Today we decide to go to La Boca, San Telmo, and where ever else the day takes us. The guys sleep in until almost noon. That is fine for me as I walk with my friends in the morning on Friday. Then I meet another friend for coffee to talk about his business. When I come back to the apartment they are ready to go.
"How are we going to go to La Boca?" They ask me. "By bus." I tell them. "That way you can see another part of the city." I always like to take people on different buses. I never understand why people want to take those horrible city tours in the buses. You see almost nothing, they are over priced, and they always want to take you shopping. But people want them or they would not be in business.
On the bus I point out the architecture on Santa Fe, when we cross Nuevo de Julio, I make sure they see the Plaza de San Martin and the statue. All the way down Libertador, Paseo Colon, I give them bits of trivia, information, and history. Soon we are at the end of the line.
I explain the history of La Boca. As we come to Caminito, I am instantly, sad, and then angry. It is a carnival worse than Pier 39 in San Francisco or any tourist site. Before I can react a girl parading as a tango dancer grabs Matt "Would you like a tango lesson?" she says in heavily accented English. Before he can answer I tell her in Spanish "No, gracias." She looks at me and tells me in Spanish that she is not talking to me. I cannot believe this. Then she asks if he wants his picture taken. I grab both men and pull them away. This place is a disaster.
When I first came to La Boca in 2000 there was almost nothing here except poor people and a few artists. I came to visit my friend Guillermo Alio and his friends. Now, thanks to the commercialization of tango it is worse than Disneyland. At least Disneyland has rides that are fun. This has nothing of value that I can see.
There are rows and rows of junk that is being sold as "art." Sidewalk cafes with "tango dancers" who want tips for taking their picture with you, for giving you a 30 second lesson are all over the place. You cannot move without someone grabbing you and trying to sell you something. I just want to push through this mess so my friends can meet Guillermo who is a real artist. Matt wanted to come here because he was told there was art here. I want him to meet at least one real artist.
When I see Guillermo's studio, he is outside looking at the scene. I am almost like a child, I throw myself into his arms "Que quilombo!" I say to him. He is happy to see me. I introduce him to my friends. He brings us into his studio. They look around while I catch up with him. We are looking out the window of his studio. He shakes his head.
He explains to my friends that he bought his studio 30 years ago so he could work in peace. Now it is almost impossible and each year it becomes worse. "This all started about 5 years ago." he tells them. We watch the dancers. Most who cannot dance. My friends do not understand this. They do not understand the cultural connection of tango, the connection of tango to the soul. It would kill me to have to see this everyday outside my window.
We leave Guillermo to go see a little more of La Boca. Matt is intent on finding the artists his guidebook talked about. I keep telling him there are none. They no longer exhibit like they used to. It is just tango themed junk or stuff that looks like a 3rd grade class did. They ask me if I am angry. I tell them yes, and I am very sad. This is not the same as the cable cars being taken over by the tourists in San Francisco. It is more profound.
We take a bus to San Telmo. Now they see the poverty of Buenos Aires and understand the city is not all Palermo and Recoleta. I tell them "If we were to go over that bridge you would see even more poverty."
In San Telmo on a Friday it is more calm than La Boca. We walk around the plaza. They are not really interested in antiques. I contantly have to pull Dave back. "Where are you going child? I ask him. We go through a market that once was a real market and now is half market and half flea market. They see things they have not seen in years - telephones and tvs from the 50s. I tell them we will have a merienda - a snack before dinner.
In the bar on the plaza we rest. They are thinking of carving their initials in the table with the rest of them but decide not to. I tell them how the mayor wanted to pave over the cobblestones here in San Telmo because he owns a cement company, but the neighbors stopped him.
From here I tell them we will walk so they can see the architecture. We are on Defensa. We walk all the way to the Plaza de Mayo. I give them the history of the Mothers of the Plaza. I explain how yesterday they found another grandchild. Dave takes pictures while I talk.
From here we take a taxi. Once again I must argue with the driver. He sees all of us as tourists. I tell him how I want to go, and he ignores me to go his own way, which will be more expensive, of course. My friends love it. When he wants to turn, I tell him "Don't you dare, that will be another 4 pesos." I am sure this driver wants to kill me. That´s OK, it is not like he is the first Argentine guy to feel that way.