Dead people

Every time we come to Buenos Aires there is something new that just takes my breath away. You would think that adding up the time and realising we have spent well over six months here we would have seen it all.

After doing virtually nothing the past two days and even missing tango last night, we decided that today we would just be touristas. I wanted to take the subte today but Viv is now so into walking the City she decided we should walk “only four stops on the subte” she said. I don’t know how many blocks that equates to, but it did not seem that far.

Corrientes is awash with shops all along its length and now headed out-of-town was no different. This makes travelling any distance a problem, as we are constantly back tracking to look in one shop or another. We spent some time in a housewares shop and came away with a grater, but the biggest stop was a bag shop. They had bags of every shape and size Viv was in shopping heaven. The first shop assistant came “quiero algo” “no, solo mirando” five minutes later another “Puedo ayudarle” “No gracias” this went on then the killer “Hablas ingles” she then rushed off for the token english speaking shop assistant.

We really did not want help (Viv is beyond help when it comes to shopping) She had seen a bag she liked but could not make up her mind. The pressure from the assistants was too much and we left. The pull of the handbag is greater than the desire for peace (zen saying of the day). In the window she again saw what she liked and we went back in. This time having decided on the bag, there was a choice of six or seven colours, the staff looked exasperated, it is all right for them, for me this is every day, not once in a mad extranjero tourist season. Eventually we left with our $47 bag, well less than £10, and Viv now has something to carry her shoes to a milonga in.

Further up the road we found a park Plaza Los Andes where we sat and ate our packed lunch accompanied by the usual stray dog (can he not read “peros no”) and hungry pigeons. Our destination is right next to this open space, Chacarita Cemetary, as usual, with these places, there is a huge portico with chapels either side, massive old trees and high walls with railings, they spend more on the dead than the living.

Once inside it was little different to what I had expected, except that some of the edifices were as big as the chapel at Recoleta. Otherwise it was much the same just more of it. We passed through acres of marble and concrete mausoleums, to one that looked more like a cathedral. This it seemed was something to do with the police and had a stream of visitors inside. Not wanting to impose on private grief we walked on.

When we had covered an area that was perhaps twice that of Recoleta we saw a chapel. Negotiating around this we saw a car park and what looked like a funeral in progress. Again wanting to keep clear we move d to the side and this is where it got surprising; There were large concrete structures that looked modernistic and not in keeping with the rest. Curiosity got the better and we went to look.

I will try to describe what I saw but you will not believe without seeing; Below these structures (and there were too many to count) was a subterranean vault, five stories deep with seventy or eighty rows of coffins six high and I could not see how many into the row they went. There were literally millions of dead people down there and there was not just one vault but dozens of them.

Once we were over this site we came across a more conventional graveyard as well. So all of the world was here, you had the rich in their huge mansions, the middle classes in leafy suburbia and high-rise crammed in was the abode of the poor, in death just as in life.

Our arrangement to meet Janis is on hold as here son is in town, family is more important so we will look elsewhere. I sent a message to Juan “donde vas a noche” never really expecting an answer, he would probably reply at two in the morning, it is the porteno way. He must have replied to Mariela because she sent me a message “Hoy vamos con Juan a Caseros 3033” I had no idea where this was and after a string of messages we arranged to meet at eleven.

Janis would be proud of me, this place is out of town some way so I searched for the best bus route. Every one seemed to involve two busses, but by a bit of juggling I found that the 128 got me within six blocks. My first problem was to get on the bus, there was no stop on the corner for a 128 when one came it stopped round the corner and we could not reach it in time. When we walked to where we thought it had stopped there was still no stop, fortunately when the next one came a local was there to stop it. Once on I said too the driver “por favor llamame a Boedo y Caseros” the driver just said “si” We panicked a bit and tried to work out where we were but by the time I had the map out the driver turned and said “Caseros” so with a “Gracias” we left the bus.

When we arrived at Milonga en Parque Patricios we were surprised that the entrada was a mere $10. Inside was quite small and the floor was laminate in a poor condition with a joining strip down the middle. We did not seem to have a reserva and nobody looked like they were seating people, so we plonked down on the first available table and changed our shoes. The music was good but we had just missed the best tanda of milonga and I was horrified to see one guy doing Nuevo stuff to milonga, does he even know there is music on? he obviously was not listening to it. The ambiance and crowd here were more like a practica, I would not have called it a milonga, but there were some very good dancers among the show offs.

Juan soon arrived and we embraced and kissed the argentine way, even though I have trouble communicating with him he is still fun to be with. An example of how he complicates every thing: I asked when Mariela would arrive, he said she has two children and her husband works then she must put the children to bed…………….. I said “solo dicho no se” to which he replied no she has two children………. I just laughed, he will never change.

Marierla arrived later and we danced, Juan danced with Viv, we all danced together. There was a guy there who we had seen at Fulgor, but try as I might I could not get Viv to dance with him, and give me a chance to dance with a local. Despite the nuevos and yoga guy who sat flexing his muscles in between dancing crazy nuevo we enjoyed the dance and it gave us another view of Buenos Aires tango.

When we left I already had a plan of where to catch the bus, but typically of busses every where there were several of the wrong bus before ours arrived. Comoviaje said I should get off at Mario Bravo y Guardia Vieja, but when we passed Plaza Almagro and got to Corrientes we got off there, this was only two blocks away, not three. You can’t beat local knowledge.


1 Comment

Filed under Argentina, Tango

One response to “Dead people

  1. jantango

    Chacarita and Recoleta cemetaries are depressing, so I find it best to visit on a sunny day.

    That place in Parque Patricios is the newest one for the young generation. It isn’t really a milonga because no milongueros attend it. It is also the venue for the First Estilo Parque Patricios Festival next weekend — if foreigners signed up for it.

    I am proud of you for taking the bus more often. You will learn the city better that way. It can be intimidating, but once you learn your way you won’t be taking taxis.

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