Once again, I headed out with an intrepid band of traveling photographers lead by Ron Zak of Solano College to explore a land far, far away. The goals: immerse ourselves in the culture; discover our differences as well as our similarities; and take pictures - not necessarily of the postcard variety, but rather, images that carry impact. And for me, ultimately, to make this world a smaller place.
As a photographer, I struggled on this trip. Mightily. As an individual attempting to broaden my horizons, I thrived. I'm never so alive as when I'm on a journey of exploration, and visiting Argentina was certainly that. My itinerary: two weeks in Buenos Aires with the group, followed by one week in Mendoza with just two pals, Patty and Windsor (best traveling partners ever!).
In a nutshell, the people of Argentina are not so unlike us. They look like us, they dress like us, they hold jobs, raise their families and go about their business in much the same manner as us here in the West. There are vast cultural, social and economic differences, for certain, but from a superficial look on the outside - we are they, they are we. It was almost a little bit disconcerting to go halfway round the world to find... well, me!
In addition to the people, I found the locales I visited oddly familiar as well. Buenos Aires, for example, could be San Francisco South in so many ways. The similarities between the two cities really couldn't be ignored:
- Both cities are comprised of smaller, distinct neighborhoods (known as "barrios" in BsAs), each with their own characteristics and attributes that make them unique
- Similar latitudes (SF is at latitude 38 North; BsAs is at latitude 35 South)
- Sprawling parks that are the pride and playgrounds of the people
- World-class museums
- Home to stunning landmark bridges (in the case of BsAs, the Puente de la Mujer, or Women's Bridge)
- A pervasive food culture, with Wine Country in each city's backyard
- Pedestrian friendly - I literally and happily walked off the soles of my feet in BsAs
- Gay friendly
- Although both San Francisco and Buenos Aires are cities built on water, San Francisco Bay is integral to SF's identity, skyline, lifestyle and livelihood. The Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, however, is largely hidden from view. Aside from the dikes set up in Puerto Madero, the newest part of town in BsAs, the water contributes almost nothing to the obvious pulse of the city. This despite its locals being called porteños (people of the port), and its port being one of the busiest in South America. Go figure.
- Buenos Aires is a much bigger city and suburban area than San Francisco. BsAs proper is home to three million people (SF: 800,000), and the surrounding Buenos Aires province brings the city and its suburbs to a population of more than 13 million (SF Bay Area: 7.4 million), which is more than one third of the entire population of Argentina. That is a whole lot of people, believe me!
- To move all those people, BsAs has an extensive public transportation system. Once again, the Bay Area falls short (but we all know that, don't we?).
- I found that San Francisco - or really any large city in the U.S. for that matter - to be much more diverse than Buenos Aires. The European influence is predominant in BsAs (the city is 89 percent white); Asian, African, Middle Eastern and even Latin American representation in its people is minuscule.
- And, happy to admit it, our food is far better. They're giving us a run for our money where wine is concerned, but I'll take the diversity in our dining options any day of the week. Grin.
Mendoza is located in a high desert located at the foot of the Andes mountains, not unlike my hometown of Salt Lake City. The landscape in Mendoza could be that of Southern Utah, or the Mojave Desert in California. Forests are nonexistent; rather, cacti, low-lying shrubs and tenacious wildflowers cling to the rocky surfaces in hopes of their next sip of water. Which comes sporadically. And the mountains - oh the mountains! I was so thrilled to see snowcapped peaks upon my arrival from the big city. The flat Pampas that comprises the central plains of Argentina simply slams into the base of the Andes, which jut commandingly into the sky, without so much as a moment's notice. They are stunning in their spareness.
But more on all of that later! Please share in my Argentine journey through the remainder of this blog. There's a lot here, so make sure to keep hitting the "Older Posts" link at the foot of every page to read the blog in order, or follow the links down the right hand side to pick and choose the articles at random. And please leave me your comments! I'd love to know if you have had the same or different experiences if you've visited Argentina; if my words and pictures teach or inspire you; or if I've bored you to tears. Whatever - just let me know!
To all my fellow travelers, the new friends I've made while on the journey, and those who touched my life while I was in your country, I thank you for the memories. And much love to my darling husband who was, as always, so supportive of my need to split the country now and again. Te quiero!