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La Salsera: The Home of Salsa in the City of Tango

La Salsera: The Home of Salsa in the City of Tango

In the middle of the tango capital of the world, a different rhythm proliferates the dance floor at 961 Yatay, in Almagro.

Opened in 1988, La Salsera today is a place for anyone to learn the rhythms of salsa and bachata, regardless of their dance experience or country of origin.

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

“La Salsera began as a place where foreign students came from all over Latin America – Venezuela, Colombia etc. – when they came to study in Argentina,” explains Jorge Romero, co-founder and president of La Salsera. “It was a place for the students to meet and listen to salsa. Because Argentines didn’t used to be very into it.”

I meet Romero at La Salsera in his third-floor office, which doubles as a recording studio. The space is littered with a mix of past and present in Latin music: conga drums, a Peruvian percussion cajón, acoustic and electric guitars, wide-screened computers, and fancy electronic recording equipment.

La Salsera’s story was closely tied to the economic environment of Argentina. In 1988, when it opened, Argentina was a cheaper option for students from abroad. But this changed after President Carlos Menem introduced the Convertibility Plan in 1991, tying the Argentine peso to the dollar. “Things changed,” recalls Romero. “It was more expensive to come here to study, but Argentines began to be able to travel, to go to Miami, Puerto Rico, to Cuba, and to discover salsa.”

And so the clientele of La Salsera became a mix of foreigners and Argentines familiar with Latin rhythms.

Twenty-seven years later, La Salsera offers classes every day of the week, and now includes the slower, sensual bachata, as well as Carribean zouk, and Brazilian kizomba. From Wednesdays to Saturdays, the night continues after classes, allowing dancers to stay until the early hours of the morning practicing what they have learned.

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Advanced class at La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

The vibe in La Salsera is different from any boliche I’ve been to, including any other salsa club in Buenos Aires. Those who come to the classes range in age from 18 to 80, and include seasoned pros, timid beginners, and every ability in between. But apart from differences in culture, age, and ability of those who attend, they have one thing in common: the desire to dance.

From the moment you walk through the unassuming metal door, the lights, smiles, and pure joy on the faces of those spinning on the dance floor is infatuating. “Some begin with a desire to dance for therapy, make friends, do a little exercise,” says Romero, but soon, “they start getting into it and it becomes a necessity for them to come.”

The teachers’ enthusiasm for sharing their expertise is obvious, and three different levels of classes allow for dancers to find the perfect amount of challenge. Both intermediate and advanced classes add choreography throughout the month. At the same time, those who have never danced in their life can be found counting to eight and practicing the basic steps in the beginner class on the second floor.

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Advanced class at La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

La Salsera’s reach extends beyond its own dance floor. The club collaborates in bringing international acts to Buenos Aires, including salsa star Celia Cruz, a friend of Romero’s, who came to the city 1994. Other legends in the genre who have come to Argentina through collaborations with La Salsera include El Canario, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and Oscar de Leon.

Among other projects, Romero’s musical group, Colonizados, mixes tango and [Cuban] son, creating the new genre of ‘Tangoson’. They will be opening for the legendary Buena Vista Social Club when they perform in the Gran Rex theatre at the end of May.

Plans for the future include “creating a degree with an official title of Latin American arts that has to do with music, dance, painting, literature, everything.” Together with the Buenos Aires Education Ministry, Romero is in the process of defining requirements for the degree and hopes to begin the programme next year.

La Salsera fills up quickly, especially on these beautiful clear autumn nights. However, says Romero, “there’s always room for one more,” so come dance and fall in love with the rhythms for yourself.

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon

La Salsera (Photo: Katie McCutcheon

For more information on La Salsera and their classes, check out their website and Facebook page. To learn more about Colonizados and to listen to their music, visit their page.

Posted in Music, TOP STORY, Underground BA0 Comments

Hand of Pod: All About That Pepper Spray Attack at Boca…

Hand of Pod: All About That Pepper Spray Attack at Boca…

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

This week’s episode of Hand Of Pod sees Sam and Peter talking about the only thing anyone in Argentine football has been discussing in the last few days – the pepper spray-and-acid attack by the Boca Juniors barra brava (or a ‘dissident faction’ thereof) on River Plate’s players which saw the second half of the Copa Libertadores quarter-final superclásico called off, and Boca disqualified from this year’s competition. The political ramifications at the club and for Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni (who claimed the security operation had been a roaring success), Boca’s protestations and appeals, whether CONMEBOL were too lenient with their punishment and more are all on the table.

 

Mystic Sam’s thirteenth round predictions (last week: 7/15)
Argentinos v Newell’s
Temperley v Huracán
Arsenal v Unión
Olimpo v Chicago
Banfield v Vélez
San Lorenzo v Sarmiento
Atlético de Rafaela v Estudiantes
Racing v Independiente
Crucero v Defensa y Justicia
Central v Lanús
Godoy Cruz v Belgrano
Boca v Aldosivi
Tigre v River
Gimnasia v Quilmes
Colón v San Martín

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

Posted in Sport, TOP STORY0 Comments

On Now: Four ‘Off-Corrientes’ Plays To Catch in Buenos Aires

On Now: Four ‘Off-Corrientes’ Plays To Catch in Buenos Aires

What happens when art – produced for artistic rather than commercial purposes – is at risk of becoming an endangered species? Art is a sacred cultural notion that allows humankind to express itself and to save us from our self-destructive condition. But in a system that promotes a concentration of power and resources, there is a risk that art will eventually lose its freedom and become nothing but another link in the business supply chain.

Dramatic art has been struggling for a long time not to let spectators fall into the skillful hands of the commercial world. But it is also our responsibility as theatre-goers to look beyond the big budget productions on Broadway (or Av. Corrientes in Buenos Aires) and support local plays as well as emerging actors and directors. Fortunately, Buenos Aires is cluttered with little theatres and cafés which are ready to welcome independent proposals. Here is a round up of some of the best alternative plays currently showing.

24 Horas Viraje:

A telephone call in the middle of the night will change Betina´s life forever. The action is developed in a hospital where the most terrifying, yet side-splitting, events are waiting to shatter her quiet existence. This is an incredibly dynamic play which generates nail-biting suspense to the end. Irina Alonso´s lead performance is outstanding, and the script is neat, ironic and precise. Irina’s long monologues do not seem to be a problem for her, she deals with them in an astonishing way: prosody and acting work hand in hand. Although acid at times, it is comical and people laugh constantly. Definitely not to be missed if we are eager to watch a play in which direction, acting and script are harmoniously intertwined creating a superbly hilarious black comedy.

24 Horas Viraje – a play by Gilda Bona, directed by Francisco Civit. Saturdays 10pm, Teatro Anfitrión, Venezuela 3340.

Por Culpa de La Nieve:

This play intends to get immersed into the mysteries of Nordic literature from a realistic point of view. The setting is Belgium, the weather is cold, and an Anglican family is forced to accept the fact that their father is going to prison. It is not easy for the children to lead a quiet life while their dad is serving the sentence – his absences triggers a series of catastrophic and tragic circumstances that will change this family’s destiny. The production pretends to draw a parallel between a foreign country and a play. A play will always feel like a country we know nothing about; the actors are undocumented and will have to struggle in order to be able to build and define their identity. This is a highly recommendable and original play with cinematographic scenes that remind us that cinema and theatre can still influence each other.

Por Culpa de La Nieve – written and directed by Alfredo Staffolani. Fridays 9pm, Teatro del Abasto, Humahuaca 3549 (behind Abasto Shopping Centre).

Ley Lear:

Isabel and Cordelia are two sisters in search of love and freedom. However, to do so, they will first have to discover their true identity as well as their strengths and weaknesses. They only have each other, and it is precisely this fraternal love that will help them dive into an inner exploration that will consequently allow them to find what they are looking for. We might immediately be reminded of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and that was squarely the group’s intention. They started exploring the play’s effects on today’s society and that led to a new and independent project. It would be interesting to analyse which elements ‘Ley Lear’ shares with Shakespeare’s masterpiece and to allow ourselves to be immersed in a fearful, violent, silent and oppressive atmosphere. This is an opportunity to look at Shakespeare through the eyes of 21st century actors.

Ley Lear – written and directed by Santiago Alegria. Sundays 8pm, Espacio Aguirre, Aguirre 1270.

Ensayo sobre la Gaviota:

Anton Chejov and Tennessee Williams together. Too good to be true! Marcelo Savignone’s proposal is once again enormously appealing. Ensayo sobre la Gaviota is a combination of Chejov’s 19th century play La Gaviota – a play centered on the amorous and artistic conflicts of Nina, Konstantin, Trigorin ,and Irina and their incapacity to let the past go and to allow newer and fresher waves modify the longstanding structures and Russian parameters – together with Williams’ adaption, ‘The Notebook of Trigorin’. Savignone’s interpretation is courageous and respectful. Long live our gracious realistic playwrights! Such a poignant play deserves to be watched once and over again.

Ensayo sobre la Gaviota – an adaptation by Marcelo Savignone, directed by Marcelo Savignone. Sundays 8.30pm, La Carpintería Teatro, Jean Jeares 858.

Lead image by Francisco Civit

Posted in Theatre, TOP STORY0 Comments

Buenos Aires Street Style Autumn 2015: Barrancas de Belgrano

Buenos Aires Street Style Autumn 2015: Barrancas de Belgrano

[Editor’s note: In our Buenos Aires Street Style series we visit different areas of the city, speaking to stylish locals about their outfits and fashion tastes.]

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We wrap up this season’s street style series with Belgrano. Many of the fashionistas we talked to in this barrio prefer to play it safe when it comes to fashion, especially when compared to the other neighborhoods’ we have visited this season — Palermo, Villa Crespo, and San Telmo.

These porteños display an affinity for comfort and dress on the more casual side. They have also begun gearing up for the cooler temperatures with layers, scarves, hats and even hand-made legwarmers.

~~~

(Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Lidia Susana Vasallo (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Name: Lidia Susana Vasallo

Age: 86

Where do you live? Belgrano

What do you do? I’m a retired teacher.

What are you wearing today? I have a coat that’s reversible. I like it because I can use both sides. It’s black on the outside and tartan inside. I like the tartan side the most, I think it’s in style now. I’m wearing leggings and they are also plaid – it’s a very elegant and English trend. I love English fashion, especially because I’ve been to England before. I bought these glasses in the streets of Belgrano. I made these legwarmers myself – I love to sew! I wear them mostly because I like to keep my ankles warm but I think they also look very nice.

What do you think about fashion in Buenos Aires? I think people here dress up very nicely. Girls are extremely modern here; they dress practical during the day but at night they dress even better. They have good taste in clothes.

Do you have any favourite designers or brands of clothing? I think my age says it all. I’m classic. If I have to choose, I’d say I like Coco Chanel, but you really have to have cash to buy things of that brand. However, there are also a lot of great stores in Buenos Aires and in Belgrano too. I like to go to a store called Matilde, but it’s a bit expensive. I like to buy things that are good quality. Quality lasts, there’s nothing better than that.

~~~

Sandra Eleno (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Sandra Eleno (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Name: Sandra Eleno

Age: 43

Where do you live? Belgrano

What do you do? I’m a couture designer, I work for Mara Canale.

What are you wearing today? Today, I’m wearing trousers that I made myself. These are timeless and I love the flowers, it’s a nice delicate touch. They are capri and high-waisted. I’m also wearing a blazer to keep me warm on this chilly day. I focus on combining my clothes appropriately — there needs to be a harmony. I like delicate clothing, but I think my style is ‘casual-sophisticated’, elegant.

What do you think about fashion in Buenos Aires? I think fashion in Buenos Aires changes a lot but with little taste. But I think styles vary depending on the neighbourhood. Here in Belgrano fashion is on the classic side. In Buenos Aires, however, people tend to copy fashion from other parts of the world. It’s not as original. A style expert might notice that fashion here has fallen behind. I think clothes need to enrich a person’s life. Fashion needs to be in harmony with the person that is wearing it.

Do you have any favourite designers or brands of clothing? Armani has a lot of nice things. I also like Mara Canale, which is where I work. Lastly, I love Chanel because it’s really classic.

~~~

(Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Naique Yael (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Name: Naique Yael

Age: 29

Where do you live? Munro

What do you do? I study corporal expression. It’s a discipline that focuses on developing a poetic language with your body. I also teach this discipline to children.

What are you wearing today? I’m wearing a ring and a new earring. I think it’s cool to wear one earring. My friend gave it to me – he made it especially for me. I love hats, even though I don’t use them often. I love colours and artisan shoes as well. They have a cool aesthetic and design, they are unique, and I think that’s important in fashion. I also like to be comfortable since I move a lot.

What do you think about fashion in Buenos Aires? It is in the process of incorporating different influences. These new influences are eclectic and more cosmopolitan. They are coming from India; it’s something Oriental and Andean.

Do you any favourite designers or brands of clothing? I think I look for artisan pieces. I like the creative aspect of fashion, it should be rescued. Fashion is creation. I told my friend to make this ring and earring while thinking of me; I think that’s what I’m referring to. Fashion should be unique and personalised.

~~~

Yolanda Grande (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Yolanda Grande (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Name: Yolanda Grande

Age: 83

Where do you live? Belgrano

What do you do? I’m retired.

What are you wearing today? Everything that I’m wearing is from Italy. My daughter lives there. She always brings me Italian clothing and when I go there I buy a lot as well. For that reason, I don’t wear a lot of clothes from Buenos Aires. I like to wear shoes with a small heel but my daughter always tells me that it’s not the best for me, especially because I can trip and fall. So I’m wearing these shoes which are gold and have a bit of leather. I think my style is elegant. I love darker tones. I think red, for example, doesn’t look good on me. Pink looks the best on me and of course purple, which is a similar tone.

What do you think about fashion in Buenos Aires? Everyone wears what they feel like wearing. Fashion here varies a lot, I think that’s a good thing. There are also a lot of colours.

Do you have any favourite designers or brands of clothing? I buy clothes in Italy, there’s a lot of good brand over there. I like Givenchy. Here in Buenos Aires, I go to Solar de la Abadía frequently.

~~~

Raquel Ledezma (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Raquel Ledezma (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Name: Raquel Ledezma

Age: 24

Where do you live? Ciudad Benavidez (province of Buenos Aires)

What do you do? I sell cosmetics and I’m also a babysitter.

What are you wearing today? I usually layer my clothing. I love hats too! I like my scarf because I think it’s good to add a ‘pop’ to my darker clothing. I am particularly interested in flower patterns, but haven’t been using them as often because it’s getting colder. I’d say my style is classic. I also love looser clothing and old-fashioned things. For example, I’m using these boots because I’m not interested in the platform trend that’s going on here.

What do you think about fashion in Buenos Aires? I think girls here have a retro vibe but at the same time they are very modern. I think right now darker colours are in fashion because it’s getting colder.

Do you have any favourite designers or brands of clothing? I like a couple of brands like Estancias Chiripá and Kevingston Mujer.

Posted in Fashion0 Comments

Unions Call National Strike for 9th June

Hugo Moyano (centre) with CTA's Pablo Miceli (left) and CGT's Luis Barrionuevo (right), are joining the strike (photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/jc)

Hugo Moyano (centre) with CTA’s Pablo Miceli (left) and CGT’s Luis Barrionuevo (right), are joining the strike (photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/jc)

Major unions critical of the government today said they would hold a 24-hour national strike on 9th June as part of an ongoing dispute over wage negotiations and income taxes.

Juan Carlos Schmid, General Secretary of the Argentine Confederation of Transport Workers (CATT), announced today the tentative date for the strike after meeting with Sergio Massa, former cabinet chief and current presidential pre-candidate.

The action is supported by the opposition factions of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT, led by Hugo Moyano) and, the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA, led by Pablo Micheli) as well as Luis Barrionuevo’s Union of Tourism, Hotels, and Food (UTHGRA).

The unions continue to demand an increase in the non-taxable threshold on income (currently at $15,000), in spite of Economy Minister Axel Kicillof’s recent announcement of a decrease in income tax for those who earn a gross wage between $15,000 and $25,000 per month.

Other demands made by Moyano include a minimum salary of $8,600 and a minimum amount of the same value for pensioners.

The unions are also pushing for the current round of annual salary negotiations to be finalised. They claim the government is trying to cap wage increases at 27%, the level recently agreed with the faction of the CGT led by Antonio Caló, who is not joining the strike.

Kicillof insists that there is no formal limit on salary hikes, but called for “responsible” actions from unions and companies on account of what he said was a reduction in the rate of inflation this year.

The last national strike, held on 31st March, caused widespread disruption to services and public transport.

It has not yet been confirmed if there will be roadblocks on the day of the strike.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Colombia: Landslide Kills at Least 48, Dozens More Missing

Nearly 50 people have been confirmed dead and dozens more are missing as a landslide swept through a town in the north-west Colombia early on Monday morning.

Heavy rains caused the river in the Liboriana ravine to burst its banks, triggering a landslide in the municipality of Salgar in the mountainous district of Antioquia. The disaster unfolded around 3am, catching most people unawares.

The landslide hit the town of Salgar in the Liboriana ravine (Photo: César Carrión, courtesy of Presidencia de Colombia)

The landslide hit the town of Salgar in the Liboriana ravine (Photo: César Carrión, courtesy of Presidencia de Colombia)

“The landslide was generated by heavy rain at night and dawn when the water pulled along with it everything it found in its path; houses, bridges, whole families,” a municipal government official reported.

According El Colombiano, 30 houses near the riverbank have been affected by the flash flood, and 48 people have been confirmed dead, including a three-year-old child. The death toll is expected to rise as dozens are still missing, while at least 30 people were injured.

The mayor of Salgar, Olga Eugenia Osorio, said that the small town of Santa Margarita has been virtually “erased from the map”.

The regional and departmental authorities have launched the disaster management protocol to deal with the emergency, sending firemen from nearby municipalities. Ambulances, rescue units, and life guards are also coming from the nearby regional capital, Medellin. Badly injured have been taken to Medellin for intensive care, while those with minor injuries are being treated in the municipal hospital.

Air forces and police have lent out three helicopters and various personnel to be used in the rescue operations. Rescue workers are currently searching for bodies trapped in the mud.

Colombian President Juan Carlos Santos has announced that he will be flying to the scene along with the regional governor. “We are dealing with the emergency in Salgar, Antioquia. Risk Management [National Unit for Disaster Risk Management] is at the forefront of the situation. Those affected will receive all our help,” the president assured on Twitter.

In the meanwhile, the national weather institute Ideam has warned that the heavy rain is set to continue in the region.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Hand of Pod: On Superclásicos, Other Clásicos, and Argentina’s Squad

Hand of Pod: On Superclásicos, Other Clásicos, and Argentina’s Squad

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

[This episode was recorded before last night’s Boca-River shambles match. It was also recorded before the tragic death of Banfield youngster Emanuel Ortega (on loan to San Martín de Burzaco), who succumbed to head injuries sustained in a match last week when he collided with a perimeter wall. The AFA have suspended all domestic football across Argentina this weekend. Hand Of Pod’s thoughts are with Ortega’s family and friends. QEPD.]

In the latest episode of Hand Of Pod, Sam, Peter and Andrés look back on a goal-laden weekend of Primera División action, and on last week’s Copa Libertadores last sixteen first-leg between River Plate and Boca Juniors. We consider what River’s 1-0 win means for the return leg, and domestically we discuss Crucero del Norte’s uselessness, Belgrano’s and Rosario Central’s good campaigns, and Independiente’s chances of losing three players to various European clubs, as well as Federico Mancuello’s hilarious red card on Sunday night against Boca, and why he won’t be suspended for this Sunday’s clásico away to Racing, which we also preview. Listen before Thursday’s Libertadores second leg between Boca and River for the full experience, but there’s plenty more in store if you don’t get here until afterwards!

 

Mystic Sam’s thirteenth round predictions (last week: 7/15)
Argentinos v Newell’s
Temperley v Huracán
Arsenal v Unión
Olimpo v Chicago
Banfield v Vélez
San Lorenzo v Sarmiento
Atlético de Rafaela v Estudiantes
Racing v Independiente
Crucero v Defensa y Justicia
Central v Lanús
Godoy Cruz v Belgrano
Boca v Aldosivi
Tigre v River
Gimnasia v Quilmes
Colón v San Martín

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

Posted in Sport0 Comments

Welcome to Mesopotamia – Chapter IV

Welcome to Mesopotamia – Chapter IV

Daniel final

In January 2015, Daniel Tunnard and his wife left Buenos Aires after 16 years to move to the small town of Concepción del Uruguay in Entre Ríos, Argentina, build a house and start a family. This is the story of everything that went wrong.

Leelo en castellano aqui.

 

The man from Telecom comes to install telephone and internet, some two weeks earlier than optimism had permitted me to hope. Because nothing is simple in this simple life, the engineer can’t get the cable from our flat to go down to the connection on the ground floor. He wants to check the phone cables in the garage, but since the new building we live in while the house is built is so cheap and made of cardboard and doesn’t employ a caretaker for such eventualities, I have to phone my mother-in-law who has to phone up the guy who sold her the flat and get him to send over a taxi with the remote control to the garage, charging me $67 for the empty pleasure.

'Welcome to Mesopotamia' (Photo by Daniel Tunnard)

‘Welcome to Mesopotamia’ (Photo by Daniel Tunnard)

While we wait the ten minutes for the taxi to arrive, Clemente the engineer – late fifties, stocky build, face like someone who’s spent too long squinting at the sun— keeps the conversation going in that admirable way locals do. He asks me what I’m doing here, where I’m from, Carlos Tévez, etc. He tells me that he loves Concepción del Uruguay (Clemente does, though El Apache probably enjoys yachting as much as the next man), he thinks it’s the best place in the world, he wouldn’t swap it for Mendoza or Iguazú or a mansion in Recoleta. The people are particularly special here, they’re like no one else in the rest of the country, he says. He says he sits outside his house under the shade of two ficus trees and the coaches to Concordia pass and all the passengers look down and see what a good life we live here. He says the women in Chajarí, 200km north, are the most beautiful in the country, a mix of Italian, German and native blood, dark black hair and green eyes all of them, even the men, not that he’s into men. He tells me the story of Yuyo Barragán, which goes on for so long I have to put it in a separate paragraph below. A propos of nothing, he asks me what shoe size I am. I’m a 42, he’s a 43. He takes this particular branch of the conversation no further. He asks me if I’m a Catholic, I tell him I’m Church of England, anglicano, he looks like he needs an explanation, but before I can go into a potted history of Henry VIII he says he’s an Evangelist and that the evangelists cured his knee. He tells me about his daughter, an English teacher training to be a translator, asks me if translation is profitable. He tells me about the Renault Duster he bought at a steal, and shows me the text message from 2011 when the owner told him it was valued at 115,000 pesos but he could have it for 92,000 pesos. I admire the text message, and the man who has saved it all these years, as if they were the last words of a missing loved one.

We open the garage and I check Charlie the cat isn’t there. Of course he isn’t. Clemente opens the phone box, pulls at wires, can’t find mine, goes back into the lobby, pulls at wires, thinks he’s found mine, goes back up to the flat, lubricates a cable with washing up liquid and feeds it down a hole in the wall, it gets stuck again, so he goes downstairs and tries to feed it upwards, nothing doing. This goes on for some time. It must be infuriating for him. He has faith that God will show him the way, he says. Faith is good. God is good. After two hours he admits partial defeat and leaves, saying he’ll come back with a workmate and get it fixed. Half an hour, he says. It’s 11.30. Time passes. It’s 12.30. I know how things work here. If you’ve not done something by 1pm, you won’t get it done until 5pm, unless it’s a Friday. Today’s a Friday. I’m dubious as to how many people work here on a sunny Friday afternoon before the 4-day weekend for Carnaval. If anyone does, I want to believe, it’s Clemente. He’ll come through. If not for me, then for the green-eyed girls of Chajarí. He pulls up in his van at 1.03, a-smiling and a-waving. God is good. Neither He nor Clemente can work out how to get the damn cable down to the cable box, but there’s no faulting their disposition.

Raúl ‘Yuyo’ Barragán, late of this parish, was a local Robin Hood-cum-gifted genius and arguably the country’s first hacker. While working for Aerolíneas Argentinas back in the late 70s, he figured out how to use the reservations system to send a false ticket request to another airline, who would send back confirmation. Yuyo would then use that confirmation to print out the ticket and thus fly all over the world first-class and sell cut-price flights to friends and acquaintances. He and a friend once found themselves in Rio de Janeiro with three days left and no money, so he printed out a couple of first-class tickets to Tokyo and they spent the next forty-eight hours flying to Tokyo and back, enjoying all that first class had to offer which, back in the 70s, forget about it. So infamous was he that he was invited to appear on that pinnacle of infamy, the Susana Gimenez chat show (previous guests: Carlos Menem, Michael Bublé, Shakira) where he appeared with his face concealed in a hood. He was ‘homosesual’, Clemente of Telecom tells me, ‘not that that matters’, he says, although the whole scam apparently started because he had a girlfriend in Caracas and wanted to visit her every weekend. There are a lot of “apparentlys” in this story, so legendary was Yuyo. What is for certain is that Barragán was arrested and investigated in 1993, but no airlines would testify against him. He was eventually convicted in 2003.

'Yuyo' Barragán appears on TV with Susana Gimenez

‘Yuyo’ Barragán appears on TV with Susana Gimenez

Much of this information comes from Auntie Marta, who knows everything about everyone in Concepción, quite a feat considering she’s from Villa Elisa herself. Josefina asks Marta if this is the criminal that her father was related to. No, says Marta, that was Fernandito Ibarra, promising tennis player, dashing dandy, treacherous thief, who would go and play tennis with his upper-class friends, and while the rest were engaged in a round of doubles, sneak into the changing room, take a friend’s house keys, and go and help himself to the family jewels. He’d do the same when his mother had her card-playing old dears round, knowing that he had a good couple of hours to do a thorough job of looting their homes. His grandmother was my father-in-law’s cousin. I could tell you the exact relationship (second cousin once removed) but these things get very fraught in Spanish and it isn’t worth the trouble, to the extent that everyone is referred to as a cousin. My wife has 18 proper cousins and an innumerable list of vague non-cousins who are called cousins, some of whom are in prison, probably.

We’re at Uncle Jorge and Auntie Marta’s, a paradisiacal leafy hectare, sitting by the pool and chatting about master criminals we might be related to, when a wasp stings me on the arse. ‘There’s a wasp on the back of your chair’, says Marta. ‘Don’t worry, it’s a bit woozy.’ I stand up just as the wasp contrives to fall down the back of my shorts, its panicked sting inevitable. I share its panic. I want to strip naked, but not in front of my aunt and mother-in-law, not now. It doesn’t occur to me to jump into the pool for comic effect. Instead I run into the house, squealing at my wife to follow. The wasp stings me at the top of my arse crack just as I wrestle my Walter whites off. Then it sits in my Y-front gusset, biding its time to sting my frightened scrotum, until Josefina spots it, and my scrotum breathes again. It hurts a little, but way less than the time I was stung by a bee as a kid and spent the rest of the day in bed. In fact, the endorphins kick in and I just giggle for a minute. It’s quite pleasant. I may become a beekeeper. Think about it, you get honey, which is good, and endorphins, which are also good. And royal jelly, whatever that is.

There are benefits to being covered in bees...

There are benefits to being covered in bees…

I ask Marta to talk to me about trees. Typical pseudo porteño that I am, I only recognise linden and plane trees, and even then I’d have trouble picking them out of an identification parade. What’s that tree? That’s a fresno. What’s that tree, a eucalyptus? I guess. No, that’s an álamo. ‘Remember the Alamo’ I growl. No one gets this joke, and even if they did they shouldn’t laugh. What’s that tree? That’s an oh no I’ve forgotten the name of that tree already. We’re in the market for buying trees. It’s a nice market to be in. We’re advised to start planting now so that we have shade when we move in. We say we’ll plant the trees as soon as we have water. It’s a long time before we plant any trees. We had a naïve idea about planting fruit trees in the garden: blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, huckleberry, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, peach. Even though we only ever eat bananas. But Auntie Marta says fruit trees, even if they do give fruit, are highly prone to pests and plagues and destroy your garden and are more trouble than they’re worth. Plus, you can buy better fruit at the shop. Yeah, all right, killjoy. We only eat bananas anyway.

Daniel Tunnard’s first book ‘Colectivaizeishon, el ingles que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires’ is available from Buenos Aires bookshops and mercadolibre.com.ar and as an e-book from Amazon and megustaleer.com.ar.

Posted in Expat, Travel Feature0 Comments

Hand of Pod: The Superclásico Trilogy, San Lorenzo Slump, and More

Hand of Pod: The Superclásico Trilogy, San Lorenzo Slump, and More

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

In the latest episode of Hand Of Pod, Sam and Andrés are joined by Mariano, returning to the pod after a long absence, and new boy Federico, the second of our newly-acquired tame Boca Juniors fans. We look back on Boca’s 2-0 win over River Plate on Sunday in the league, and review the rest of the weekend’s action as well – including some thoughts from Mariano on San Lorenzo’s decline and Copa Libertadores exit. We then look at Thursday’s clash between River and Boca at the Monumental in part two of the ‘Superclásico Trilogy’*, in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores last sixteen tie. Will Sunday’s Boca win play a role in either manager’s thinking? Which side has more pressure on them, and is a Libertadores last sixteen tie more or less important than a Copa Sudamericana semi-final? All these questions and more are addressed.

*podcast recorded before Thursday’s superclásico

Mystic Sam’s twelfth round predictions (last week: 4/15)
Estudiantes v Temperley
Lanús v Tigre
Chicago v Central
Quilmes v Godoy Cruz
Newell’s v San Lorenzo
Huracán v Olimpo
Vélez v Argentinos
Unión v Crucero del Norte
Belgrano v Arsenal
San Martín v Atlético de Rafaela
Aldosivi v Banfield
Independiente v Boca Reserves
River Reserves v Racing Reserves
Defensa y Justicia v Colón
Sarmiento v Gimnasia

<em>You can find out more about the team behind HOP <a href=”https://handofpod.wordpress.com/meet-the-team/” target=”_blank”>here</a>.</em>

Posted in Sport1 Comment

Brazil: Loggers Blamed as Two More Indigenous Leaders Killed

Members of the Tupinambá community protest the killing of Adenilson da Silva Nascimento (Photo via Cimi)

Members of the Tupinambá community protest the killing of Adenilson da Silva Nascimento (Photo via Cimi)

Local indigenous groups and international NGOs have blamed illegal loggers in Brazil for the killing of two tribal leaders in the space of five days last week.

On 26th April, Eusébio Ka’apor (42) was shot in the back by hooded gunmen as he rode on a motorbike. A health worker and leader of the Ka’apor indigenous community, Eusébio had been an active part of the fight against illegal logging in the territory.

Members of the community in Alto Turiaçu, which lies in the north-eastern corner of the Amazon in the state of Maranhão, blamed loggers for the murder, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi). Soon after the killing, Eusébio’s son reported that a known local logger had warned him that others could suffer the same fate if the community did not allow logging activity to continue.

According to NGO Survival International, one Ka’apor leader said: “There have been constant death threats against us for a long time. Now they are even killing to intimidate us. They say it’s better that we release our wood than more people die. We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing.”

Infuriated with a lack of state action, the community has chased loggers from the area and blocked access routes since 2013. Survival International called on Brazilian authorities to “bring Eusébio’s killers to justice, and to provide protection to the Ka’apor and [neighbouring tribe] Awá as a matter of urgency.”

A few days later on 1st May, Adenilson da Silva Nascimento (54), of Tupinambá ethnicity, was shot dead after being ambushed by three hooded men as he returned from a fishing excursion with his family. His wife suffered severe injuries to her legs in the attack, which took place in the southern part of Bahia state.

The area has also been plagued by violent land conflicts, with the Tupinambá community claiming that more than 24 people have been killed in the struggle to secure the official demarcation of their territory.

In response to the crime, several hundred members of the community blocked a highway bridge on Monday, demanding an audience with the Justice Ministry and National Indian Foundation (Funai).

Violent attacks against indigenous leaders and activists have becoming increasingly common in Brazil and around Latin America as farmers and companies seek to exploit the region’s abundant resources.

A recent report by Global Witness showed that Latin America remains by far the most dangerous region for land and environmental defenders, with Brazil topping the global rankings with 29 killings in 2014 alone.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

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24th March marks the anniversary of the 1976 coup that brought Argentina's last dictatorship to power, a bloody seven year period in which thousands of citizens were disappeared and killed. Many of the victims passed through ESMA, a clandestine detention centre turned human rights museum

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