Adrian Caporale's travel reports
Yes! It's June 4 and I am in Buenos Aires...I should make that clear. But before giving you some news on Argentina, I should tell you about my time in Auckland, New Zealand. It is an excellent city to visit and I highly recommend it.
Arrived Wednesday 30/5 at 1pm to wet weather. But it cleared later in the afternoon giving us time to take a decent stroll through part of the city...Albert Park, Aoeta Square and Queen Street. New Zealand has a population of just over 3 million of which about a third live in Auckland.
Once again, fortune was on my side. No! I didn't win any competitions, but Thursday´s weather turned out excellent. After continuous days of rain, the sun was out. We spent the morning on ´Fullers´Harbour scenic cruise. We spent about an hour at Devonport, a quaint village on the opposite side of the Harbour, but where real estate prices are almost as expensive as any decent inner city suburb of Melbourne.
Then onto the volcanic island of Rangitoto for a brief stop, before going on a decent run around the bay, including under Auckland's Harbour Bridge. Even got to see Pradas base on the Harbour. Prada was the Italian yacht competing against New Zealand for the America's Cup a year or two ago. Italy lost the final 5:0. :(
We went up Sky Tower just before sunset ... getting to see the city by day, and by night, (a good tip I picked up when going up the Rialto Towers in Melbourne). At 328m, Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and 6th tallest in the world. C.N Tower in Toronto is the tallest at 553m. But Sky Tower is taller than the Eiffel Tower and Centrepoint Tower in Sydney. Anyhow, needless to say, the views are exceptional.
Late Friday afternoon was our departure time, but I still had a chance to catch up with Roger Barn, (IT Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, now lives in Melbourne but is originally from Auckland). Roger took us for a drive through the Auckland Domain, the suburb of Parnell, as well as the bayside suburbs of Mission Bay (where we stopped for a coffe), Kohimarama and St. Heliers right up to Achilles Point'.
I am having an excellent time in Buenos Aires...but you will have to wait a little longer for news about this exceptional country.
Hola de Argentina!!!
No hablo castellano. Hablo Italiano y Ingles. Learning this simple phrase has helped me more than I could have imagined, and has led me to have some great conversations with people willing to help somebody who doesn't speak Spanish. Many people seem to be unaware of this fact, but almost 45% of Argentina's total population of 35 million are descendents of Italian immigrants. So obviously I am in my element!!!
Some basic facts. Argentina is the second largest country in area in South America and third largest in population after Brazil and Colombia. It is the 8th biggest country in the world. Economically, Argentina is going through a bad (understatement) crisis at the moment.
There's over 20% unemployment, with the next 20% being low income earners. When even IT professionals and engineers can't find work, you know things are bad. It seems that many people are also trying to get Spanish and Italian passports, as their door into Europe.
Social services are almost non-existant, taxes are on the increase (they pay 21% G.S.T), and the previous government sold many of the country's assets only to pocket the money themselves. To see so many people begging in the streets makes a real impression on you. We are so lucky in Australia. But honestly, this is something you have to see with your own eyes to fully comprehend.
But apart from all the doom and gloom, we are having a good time here. Our base is at my Dad's cousin's home, located in Billinghurst, San Martin, about 40 kilometres from the centre of Buenos Aires. As expected, there are a lot of Italians in the area, but there are so many from Lanciano (the town where my parents are from) in the area too...all my Dad´s old neighbours and some distant relatives.
We´re slowly making our way around catching up with everybody and hearing all their immigration stories, a topic which is of great interest to me. But stories that are heart-breaking because these guys had it tougher here than those that went to Australia, the United States and Canada. Even back in the 1950´s Argentina was known as the poor America, the America from where nobody returns. Back then, those Italian immigrants who came here wanted to return home immediately, but couldn't afford to.
Now, so many want to return to Italy for a visit, and after 50 years, still can´t justify the expense with the situation being so volatile in the country at the moment. As the son of Italian immigrant parents who will be returning to Italy this year for the 7th time, it really makes one think!!!
This is my second trip to Argentina (I was here in 1999), so my travels here are really just to catch up with relatives and friends, whom I had only just met two years ago for the first time. But I am doing all the site seeing over again. In Buenos Aires...from the pedestrian walks of Ave. Florida and Lavalle (a ten block shopping mall), to one of the widest streets in the world, July 9 Avenue, which stretches out to 26 lanes of traffic...I think! There was too much traffic about to count properly. You know, about half of Argentina's population live in Buenos Aires & the surrounding province...17 million people.
We just came back from five days in the city of Rosario which is about 300km north-west of B.A. I went there to visit a few email contacts, Jorge Collacini, Juan Marcucci & Omar Cejas, all of whom have grandparents from the town of Atessa, which is where my maternal grandmother is from. I'm told that in Rosario, about 80% of the population is of Italian origin. And apparently, any Rosario soccer team player list will demonstrate that fact. Coincidentally, in our hotel over the weekend, was a Cordoba soccer team. They played on Sunday beating Rosario Central, so there was a good vibe in the hotel that evening. They needed the win to stay in the first division, and not be relegated. Rosario is a great city. With a population of over a million, it is a lot more calmer, cleaner and organized than B.A...and also a lot more European. Ask me to choose a place in Argentina to live, and I would be quite happy to live in Rosario. It is full of Italians afterall!!!
Naturally, I have checked out the B.A. white pages in search of familiar Italian surnames which seems to make up about 40% of the phone book. But I have also found quite a number of Colemans, Hughes, Appels and Reids, so there is an English element here too. It's quite amusing reading ´Javier Coleman´ and ´Domingo Hughes´.
19 Jun 2001
Hola a todos!
Our day of departure from Argentina has finally arrived. Well, we actually fly out of B.A tomorrow morning at 7am for Rio De Janeiro, but you can't really count that as a day.
We finally made it to the remaining areas of Buenos Aires that we were hoping to visit. The suburb of Recoleta and its cemetary where Eva Peron is buried. It's actually the second cemetary we've visited in Argentina, (I know, we're a bit morbid), and found them to be similar to those in Italy. But what did make an impression on us was the fact that the coffins are in full view after being placed in the family vaults. At least in Italy they're covered in a marble slab. A few in Recoleta were even slightly open ... which naturally I had to take photo's of. The suburb of Recoleta is a chic area, nice shops, well dressed locals and trendy eateries like those found in South Yarra in Melbourne.
The suburb of Palermo is located next to Recoleta. The Botanical Gardens are located here, along with the February 3 Gardens, Japanese Gardens, the Zoo, the Planetarium and an exhibition centre big enough worth mentioning. Naturally ´Plaza Italia´ is also located in the suburb. There were so many stray cats located in the Botanical Gardens and the Recoleta Cemetary but they all looked really healthy. Noticeably, there were no birds in the Botanical Gardens. But we were left to ponder what the cats in the cemetary eat. Open coffins were a bit of a worry!!!
On Saturday we visited La Boca, a suburb located by the port, probably better known worldwide by its soccer team, Boca Juniors. The suburbs' tourist attraction is ´Caminito´ a street consisting of brightly coloured, painted housed made of corrugated iron and other scrap building materials. Tourists love it.
My opinion isn't so superficial. Being the son of immigrant parents, this area has more sentiment. It was here in this suburb in the 1880´s that the first major wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Argentina. Having little money, they constructed make-shift houses (similar to our back sheds), and this was what they were forced to call home. Trying conditions for those who arrived initially. But I think even more disheartening for those who followed. Getting off the boat and finding this!!! It's not surprising that so many wanted to get right back on the boat and return home.
I had dinner on Saturday night with Carlos Diana (and Laura), another friend made via email. Sunday was the big family affair with more than twenty of us getting together for lunch and dinner. We didn't get to bed until about 2am. June 17 also happened to be Father's Day in Argentina, so our timing was perfect. Today has been a lot more mellow...we're all still recovering from yesterday!!!
I've had an excellent time in Argentina, meeting heaps more relatives and making lots of new friends. In actual fact, I have a sea of relatives scattered through out Argentina, (in and around Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mar Del Plata). But there are just too many to look them all up, and there wasn't enough time either. So it looks like there will be another trip to Argentina. I've already said to those here who have asked me, within four years if I'm not married...by which time I am positive my Argentinean relatives will have organized a wife for me on my return!!!
Un saludos de Argentina.