Thursday, 9 October 2014

Buenos Aires: sophisticated or shabby?

A city that feels sophisticated to the Latin American traveller but shabby to the visitor from Europe.

I was surprised at how European BA feels; there is French fin de siècle architecture in the old areas in an attempt to smarten the city. 

The inhabitants are rather restrained, and don't feel Italian or Spanish, maybe that is the influence of the German and Polish migrants.

Queuing is the norm and the roads are orderly. 

The public transport system is also European with an oyster like swipe card for the buses and metro. There is an absence of litter.

The population looks very homogenous with no black faces, and only a few Indian ones. This is such a contrast to the multiculturalism of Brazil feels large middle class. The poor state of the Argentine economy is also palpable and the city feels poor, with many cheap shops; but also expensive designer one for the elite and the visitors. (E.g. Florida Street) the women not as fashionable as I had expected. I had looked forward to Spanish type food but Italian food predominates with pizzas, pasta and excellent ice creams.

Modern BA also has a trendy designer side, our hotel had concrete outside chairs which were also waterproof. There were seats in rooms with nylon strings that both looked cool and were comfortable.

I maxed out on Art museums. Started with Museo del bicentario i.e. 200 yrs. of argentine history and exactly coinciding with the independence war in 1812. It was set in the cellars of an old warehouse and illustrated the different periods Argentine history. Omer persuaded a guide to give us a tour in English. The exhibits were even handed but there have been several dictatorships in the 20 c, what makes the country so prone to dictatorships?

We went on a tour around Teatro Colon an early 20century flourish of gold opulence, awesome and clearly the place to be seen, evidence of older Argentine customs are present in the separation of the sexes on higher levels, and widows had their own area behind a grill were they could neither see nor be seen, but they could hear! It was an interesting building to see but I would prefer a modern Opera house.

Omer and I slipped out at lunch time to go round the Museo trabhat, a new building in the trendy dock. It was an interesting collection with beautiful examples of art across the centuries, set in a modern light wonderful space, we envied the secretaries at this foundation who had open plan offices looking down on the dock.

I also had an exhilarating afternoon at the Museo Modern Art Latino Americano with very modern design and interesting art and also a cafe with BA trendies sipping coffee.

This contrasted with the museum of Belles Arte in which 22 out of 24 rooms had art created overseas. The last two rooms had a few examples of Argentine art, including panels of a war in 1848 between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay which showed the pre-battle beautiful white uniforms of the soldiers and the post battle devastation. I then wondered why so little modern art is displayed in BA. The Museo Belles Artes gave the impression of always looking back to Europe, but this would not apply to 20 century artists. Maybe I need to check out some other places.

I enjoyed being at the pain conference and learnt a lot. It was good to be presenting our interesting results in leprosy patients to the pain community, which we did in a workshop where Omer and I spoke together with Daniel Andrade a bright enthusiastic Brazilian neurologist. Omer has done ten detailed examinations of sensory nerves function in leprosy patients with and without pain sadly we have not been able to identify a unique propain. We can see that interesting profile that leprosy patients have a unique sensory loss . We also heard that other workers are also not identifying unique profiles for diff types of pain in patients. It is good to be adding our data to the data bank. There were also excellent presentations on treatments for neuropathic pain; this is also a challenging area where one doesn’t find unique responses. Also learnt about questionnaires for assessing pain. I also hope to collaborate with the Brazilians in the future.

My first impressions of BA are that it is shabby, quiet, unLatin, but also cosmopolitan and trendy. It has Italian food, French architecture and 21 century museums.

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