the subway receives only about half of the coins is asks the Central Bank for annually.

A recent Clarín article (in Spanish) quoted a Central Bank official who said the bank will inject 15 million 25-centavo coins into circulation before the end of 2007. This, in conjunction with over 400 million coins — mostly 5- and 10-centavo pieces — that the bank has already released this year, will represent an 11 percent increase in the total number of coins available in Argentina since 2006. The official, despite conceding the bank’s substantial allocation of “monedas” into circulation, maintains that there are plenty of coins available for everyone.

If people in Buenos Aires think they have it bad, change-wise, stories a friend of mine in Quito recently told me may make them feel better: He said it is not uncommon to face a 15-minute hold-up in large department stores while tellers page and wait for floor managers to come up front and authorize them to break something as small as a $20 bill.

On a recent Friday night, I found myself changeless while waiting for a bus from San Telmo and ducked into an autoservicio to see if I could procure a couple of one-peso coins for my two-peso bill. I recognized the teller from a pool game a few nights earlier and asked him simply if he could change my bill. When he said “No,” I asked to buy the cheapest item in the store. He glared, took my bill, and shoved two one-peso coins into my hand. While this tactic may occasionally allow you to get change without buying cheap crap you don’t really want, it is certainly no way to make friends — not while the coin situation remains as it is in Buenos Aires, anyway.

–Nate Martin

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The Argentine Post Gets a New Contributor

December 29th, 2007 | 09:12 AM

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Nate Martin grew up in Wyoming, then studied creative writing in another rectangular, conservative state in the U.S., then studied journalism in yet another. He moved to Buenos Aires in November for writing and adventure. He currently works on the international desk at the Buenos Aires Herald and also posts to his own blog, www.gratingspace.com.

The Argentine Post is pleased to welcome Nate aboard. Nate plans to contribute off and on to the Post, as well as to Scooping Argentina, during his stay in Buenos Aires.

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Photo Post – Guarding The Casa Rosada

December 28th, 2007 | 04:58 PM

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Two federal police officers saluting the Argentine flag (off in the distance) as it is taken down from a flagpole in the Plaza de Mayo.

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Porsche Sales Up As Economy Drives Demand

December 27th, 2007 | 01:42 PM

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Sales of new Porsche automobiles in Argentina are soaring as economic growth and an apparent decline in kidnappings and related crime is boosting demand for luxury cars, El Cronista newspaper reported Thursday.

A new Porsche is sold almost every other day, according to El Cronista. That puts sales up about 45% compared with a year ago. Nordenwagen, a local Porsche dealership, expects annual nationwide sales to jump another 30% to 220 in 2008 and to 300 in 2009. This represents a remarkable turnaround for Argentina’s luxury car industry, which saw sales tank after the country’s financial meltdown in 2002.

Until recently, many wealthy drivers hid their luxury cars from public view after a wave of kidnappings and luxury car robberies forced high-end vehicles off the streets. But with high-profile kidnappings and car robberies apparently on the decline, wealthy owners are again hitting the road with high-end cars, once again highlighting the gap between rich and poor.

Local Porsche prices range from around US $83,000 to US $227,000, according to Nordenwagen. Meanwhile, the average annual salary for an Argentine citizen in the top 10% of the country’s income bracket is US $8,385, according to the latest data from INDEC, the national statistics agency. That means it would take the average Argentine in this bracket about 10 years to earn enough to buy the cheapest new Porsche currently available.

In contrast, the average salary for an Argentine in the bottom 10% of the country’s income bracket totals US $278 annually. A person earning such a salary would have to work nonstop for about 299 years to make enough to buy the least expensive Porsche available. The average Argentine in the top bracket makes about 30 times more than do Argentines in the lowest income bracket, according to INDEC.

If the growth in sales continues, Argentina will become the fourth leading Porsche market in The Americas, behind Brazil (500 vehicles sold annually), Mexico (700) and the U.S. (3,000).

Sales of all cars are hitting new levels. A record 563,000 new car license plates are expected to be registered in Argentina in 2007, up 25% from the previous year. Through November, the sale of luxury cars was up 28% on the year, totaling 11,609.

Luxury cars account for about 1.5% of all cars sold, according to Nordenwagen. That figure eventually should rise to about 3%, a dealership manager told El Cronista.

Link: Argentine Porsche Dealership
Link: INDEC Income Distribution Data

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U.S. Conservative Compares Cristina & Hillary

December 26th, 2007 | 11:03 AM

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There is nothing profound or even insightful about this 4-minute video comparing Cristina Kirchner and Hillary Clinton. In fact, my guess is that the host of the video, who seems like an affably eccentric yet ignorant American conservative, doesn’t know much about Cristina Kirchner. I’d guess that the average reader of this blog knows far more about Cristina, her history and her politics. If this free market-oriented conservative knew more about Cristina’s interventionist economic policies and her fondness for Hugo Chavez, he probably would recoil. More than anything, this guy simply seems to be slamming Hillary. So what’s the value of posting his message here on The Argentine Post? I’m posting the video because:

1) It’s interesting enough. Though not edifying, the video is somehow entertaining.
2) It shows in part show much attention Cristina’s election has gotten around the world.
3) It shows how interconnected global politics and culture have become.
4) It shows how technological developments have revolutionized the ability of people to communicate directly with each other across cultural and geographical boundaries.

Here in this video, as in this blog, the communication is direct and immediate. It is unimpeded communication between the producer of a message (this conservative American guy, for example) and its intended recipient (you), regardless of where you are in the world. There is no need for an interlocutor. No need for any kind of intermediary or messenger.

Thanks to YouTube and blogging, anyone with an Internet connection can communicate directly with anyone anywhere in the world. There is no need to depend on traditional newspapers, TV stations, politicians or diplomats to transmit messages. By bypassing these traditional intermediaries, we may even be making them less relevant, less essential perhaps than at any time in history.

The Venezuelan suitcase scandal, and Cristina’s fierce reaction to it, showed us how politicians use traditional intermediaries to transmit messages that can influence international relations and even the well-being of a country’s people. Perhaps the time will come one day when our ability to communicate directly with people in other countries will become so pervasive that it will surpass and in some ways even supplant the kind of formal communication that has traditionally taken place between politicians and diplomats. If this happens, perhaps eventually it will make such politicians and their traditional messengers more subservient to the will of average citizens.

Regardless of how all of this plays out in the future, the communication that takes places between the author of this video and his viewers provides an interesting look at how people in different countries can differ in the way they see reality and, as a result, the way they see each other. To get a feel for this, check out the “comments” section that lies below the video on YouTube. Here is the link.

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Merry Christmas from The Argentine Post!

December 24th, 2007 | 01:48 PM

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Photo Post – Palo Borracho Tree

December 24th, 2007 | 10:48 AM

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Buenos Aires has many fantastic trees – the coolest of which is easily the “gomero” or “rubber tree.” But the lesser-known “palo borracho” or “drunken stick” is also an amazing tree. Its sharp thorns – or espinas – can prove incredibly painful if you bump into them. They’re also rare and exceptionally cool to look at.

I came across this one while shopping at the outlet stores on Cordoba in Palermo Viejo. It’s located on the 4200 block of Cordoba, near the Ossira Outlet store on the west side of the street. More commonly known as a “Floss Silk Tree,” this thorny creation is technically known in the U.S. as a “Paneira” or “Chorisia Speciosa” tree. Details:

“Mainly evergreen but will go deciduous briefly when they flower. Oval shaped medium sized tree growing to 30 to 60 ft tall and 20 to 40 ft wide. Fast rate of growth when young then slows down. Beautiful flowering tree in fall with showy pink to rosy colored blossoms. Trunk is stout, green in color and usually is armed with thick, heavy spines. Leaves are palmately compound with long petiole. Five leaflets per leaf. Fruit is a large pod appearing in spring. Pod opens and emits cotton like material. Cotton is used as stuffing material for things like pillows. Tree may go deciduous in autumn or when temp goes below 27 degrees F.”

The City of Buenos Aires has a “tree search” engine that allows you to look up any tree in the city by its scientific name. You can also look up a tree if you know the street address of its location. See the search engine here.

Source: The Tropical Flowering Tree Society

*This is the first of many “Photo Posts,” a new feature on The Argentine Post that will entail brief posts centered around pictures taken in Argentina.

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Five Argentine Indie Bands Worth Knowing

December 22nd, 2007 | 12:49 PM

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Many of you are familiar with Charly Garcia, Fito Paez, Soda Estereo and other legends of Argentine rock. But Argentina has many lesser-known, independent bands worth checking out. Some of these bands – like The Tormentos (Surf Board/beach music) and Los Alamos – even have some songs in English. Los Alamos even has a young U.S. expat among its musicians.

Here is a list of five indie bands worth your time:

1)
Band: El Robot Bajo El Agua
Recommended CD: Solo Resta Sumar
Official Site

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Buy Online
Where To Buy In Person:
“Anthology” Santa Fe 1670, Local 7, Subsuelo
“Miles” Honduras 4912
“Compakta” Cerviño 3556
“Magimusica” Corrientes 1644

2)
Band: Fantasmagoria
Recommended CD: Abracadabra
Official Site
MySpace
Listen to a Song
Buy Online
Where To Buy In Person:
“Anthology” Santa Fe 1670, Local 7, Subsuelo
“Miles” Honduras 4912
“Compakta” Cerviño 3556
“Magimusica” Corrientes 1644

3)
Band: The Tormentos
Recommended CD: Grab Your Board
Official Site
MySpace
YouTube

Where To Buy In Person:
“Anthology” Santa Fe 1670, Local 7, Subsuelo
“Miles” Honduras 4912
“Compakta” Cerviño 3556
“Magimusica” Corrientes 1644

4)
Band: Los Alamos
Recommended CD: No Se Menciona La Soga En Casa Del Ahorcado
Official Site - Not working on last attempt
MySpace
YouTube
Buy Online
Where To Buy In Person:
“Anthology” Santa Fe 1670, Local 7, Subsuelo
“Miles” Honduras 4912
“Compakta” Cerviño 3556
“Magimusica” Corrientes 1644


5)
Band: Coiffer
Recommended CD: No Es
Official Site

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Buy Online
Where To Buy In Person:
“Anthology” Santa Fe 1670, Local 7, Subsuelo
“Miles” Honduras 4912
“Compakta” Cerviño 3556
“Magimusica” Corrientes 1644


Kudos to the great Uli Coronel for helping me to discover these bands. You can find out more about him on his blog here (in Spanish).

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Learning Spanish with Dr. Tangalanga

December 20th, 2007 | 06:28 AM

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A recent Wall Street Journal story has brought back great memories of my first experiences in Argentina, and I just have to comment on the subject. The story discusses a local legend: 91-year-old Julio de Rizio, otherwise known as Dr. Tangalanga.

Tangalanga is a national treasure. He’s a crank-caller. But he’s nothing like your average crank-calling teenager. He’s an absolute master of the art. He artfully combines adolescent humor and vulgarity with the sophistication of an experienced comedian. He can brutally insult people over the phone – “¡Andá a la concha de tu madre, reverendo hijo de mil putas!” – but also manage to befriend the object of his verbal onslaught by the end of the conversation.

Tangalanga is unique and uniquely Argentine. He was unusually instrumental in my effort to dominate Spanish and master the subtleties of Argentine slang. I first heard Tangalanga in the Fall of 1995, when I came to Argentina to study Spanish. An Argentine friend, Fernando Pereira, introduced me to the good doctor and said I should learn Spanish by imitating Dr. Tangalanga’s calls. So I tried.

With help from Fernando and other friends, I made crank calls, in laughably bad Spanish, to unsuspecting Porteños. Together with my friends, we made dozens of calls over the period of several weeks. At first I hardly knew what I was saying, and I certainly had no idea what was being said to me on the other end of the phone. But the gimmick worked, and the idiomatic expressions and insults stuck in my mind, allowing me to learn slang in a way that I’d never forget. It was totally ridiculous, indecent and yet incredibly fun. I’ll never forget Tangalanga and how he made my friends and me laugh. Nor will I forget how his crank calls helped me to learn Spanish and gain a little insight into Argentine culture.

For anyone who is even moderately interested in Spanish (and who is not offended by vulgarity or a near total lack of respect for proper phone etiquette or even basic standards of decency), Tangalanga’s “work” is worth listening to or even – dare I say it – studying.

WSJ Story
Tangalanga on YouTube
Tangalanga’s Official Site
The WSJ story quotes Argentine philosopher Alejandro Rozitchner (a great friend who also is almost totally responsible for the founding of The Argentine Post). You can see his site (in Spanish) here. Kudos to both Alejandro and Ian Mount for highlighting the Tangalanga story and bringing it to the attention of all of you who are interested in all things Argentine. Check out Ian’s site here.

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A Perfect Little Escape From Buenos Aires

December 6th, 2007 | 10:11 AM

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Buenos Aires is a great city, but even its appeal can wear thin after enough time. If you’d like a little getaway without having to go too far, Barrancas de Alvear is a great option. It’s a restaurant located on the Rio de la Plata about 25 minutes north of Buenos Aires.

The restaurant has a long front lawn, palm trees, a few benches and a wonderful view of the river. There is even enough free space to play Frisbee or toss around an American football. If you get there early in the morning, as I did today, you can sit there and listen uninterruptedly to birds chirping and waves crashing against the coastline. It’s a perfect antidote to the noise of downtown Buenos Aires. For an hour or so this morning, I actually felt as if I were on vacation. Off in the distance, you may even be able to see sailboats moving up and down the river. You can also see the Buenos Aires skyline, by day or night.

The restaurant, located at Alvear & El Rio, is open from 10am to 2am during the week and even later on the weekends. It is a parillia, pub and tea house all wrapped into one. You can sit inside or out, and you can do so for as long as you like. Want to have a nice lunch and while grabbing a little sun? This is a nice place to do it.

Not too far down the road is Peru Beach, where you can scale a climbing wall, rent a kayak, go windsurfing, play roller hockey, take a Pilates class or simply people-watch. Peru Beach offers classes in all these activities. It also offers outdoor food and drink, though the caliber of the comida is about what you’d expect from a kitchen located right next to a hockey arena. If you want to mingle with local singles, this is not a bad place to be. Just be sure to lay off the Philadelphia Cream Cheese and hit the gym before you go shirtless here.

You can get to either place by taking the train from Retiro to Martinez, and then by grabbing a taxi. Or, if you’re the sporty type, you can get there by walking, running or cycling straight from the Martinez train station (which is on Alvear) all the way down to the river. Alternatively, you can simply drive north on Libertador until you get to Alvear. There, turn right and head down the hill to the river. The Barrancas restaurant entry is just a few meters left from the corner of Alvear & El Rio. To get to Peru Beach, turn left (or north) on El Rio and keep going until you hit Peru.

Barrancas de Alvear
4792-4262
Alvear & El Rio
www.barrancasdealvear.com.ar (was not working when I tried it)

Peru Beach
4793-5986
4793-8762

http://www.peru-beach.com.ar/

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Comparing Subways In NYC and Buenos Aires

December 6th, 2007 | 07:57 AM

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Click on image for an animated history of New York’s subway development

With all the recent talk about expanding the subway system in Buenos Aires, it may be instructive to take a look at how the system compares with its counterpart in another great cosmopolitan center, New York City.

Mauricio Macri, who becomes the new mayor of Buenos Aires December 9, has proposed to build 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) in new subway lines. Macri, who coincidentally met with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week in Manhattan, also has pledged to increase the frequency of times that trains pass through each station everyday.

The two systems are roughly the same age. Argentina’s was completed in 1913 while New York’s was established a bit earlier in 1904. Buenos Aires was the 13th city in the world to get its own subway system, according to Metrovias. But while both emerged in the early part of the 20th century, development of the two systems since then has been markedly different.

Argentina’s left-lane system (designed by – who else? – the Brits) runs 42.7 kilometers (26.5 miles) while New York’s spans a whopping 595.5 kilometers (370 miles). This, according to Metrobits.

Argentina’s “subte” has 63 stations while New York’s has 468. Argentina’s has six lines; New York’s has 27. In the summertime, New York’s subway has air conditioning while Argentina’s has the climate-control button set permanently on “sweat like a pig.” Around 5 million passengers ride New York’s subway everyday while about 1. 3 million do so in Buenos Aires. Argentina’s system has limited hours while New York’s runs 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

WiFi In Subway & Subte Stations

Buenos Aires beat New York to the punch, however, by being the first to install WiFi in its stations. At least the B, C, D & E lines in Buenos Aires provide free and unrestricted wireless Internet access. I used my iPhone this week to test the service on the D line and it worked perfectly, allowing me to download email and surf the web. The service works in stations themselves but not inside the tunnels. Buenos Aires was the fist city in the Americas and the second city in the world to install WiFi in its subway stations, according to La Nacion. New York City is only now about to install WiFi in its subway stations, according to Newsday.

But Argentina’s subway costs just 70 centavos (about US 22 cents) while New York’s costs US $2 dollars. That ratio will change January 1, however, when local transportation costs rise by up to 30%. Then the cost of riding the subway here will jump to 90 centavos (US 28.5 cents). However, the cash saved by traveling in Buenos Aires is partially offset by having to put up with the God-awful, screeching, death-rattle noise produced when train wheels brush up against inhospitable tracks. And while Argentina’s network is cheaper, in NY you get to ride with Elvis.

The inspiration for this post was a similar one by Matías Maciel on his blog Entretanto. Matías is an Argentine journalist in NYC. His blog, though in Spanish, is well worth visiting.

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