Monday, April 28, 2008

Top Five Things To Do With Kids Under Five in Buenos Aires

Sunday Afternoon at the Recoleta Fair

Having two kids, I get a lot of questions about what to do in Buenos Aires with little ones. My four year old loves it here and we never run out of new things to try. With his help, I have put together a list of his top five things to do in Buenos Aires.

1. The Playground at the Local Plaza

Plaza Vicente López,Corner of Vicente López and Montevideo

Without a doubt, a visit to the local playground is my son's favorite thing to do. Most major Plazas in Buenos Aires have a playground popular with the neighborhood children. My kid loves for me to take him to the park to play on the swings, dig in the sand and well, just be a kid.

Not all playgrounds are the same and some are in need of some major repairs. However, the playgrounds in Plaza Vicente López and Plaza Mitre have both been redone recently and are two of the nicest parks in town.

2. Museo de los Niños

Abasto Shopping Center, Corner of Corrientes and Agüero, Level 2

This is a great place to spend a cold, rainy (or even smokey) day inside. Where else can your kid be flushed down a toilette into a maze of pipes, build at a construction site, unload cargo off a ship, crawl in a giant tube of toothpaste, work in a bank, and fly an airplane—all in one afternoon.

This is one fun place. I have been to some lame kids museums over the years, but they have done things right at this one and I highly recommend it. It is one of those places your kid will have to be dragged away from kicking and screaming three hours later.

It is in the Abasto Shopping Center which also features a Neverland Park arcade center with a giant ferris wheel and kiddie rides. Mom and sis don't mind the shopping in the mall either.

3. Jardín Zoológico de Buenos Aires

Ave. Las Heras and Sarimiento across from Plaza Italia

Lion Love

Lots of great animals from all over the world and in a zoo that is just the right size for little ones. It is the perfect place to spend a beautiful fall day in Buenos Aires. The zoo might be a little too old school for some. However, it is still a hit with kids. See my earlier post about it here.

4. Paddle Boats at the Bosque de los Rosedales

Ave. Libertador and Sarimiento, Also known as Parque Tres de Febrero

This large Palermo park is a must for visitors with kids. Stroll the paths that wind through beautiful rose gardens and head over to the artificial lakes. There, you can rent bikes or my kids favorite, a boat. It is a lot of work to paddle your way around the lake, but a lot of fun too.

5. Parque Tamaikén

Ruta Provincial 25, Km 1 Escobar(city)


If the small cages at the Buenos Aires zoo seem a little inhumane for your liking, then try out this wildlife park 30 minutes north of town. Tamaikén is one of the nicest wildlife parks I have visited beating out some of those in the states. The park is nice but without the constant commercialism you see back home. Not that your small kid will notice. He'll be enjoying all the animals.

Here is my first post on Tamaikén.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Smoke on the Water.... and in the Sky Over Buenos Aires

Argentina Fires
Image from AP

We can't go outside tonight. The smoke is just too much. My wife's throat is irritated and I'm getting a headache from the fumes. It is 2:00am, and I have had to shut off all the air conditioners in the apartment because they are sucking in the fowl smell of burnt grass.

You may have noticed the news reports. Over 70,000 hectares of grasslands in the river delta region 300 km north of Buenos Aires have been burning. The fires are sending smoke all the way down to Buenos Aires and even over to Montevideo in Uruguay.

The blog, Still Life in Buenos Aires, has a good NASA photo of the area affected.

It seems that in the winter, farmers in the delta marshland use an age old slash-and-burn technique to clear dry grass and improve the land for grazing cattle. Normally, it is not a big deal. But this year, someone started a little early and the fire got out of hand because of the climatic conditions.

After a week or more of the smoke, 70,000 toasted hectares and several deaths on the highways due to the thick smoke, the government has finally labeled it a crisis. But rather than make much progress in fighting the real fire, they seem more interested in playing with political fire.

The government has used this crisis to their advantage in the farm strike negotiations, labeling the fires the result of greedy farmers that burned the land "to reduce costs and maximize profits, regardless of the consequences."

And of course this great quote circulating all the wire services:
“This is the largest fire of this kind we’ve ever seen,” said the interior minister, Florencio Randazzo. “It was started by farmers clearing land for cattle grazing, driven by greed for profit and with total disregard for human life.”

Because the area is a protected wetland, the use of chemicals and pesticides is banned. The marshland consists of 100s of islands with no roads and the only way in or out is by boat. Using heavy equipment is cost prohibitive, so the farmers have used the slash and burn technique for many years.

The only problem, there were never any safeguards put in place to prevent the tragedy we have now. But the government claiming that heads are going to roll and this is all the result of greedy farmers acting irresponsibly, sounds a bit like the Prefect of Police in the movie Casablanca claiming, "I'm shocked that gambling is going on here!" when he had been well aware of it all along.

Leave it to this government to use a crisis to drive a wedge and divide its people more.

I just don't understand this type of politics.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

San Telmo and Plaza Dorrego


A must on any Buenos Aires tour is the the Sunday street market in the barrio of San Telmo. Street Tango, street musicians, artists, antiques, crafts and an occasional transvestite make for an interesting scene.

We finally made it last Sunday after saying we wanted to go for the last 7 months. Why we have not been is beyond me. It is a short bus or taxi ride to the other side of Plaza de Mayo and we had a great afternoon even though I'm not into the whole craft fair kind of thing.


The crowds on Sunday can be quite large. Despite the crowds, the whole walk from end to end is quite manageable and makes for an interesting stroll. The knick knacks compete with the people watching as the main attraction. But there are plenty of sideshows with Tango performers and other musicians panning for your coin along the route.


The best place to start is at Plaza Dorrego at the far end of Defensa street which they close off to traffic during the fair. The plaza is filled with antique vendors selling everything imaginable.

There will be plenty of photo ops and entertainment as you make your way up Calle Defensa towards Plaza de Mayo. On the street, the antiques will share billing with local handmade crafts from the neighborhoods more bohemian citizens.


There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at along the way. I can recommend Bar Plaza Dorrego or La Divina Comedia. Both have outdoor dining right on Calle Defensa and are well suited to watching the parade of people pass by on Sundays.


San Telmo itself has some great, albeit faded architecture with the city's largest concentration buildings from the 19th century. The architecture ads to the neighborhoods bohemian feel.

If you are planning a stay in Buenos Aires, be sure to put a trip to San Telmo on your list.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peronistas want The Simpsons Banned In Argentina?

Homer Simpson at a bar in San Telmo

Poor Homer and his family... Or should I say Homero as he is known down here. When first on the air, he had to deal with the US religious right calling for bans and boycotts. Even our President George H.W. Bush took swings at The Simpsons calling them bad roll models for America.

Then, just last week the sitcom was deemed "unsuitable for children" in Venezuela and pulled off the air by president Hugo Chavez. The government stated, "the show goes against wholesome education for young boys and girls".

So what did Venezuela put on in its palce? Baywatch Hawaii. Now there is wholesome education—hot girls in bathing suits and David Hasslehoff! Go figure?

Huego Chavez isn't the only one with a beef about Homer. Here in Argentina, a former Peronist deputy has asked the broadcasting commission to ban an episode of The Simpsons for falsely attributing the "Disappeared" to former president Juan Perón.

In the episode, Moe asks, "Who wants to abolish democracy forever?" Carl replies,"I could really go for some kind of military thing like, uh, I don't know... Juan Perón. When he disappeared ya, you stayed disappeared." Lenny chimes in with, "Plus his wife was Madonna!"

OK first off, we all know it was the right-wing dictatorship that overthrew Perón's third wife,(Isabell, not Madonna) that was efficient at disappearing people. If there was a slight historical inaccuracy is that worth banning the show? You have to admit that Madonna line was funny. It just wouldn't of worked any other way.

Besides, everyone knows that people in the US are really bad at world history. Hell, they're bad at our own history. I'm impressed Moe even knew who Juan Perón was.

If historical accuracy is a requirement for our entertainment down here, then how come they allowed the disaster of a movie 10,000 BC to be shown? Come on dinosaurs during the time of cavemen? Cavemen in Egypt when the Pyramids were being built? Come on! I would of gladly gone to a cacerolazo to protest that movie!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Top Kirchner Thug, D'Elía Now Attacking The Press

D'Elía Attacking Clarín
Picture from D'Elía attacking the press.

In my last post, I covered the disturbing trend of the Kirchners attempting to control the press and stifle free speech. It gets worse.

As I reported yesterday, Queen Cristina at a rally of supports (a chunk of whom were threatened with their jobs if they didn't show up) held up a political cartoon printed in the local newspaper Clarín, and accused it of being a "quasi mafioso" attack on her.

The ironic thing is most porteños consider Clarín very pro-Kirchner. It was odd that the Presidenta was picking on one of her biggest supports in the press. But there she was accusing them of being mafioso thugs. (She also accused them of taking advantage of her because she is a woman... but that should be a whole other blog post.)

This from the government that sent thugs into the Plaza to beat up its own citizens that were peacefully protesting the government. A peaceful crowd made up of women, children, grandparents. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

The man leading the group of thugs was Luis D'Elía. A man that later shared the stage with the president in her big speech right after the protests against her. And a man that has been defended by all levels of the government here despite the vile, bigoted, hate-filled remarks he has made in the press.

Over the last couple of weeks the government has been clear in letting the independent press here know that they are now in the crosshairs. So who do they put on TV to beat up the press? Of course, Mr. D'Elía.

Last night on Television, there D'Elía was attacking the press and justifying a governments crackdown.

He took Cristina's lead and went after Clarín parent company that runs the 24 hour news channel. "This channel is always putting a pistol to the head of democracy...", he said.

He then attacked Clarín, "Before you used dictatorship to remove people, today the media is the dictatorship."

The world is starting to voice its concern about the governments recent attacks on the Press. So the Kirchners send D'Elía out to defend them. Who is the real mafioso, or should I say mafiosa.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kirchnerism and a Free Press: Oil and Water

Anselm Kiefer
Book with Wings, 1992–94.
From the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

I'm sorry for posting another political post. I promise I'll return to more pics and travel commentary from around Buenos Aires soon.

However, the above sculpture is one of my all time favorite works of art. It is called Book with Wings from the Museum of Modern Art Fort Worth. The wings give freedom to the printed word, something we are seeing less of here in Argentina.

I was shocked the other day, when a fellow blogger and Argentine rancher deleted all of his posts about the farm strike in fear of reprisals from the government. To keep his ID secret, we'll just call him Dandy Michael—not a reference to his sexual orientation, but to his well known moniker.

It seems that actions by the government towards neighboring farmers have served their purpose of silencing a wonderful and balanced viewpoint about life on the farm here in Argentina.

While the government's decision to seize farmers livestock is not a direct attack on freedom of speech, the end result is the same. There are plenty of recent examples that are direct attacks on the freedom of the press.

Cristina no le gusta. This cartoon by Sábat shows a two faced Cristina with her husband (side profile of the face) the hidden voice of the government.

In Cristina's recent rally in the Plaza de Mayo before the rent-a-crowd audience, she held up a very unflatering political cartoon of her and publicly criticized it as a "quasi-mafioso message". Before singling out the cartoon by Hermenegildo Sábat (see image above), she compared the current farm strike to a farm strike right before the 1976 coup that brought in the right-wing military dictatorship responsible for the murder of thousands of Argentines and the suspension of most liberties.

She added, "This time farmers have not been accompanied by tanks, this time they have been accompanied by those large media corporations that in addition to supporting the lock out of the people by the farmers, have locked out the information, changing, misrepresenting, and showing a one-sided opinion."

And soon after that speech, she met with the Social Sciences department at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) to announce the relaunching of a commission called Observatorio de Discriminación en los Medios (Discrimination Observatory in the Media). Its purpose is to investigate the "truthfulness" of the press and make sure it is "fair and balanced" as seen by the government. Yeah right! Kinda of like what FOX News does for our government.

It all sounds like a witch hunt to go after journalist that disagree with the government to me. I don't think Stephen Colbert could make up such a bit.

Need more proof? A report by Reporters Without Borders noted that journalists in the provinces were threatened and harassed by police and the courts. The press was also blackmailed by withdrawal of local government advertising. That was in 2007. In terms press freedom, Argentina ranked 82 out of 167 nations as tracked by Reporters without Borders. After recent events, it will surely drop further.

This trend is troubling because the freedom of the press is a critical foundation for any democratic government. Unfortunately, here it is the only vehicle for people to be heard outside the Kirchners who strongly control congress and all local governments. If you don't like what the government is doing, you can't rely on the traditional separation of powers a strong democracy has. That just does not exist here.

The weak Judiciary is slow and ineffective. Congress is in bed with the government and is just a rubber stamp for whatever the Kirchners want. What the government says here, goes. That only leaves the press to keep citizens informed and to give them a voice.

Hopefully, the Argentine press will continue to stand up for the truth and won't be bullied by the Kirchners when the truth goes against the Kirchners' wishes. The press is the last line of defense for this democracy.

All of this is ironic. Cristina and her husband were once part of the underground movement against the right wing dictatorship and the lack of freedoms that government was known for. Maybe they learned a few too many things from their enemy.

Irony... like the wings above made of lead.