Author Archives | marc

Hand of Pod: Boca Stay Top, River Draw in Libertadores Final

Hand of Pod: Boca Stay Top, River Draw in Libertadores Final

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 is joined by Andrés and Remi to look back on a week which saw Boca Juniors strengthen their position at the top of the league with a backs-to-the-wall win away to Belgrano after San Lorenzo had dropped points against Godoy Cruz. River Plate’s reserves beat Colón, but the main focus of River’s week was Wednesday night’s Copa Libertadores final first leg away to Tigres, from which they took a 0-0 draw. Other topics up for discussion are the relegation battle (which increasingly looks rather an easy one to predict the outcome of) and a large variety of listeners’ questions, ranging from Nueva Chicago’s politicised fanbase to Racing’s chances of defending their title.

Mystic Sam’s nineteenth round predictions (last week: 6/15)
Atlético de Rafaela v Aldosivi
Estudiantes v Chicago
Argentinos v Godoy Cruz
Colón v Independiente
Central v Sarmiento
Racing v Belgrano
Boca v Unión
San Lorenzo v Gimnasia
Olimpo v Newell’s
Temperley v Vélez
Crucero v Huracán
Banfield v Arsenal
Tigre v Quilmes
San Martin v Lanús & Defensa y Justicia v River are both postponed.

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

Posted in Sport, TOP STORY0 Comments

On This Day In… 1865: Welsh Settlers Arrive in Patagonia

On This Day In… 1865: Welsh Settlers Arrive in Patagonia

“We’ve found a better land, in the far south. It is Patagonia. We will live there in peace, without fear of treachery or war, with a Welshman on the throne. Praise be to God.” – English version of chorus sung on the Mimosa as it left Liverpool for Patagonia on 28th May, 1865.

On 28th July, 1865, two months after setting sail from Liverpool, more than 150 Welsh men, women, and children anchored offshore Puerto Madryn (then Porth Madryn). After the long voyage, they were eager to start a new life far from overbearing English rule and the treacherous coal mines of Merthyr Tydfil. They had been told of a virgin and fertile land, where they could speak Welsh freely and practise religion without fear of persecution – an idyllic utopia that many found hard to imagine when they first set eyes on the harsh Patagonian steppe…

A drawing of the Mimosa tea-clipper that carried 153 Welsh men, women, and children from Liverpool to Patagonia (Source: Wikipedia)

A drawing of the Mimosa tea-clipper that carried 153 Welsh men, women, and children from Liverpool to Patagonia (Source: Wikipedia)

Though of minimal global significance, the story of how this small group of Welsh pioneers settled in barren Patagonia is one of the more curious, even romantic, tales of colonisation in the Americas. It was the first time a European community, with ample help from Buenos Aires and local indigenous tribes, managed to tame the land that Charles Darwin had said suffered from a “curse of sterility”. And it remains one of the few examples of a peaceful settlement on foreign lands, without ambitions of conquest or plunder, and still celebrated in both countries 150 years later.

A New Beginning

Emigration from Wales had gathered pace in the early 19th century as standards of living became increasingly bleak for many during the industrial revolution. In rural areas, English landowners dominated the local economy and government, restricting Welsh language and traditions. Communities had been established in the US – the most common destination for European migrants at the time – but the pressure to assimilate in the local culture threatened the preservation of Welsh customs.

The search for a new, secluded spot coincided with the Argentine government’s eagerness to populate the wild southern expanse of Patagonia, where it exerted a sovereign claim but had no physical presence. In late 1862, Lewis Jones, a printer and one of a society to promote a Welsh colony, began negotiations with Argentina’s Interior Minister Guillermo Rawson in Buenos Aires. Rawson rejected outright any proposal that would undermine Argentina’s sovereignty in the region, but promised land (100 acres per family) and supplies for any settler who came.

A map included in the 1862 'Manual of the Welsh Colony' distributed to promote a new settlement in Patagonia (Source: Glaniad)

A map included in the 1862 ‘Manual of the Welsh Colony’ distributed to promote a new settlement in Patagonia (Source: Glaniad)

Jones and Captain Thomas Love Jones-Parry then sailed south to explore the area around the Chubut River they planned to call ‘New Wales’. A few months later they were back in the homeland, embarking on an intense PR campaign to recruit discontent locals to leave everything behind and start afresh 7,000 miles away. The rosy picture of Patagonia painted during this period would later be a source of tension between Jones and some disappointed settlers.

As the Mimosa vessel prepared to leave Liverpool, many remained unconvinced by the expedition to such a remote and potentially hostile territory. Before boarding, passenger Watkin Williams received a letter from his uncle that read: “Of all the wild, mad schemes that have turned up of late, the wildest and maddest is the Patagonia scheme. I may as well hold my tongue. Therefore I can only hope – hoping against hope – that you will all be successful, comfortable, and happy. I also hope that the Indians who will eat you all bodily (will suffer) a confound indigestion.”

Life On The Steppe

According to testimonies from the time, the beginnings of ‘New Wales’ were plagued with hardships brought on by a combination of poor planning, ignorance, and bad luck. Upon arrival, the settlers found that the area around Porth Madryn had almost no access to fresh water, and hundreds of sheep and cows that had been sent with gauchos on a 500km trek from Carmen de Patagones never arrived. It was the middle of the Patagonian winter, and few crops could flourish. Hunger and thirst were constant afflictions, and the settlers soon felt the extreme isolation they had sailed into.

It was also quickly apparent that most of the 153 travellers were ill prepared to set up a new agricultural settlement on this remote, arid landscape. Things started badly from the first day on land when David Williams, a shoemaker from Aberystwyth, went out to explore the surroundings and never returned – he lost his way on the open plains and it was several years before his remains were discovered. In the weeks following, several more settlers would perish and many valuable animals (including nearly 1,000 sheep) would be lost on the plains.

The strongest members of the community pushed on inland and south towards the mouth of the Chubut River (around a 30 mile trek). It is here that the town of ‘Trerawson’ (now Rawson) was officially founded on 15th September, and the Argentine government delivered on its promise to provide land and title deeds for everyone.

One of the first carts constructed in the colony, circa 1866. (Photo: Museo de la Historia de la Colonia Galesa en Gaiman)

One of the first carts constructed in the colony, circa 1866. (Photo: Museo de la Historia de la Colonia Galesa en Gaiman)

Still, the views of the settlers were mixed, as evidenced by a collection of letters sent in November, around 100 days after the landing. “I’ve never been so disappointed,” wrote farmer William Jones to his uncle back in Wales. “The region is nothing like I’d read and heard about before coming… I think we would have been better if we’d have stayed.”

Others, like pastor Lewis Humphreys, recognised the immediate difficulties facing the community but remained optimistic: “My dear Brother, keep the Patagonian spirit up! If God is smiling on us there will be a comfortable home for thousands of Welsh people in a few years.”

Most of the published letters included a note about the need for fresh supplies and a favourable comment about the weather.

The ‘Desert Brothers’

It would take several years for the colony to become self-sufficient, a period in which its survival was only possible due to the persuasive powers of Jones and the semi-regular shipments of supplies he drew from the Argentine government.

The other key ingredient for success – and arguably the most intriguing aspect of this story – was a harmonious relationship with the local Tehuelche tribe. The two communities first crossed paths in April 1866, and in spite of mid-19th century racial profiling, formed a respectful relationship based around the exchange of goods (especially Welsh bread for meat) and skills (baking and hunting). Though prejudices surely existed, there was no concerted attempt by the settlers to convert their ‘desert brothers’ the Tehuelches to Christianity or force them to adopt their customs, a decision probably inspired by the group’s own experience with the English.

Welsh pinoeer Lewis Jones with a group of Tehuelche, circa 1867. (Photo: University of Wales, Bangor)

Welsh pinoeer Lewis Jones with a group of Tehuelche, circa 1867. (Photo: University of Wales, Bangor)

This amicable, if sometimes tense, relationship made the Argentine government uneasy at a time when General Julio Argentina Roca was making plans for the so-called Conquest of the Desert. Reportedly at the request of a local cacique, the Welsh community protested against the massacre of indigenous communities across Patagonia, but was either unwilling or unable to prevent it.

Decline And Rebound

As Buenos Aires cemented its control over the whole territory, it revoked the autonomy of the Welsh community and by the end of the century had decreed that Spanish must be the official language, including in schools.

After enduring a traumatic first few decades, this subjugation came as a blow to many settlers, some of whom decided to return to Wales or emigrate to Canada. By then, though, the colony had expanded considerably, with a train connecting Rawson with Puerto Madryn and new settlements established in the far more scenic foothills of the Andes. Though the trickle of new arrivals ended with the start of the First World War, the Patagonian Welsh persisted and eventually flourished against the odds.

Patagonia may not be the enclave of unspoiled Welsh culture envisaged by the pioneers, but some traditions remain in place today and are actively supported by local authorities. Meanwhile, an exchange programme with the local government in Cardiff since 1997 has stimulated the use of the Welsh language among younger generations in Chubut. Enough surely, for those greeted by the loneliest of wildernesses on this day 150 years ago to rest in peace.

Posted in Analysis, Society, TOP STORY0 Comments

President Fernández Diagnosed With Laryngitis

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (photo: Luis Cetraro/enviado especial/Télam/cf)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (photo: Luis Cetraro/enviado especial/Télam/cf)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has suspended her agenda for the next 48 hours after being diagnosed with acute laryngitis.

The illness was diagnosed by the presidential medical team, which released a press release confirming that: “The President of the Nation, Dr. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has an acute laryngitis, and is receiving the appropriate treatment with the suspension of activities for 48 hours.” The diagnosis was signed by doctors Marcelo Ballesteros and Daniel Fernández.

President Fernández had planned to lead a ceremony today in Puerto Madryn, Chubut in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Welsh migrants to Patagonia.

This isn’t the first time the head of state has suffered medical issues. In November last year, she missed 26 days of activities with sigmoiditis, and in October 2013 had a lengthy absence after surgery for a subdural hematoma.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Festival Unión de los Pibes – Making Helping Easier

Festival Unión de los Pibes – Making Helping Easier

This Saturday will see the inaugural Festival Unión de los Pibes (FUDLP) take place in the Galpón los Milagros, in Palermo Soho.

The festival promises to have a familiar mix of food, music, and fun, but there’s an important extra: it’s being organised by and for local non-profit organisations, with the goal of raising both funds and awareness.

Festival Union de los Pibes

“We want to make it easier to help,” says Will Aquino, director of Club Unión de los Pibes, a non-profit that works with children in impoverished areas in the south of Buenos Aires. Club Unión is organising the festival as a way of generating funding for its own operations and to showcase the work that other local NGOs are doing.

“You look at places like expat groups on Facebook and everyone is saying ‘how can I help?’ or ‘where can I volunteer without paying a fee?’ or ‘where can I donate my clothes?’,” says Aquino. “People just don’t know.”

Alongside Club Unión, seven other NGOs will be represented at FUDLP, a mix of expat-led groups such as Send a Child to School (SACS) and local organisations. Each face the same challenges of finding funding and volunteers, as well as overcoming bureaucratic and legal hurdles.

“We’re trying to make it easier, not only for these groups do keep doing good things, but for the community to help. A lot of people want to, they just don’t know how,” explains Aquino.

He says sometimes has to turn potential volunteers away because of capacity constraints, and hopes that bringing other organisations together in one place will ensure that good intentions are not wasted.

Entry to the festival is $50 or free with a donation of clothing (preferably winter items), school equipment (especially stationary), and non-perishable food. It’s a family-friendly affair – there will be free workshops and activities for the kids – and plenty of food and drink stands, including some expat favourites like El Tejano and La Fabrica del Taco. There will also be a raffle and a pop-up thrift shop, and all donations and proceeds from the day will go straight to the participating NGOs.

Aquino hopes that the event will raise enough funds to allow Club Unión de los Pibes to fund and expand its operations. Founded in 2008, the club encourages dozens of youngsters in Barracas, La Boca, and Constitución to have more self-belief and a sense of community, while supporting their progress through school. Volunteers act as mentors (“like a big brother or sister”) and come from all over the world, but have to commit to at least three months to ensure some level of consistency and stability for the children.

The Club Unión de los Pibes during a day of activities at the US ambassador's residence in Buenos Aires (Photo courtesy of CUDLP)

The Club Unión de los Pibes during a day of activities at the US ambassador’s residence in Buenos Aires (Photo courtesy of CUDLP)

Aquino says he’s seen the benefits of Club Unión’s work first hand. “We’ve brought kids back to school, taught them the importance of it. I’ve seen grades go up, I’ve seen kids get off drugs and the streets are start hanging out with us… We’re seeing these kinds of changes, and we know that we can do more.”

The group currently meets every Saturday in public parks for an afternoon of activities, including art, music, and sport. With the support of events like FUDLP, Club Unión aims to secure their own community space, which will allow them to welcome more children and volunteers, as well as organise more fun and educational field trips.

“This is the biggest event we’ve ever done,” says Aquino, adding that the amount of support they have received from all angles raises hope that this will lead to bigger and better events in the future. “Assuming this goes well, we’ll be able to do this two or four times a year and have more organisations.”

The Festival Unión de los Pibes will run from 12pm to 11pm at Galpón los Milagros on Gorriti 5417. Entry $50 or free with a donation of clothes, school or art equipment, or non-perishable food items. Visit the event’s Facebook page for more information.

Click here for more information about Club Unión de los Pibes.

Posted in Development, Expat0 Comments

Hand of Pod: River Reach the Copa Libertadores Final

Hand of Pod: River Reach the Copa Libertadores Final

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 of Hand Of Pod sees Sam and Andrés in a good mood after River Plate’s qualification for the final of the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 19 years. A 1-1 draw with Guaraní in Asunción, with Marcelo Gallardo signings Tabaré Viudez and Lucas Alario combining for the crucial goal, proved decisive and next week River will face Tigres of Mexico in the first leg (we didn’t know this when we recorded). As well as River in the Copa, there’s also a full weekend of Argentine league action to look back on, including River reserves’ 5-1 tonking of Atlético de Rafaela, and wins for San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors (on Carlos Tevez’s return to La Bombonera) which mean it’s still Boca-San Lorenzo-River in a 1-2-3 at the top of the league table. Andrés also has a preview of this weekend’s biggest league match, the clásico rosarino between Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central.


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

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

Posted in Sport0 Comments

Hand of Pod: Carlos Tevez Returns to Boca Juniors

Hand of Pod: Carlos Tevez Returns to Boca Juniors

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.

Hand Of Pod returns with Sam joined by Andrés, Fede and long-time HOP listener but first-time HOP contributor Johnny to look back over an eventful week. Boca Juniors leapfrogged San Lorenzo into top spot in the league, getting a gritty 1-0 win away to Sarmiento after both San Lorenzo and River Plate had been held to draws earlier in the weekend. For River, at least, there was the consolation of a fine performance and 2-0 win on Tuesday night in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores semi-final against Guaraní of Paraguay – the second leg will be next Tuesday in Asunción. On Monday, as well as a Vélez Sarsfield v Tigre match which saw a dramatic finish, there was Carlos Tevez’s unveiling at La Bombonera, to which around 40,000 people showed up – Boca fans Fede and Johnny give us their thoughts on Carlitos’ return and what it means for the team. As well as all this, we have a look at a few managerial debutants, including Gabriel Heinze, who Sam believes is the first graduate of both the Ferguson and Bielsa schools of football management (i.e. he played under both of them).


Mystic Sam’s seventeenth round predictions (last week: 9/15)
San Lorenzo v Arsenal
Banfield v Belgrano
Atlético de Rafaela v River
Carlos Tevez FC Boca v Quilmes
Defensa y Justicia v Nueva Chicago
Colón v Lanús
Olimpo v Aldosivi
Racing v Sarmiento
Crucero del Norte v Estudiantes
Temperley v Independiente
Tigre v Newell’s
Central v Vélez
San Martín v Huracán
Gimnasa v Godoy Cruz
Argentinos v Unión

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

Posted in Sport0 Comments

‘This Isn’t Goodbye': Gilda, the Cumbia Saint

‘This Isn’t Goodbye': Gilda, the Cumbia Saint

7th September 1996 was a rainy day. But it was a Saturday, and Hugo Alejandro Pastorini and his friends were preparing for a night out when his grandmother told him that popular cumbia artist Gilda was on the TV. “We had a combi that night, you see,” he recalls. “We were going to dance. I couldn’t believe what I saw on the news. They said Gilda died in a car accident.”

An Argentine sweetheart, Gilda was coming back from a tour when a truck crashed into the bus she was travelling in, killing her, her mother, her daughter, three musicians, and the bus driver. Many clubs closed in solidarity with the loss that night; Hugo did not feel like dancing anymore anyway.

Gilda's portrait, used as a cover for her CD "Pasito a pasito con Gilda" (Photo: archive)

Gilda’s portrait, used as a cover for her CD “Pasito a pasito con Gilda” (Photo: archive)

Many stars have died prematurely, leaving their fans heartbroken. Gilda’s case, though, is somehow different. Almost 20 years after her death at the age of 34, dedicated followers continue to worship her, with some claiming they have experienced miracles caused by the artist.

Silvina Alejandra Soto was watching TV with her mother when the news of the fatal crash came up. Her mother was a fan of Gilda, and Silvina, who was training to be a singer herself, felt jealous about all the attention given to a cumbia artist they didn’t even know.

She stood up to leave the room, but suddenly sat back down. She says she could feel a pressure on her shoulders, as if somebody was pushing her down, and she was unable to stop crying. She wasn’t a big fan of Gilda, and did not even really like her songs, but says she had experienced contact with the departed before and immediately realised it was the singer’s spirit touching her. She felt she was close to passing out so she told her mother to ask Gilda to let go; only then was she finally able to stop crying. Silvina then dreamt of Gilda alive every night for the next five years, and she decided to devote herself to the singer.

As an artist herself, Silvina says she lets Gilda inspire her when she paints her portraits. It is the singer who tells her how she should be painted through her visions, they co-produce the artwork. She calls this process “channelling”. Silvina also claims that the singer’s energy remains in the photos of her, as well as in her own pieces. “You can see her eyes follow you across the room,” she says “her photograph is a window through which she remains present, keeps you company, brings you peace, and helps you as much as she can, year after year.”

It’s hard to say how many people consider themselves devotees of Gilda. Many of her fans only admire her music, or worship their idol in the privacy of their own homes. But some openly follow her as a kind of “popular saint“.

It was already like this when she was still alive, says Alejandro Margulis, author of the book ‘Gilda, la abanderada de la bailanta’. People would follow her after her shows, asking her to touch them as they believed she could cure their diseases. Being superstitious (she would write prayers against evil spirits in her diary) and Christian herself, Gilda didn’t like it when people called her a saint. She didn’t think she had any sort of superpowers, yet said she believed in the miraculous potential of her music.

After her death, the singer’s most dedicated followers sought out a place where they could express their grief and devotion freely. They gathered in two places in Argentina: the 24th gallery of the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires, where the singer and her family are buried, and Gilda’s ‘sanctuary’ at Km 129 on Ruta Nacional 19, where the fatal accident took place.

Gilda's tomb in La Chacarita, decorated with flowers and letters from her fans. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Gilda’s tomb in La Chacarita, decorated with flowers and letters from her fans. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

The shrine to Gilda in Chacarita fills up at least twice a year: on the anniversaries of her birthday, 11th October, and the accident, 7th September. Some devotees come more frequently, and travel from afar. Hugo lives in Entre Ríos, the province where Gilda’s accident took place. His colleagues cover him at work from time to time when he wants to visit Chacarita. “As a matter of fact, they are pretty tired of doing it,” he admits. “They think I should be more serious about my life.” To avoid trouble at work he tends to visit the roadside sanctuary more often, as it’s not that far from where he lives.

Hugo claims he has been blessed with Gilda’s miracles more than once, and attributes them to helping him make important decisions. He recalls the time when he had no idea what to do with his life and Gilda “appeared on his wall”. That day he realised he wanted to quit his previous job and find a new one. He also started going out more in order to find somebody to share his days with. All of that, he says, was guided by Gilda, and that’s the reason he wants to keep visiting her tomb, in spite of the logistical challenges.

Hugo says he also witnessed a miracle at the scene of her death, when a flag with Gilda’s face painted on it started to cry. Other people saw it too, though some of them think it was a trick, a cheap prank. But Hugo knows it was for real. He owns a photograph of Gilda, and says he chats with her every morning, as if she were his flatmate.

Hugo Alejandro Pastorini with a hand-painted flag of Gilda/Maxi Bianchi taking a selfie with his idol's tomb. "I always say hello to Gilda when I come here, then I take a photo and send it to other fans", says the teenager. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Hugo Alejandro Pastorini with a hand-painted flag of Gilda/Maxi Bianchi taking a selfie with his idol’s tomb. “I always say hello to Gilda when I come here, then I take a photo and send it to other fans”, says the teenager. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Other followers also claim to feel the presence of Gilda under their roof. “Wherever you look, there is a picture of her,” explains Maxi. “I had to hide most of the things in the boxes though. They were taking up so much space, and I have a baby brother now.”

At 15, Maxi is one of the youngest devotees of Gilda, born a few years after her death. He calls himself Maxi Bianchi (Gilda’s actual name was Miriam Alejandra Bianchi), though this is not his family name. “My parents used to have to bring me here,” he says, “but now I can travel on my own.” It takes him more than an hour to get to Chacarita from his home in La Matanza. “I can’t really feel her here,” he says, about the cemetery. “But I still come every Saturday.”

Maxi started listening to Gilda’s music about five years ago, after he heard a special radio programme on the anniversary of her death. He would confuse her with other cumbia singers, yet he liked her music so he started looking for more information about her. He then noticed that her presence was surrounding him – his neighbours were listening to her, and he himself became obsessed with some of her songs, like ‘Paisaje’ or ‘No me arrepiento de este amor’.

During his summer holidays he decided to visit the sanctuary, where he was given a vignette with Gilda’s photograph. About a month later his pregnant mother suffered from internal bleeding and the family thought she would lose the baby. Maxi decided to ask Gilda for help. “I promised her I would visit her in Chacarita if everything went fine,” he says. The next day his mother was able to return home, and although she needed to rest, she was feeling good. Just as he had promised, Maxi went to Chacarita, where he got in touch with other fans. He started coming every Saturday. “I let them know when I come,” Maxi says “otherwise I have to spend the whole day here alone.” When asked about his peers, Maxi say they admire her as an artist, but are not as devoted to Gilda as he is. His parents don’t join him at Chacarita either. “There is just something about her energy,” he says. “She makes me feel positive. I definitely am a believer.”

Maxi holding his first vignette of Gilda in front of the Chacarita cemetery. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Maxi holding his first vignette of Gilda in front of the Chacarita cemetery. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Despite their apparent devotion, none of the Gilda fans spoken to to considers their faith in the cumbiera as idolatry. “I’m Catholic, and I actually think it’s God speaking through Gilda,” says Maxi. According to the teenager, you can consider anyone who has proven miracles to be a saint. “It could be Gilda, it could be my grandfather…” he says. “I don’t want to be mixing things. But if you ask for a favour, and it becomes true, I think this person is a saint.”

Silvina also sees a profound connection between her admiration for Gilda and religion. She doesn’t think Gilda is a pagan saint, but an angel, who not only helped her with her art through her visualisations (“She gives me visions I didn’t have before”), but also brought her closer to God. “In my dreams Gilda would tell me many times that the miracles are God’s blessings, not hers. She prays to God for my health on my behalf, and then miracles happen,” Silvina explains. “Gilda also helped me understand the Bible, not through the religion, but through my heart. She made me see the value of Christ’s sacrifice.” Silvina makes it clear that she doesn’t consider herself a fan of Gilda, although she knows many who are. “She’s a kind of an older sister to me, maybe a teacher. She’s strict, but loving, and she makes you feel it.”

But there is also a darker side to the Gilda legend. Humberto Grillo, the guard of the gallery where Gilda’s tomb is placed, explains that some people would get upset about her followers gathering at her grave. Two of them were especially unhappy about it, claiming the devotees were too loud. They both died on the 7th September, same date as Gilda. Now they are buried in the same building as her, forever hearing Gilda receive visits from her followers.

“It’s like they had been trying to take ‘Gil’ down you see,” explains Maxi, “and she ended up taking them down herself.” Isn’t that a cruel thing to do? “It’s weird, right?” says Maxi. “But she used to say her character was pretty complicated. She would say things right into your face. They probably really pissed her off.”

Claudio Milano admits that not all of Gilda’s followers respect the place. They write things for Gilda on other tombs, forgetting she isn’t there alone. He and some others come and clean the place for everybody.

Unlike many of the fans at Chacarita, Claudio actually got to see Gilda sing live, a thing that Maxi can only see in documentaries. He says that when she was singing in clubs, she would really devote herself to her fans, giving them advice. “But she wouldn’t make you feel weird,” he admits “she was just a normal person.” After the shows she would take photos and talk to the people. Claudio started following her shows (“I would ask her where she would be singing next”) and formed her fanclub. He became involved in a conflict with a president of another fanclub of Gilda. “We were young and stupid”, he says “we wanted to be important, and more important than the other. We forgot it was all about Gilda and that she is the only one that matters.”

Claudio even got to know her family, after becoming a father for the first time as an unemployed teenager. Gilda’s brother agreed to be his lawyer and he won the custody over his oldest daughter, something that had seemed to be impossible. This was after Gilda’s death, and for Claudio, it could have been a miracle. He named one of his daughters Gilda, and says his kids are all fans of Gilda’s music.

Part of Gilda’s appeal, according to both Maxi and Claudio, is that she herself didn’t have an easy life. They say she was close to the people because she herself was one of the people. She had to drop out of school after her father’s death and started her own family at a young age. According to Claudio, you can understand her music regardless of where you are from or who you are.

Another fan, Alejandro Margulis says that Gilda first became popular among the poor, before her fame spread to middle and upper classes. She’s also an idol for the LGBT community in Argentina. Even high-level politicians are believed to be fans.

“I have given President Cristina tonnes of photos of Gilda,” Claudio says. “She’s also a fanatic.”

“And so’s Mauricio Macri,” adds Maxi. The latter uses Gilda’s songs in his political campaigns.

A tribute mural to Gilda on the walls of La Chacarita. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

A tribute mural to Gilda on the walls of La Chacarita. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

There’s an urban legend about one of Gilda’s songs, ‘No es mi despedida’ (This isn’t goodbye). Many claim she knew she was going to die when she recorded the song. Maxi is not so sure. “I don’t know…” he says. “She was so special. Maybe she really knew something was going to happen.”

Claudio is is more sceptical – “That’s just marketing” – as he believes she sang the song for her Bolivian friend, hoping to see her again soon.

But they both agree though that Gilda is still present and that you can feel it through her music – or her miracles. “You go for it,” Claudio says. “Ask her for something. You’ll see she will help you too.”

Posted in Music, Society0 Comments

Santa Fe: Lifschitz Declared Governor-Elect After Recount

Miguel Lifschitz was declared the governor-elect for Santa Fe province.

Miguel Lifschitz was declared the governor-elect for Santa Fe province.

Miguel Lifschitz, of the Frente Progresista Cívico y Social (FPCyS), was confirmed as governor-elect today following a recount of votes from the provincial election on 14th June.

The provincial electoral tribunal reported the definitive results today, showing Lifschitz winning with 584,557 votes, just 1,776 votes ahead of PRO candidate Miguel Del Sel (582,781)

In a historic election results, just 25,582 votes separated the winner with third place Omar Perotti, of the Frente para la Victoria (FpV) party, who got 558,975 votes.

The recount had been ordered after Del Sel contested the initial results, which gave Lifschitz a winning margin of just 2,128 votes. The PRO candidate reported irregularities in the count, which had also excluded the results of more than 300 voting centres due to error.

Parties now have 24 hours to make claims regarding the counting process. PRO has requested the electoral tribunal to allow “over 3,000 policemen” to vote, who were allegedly unable to do so on election day. They have also requested that all boxes of votes be reopened to complete a full recount, something which has already been rejected by local courts.

“Unfortunately, the 70% of people from Santa Fe who did not vote for the governor-elect will be left with the doubt as to who won the 2015 election,” said provincial deputy for PRO Federico Angelini. “I’m not saying it was done with bad intentions, but there were data entry errors, human errors, which made it worthwhile reviewing the whole process.”

Elections in Santa Fe this year have been unusually close and controversial. During the primary elections that took place back in April of this year, approximately 10% of the votes were found to be uncounted, after the authorities had claimed that there had been a full count.

In that case, Del Sel emerged as the candidate with the most votes, narrowly ahead of Lifschitz.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Army Chief Milani to Resign From Post for ‘Personal Reasons’

César Milani after being promoted by the president (Photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/dsl)

César Milani after being promoted by the president (Photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/dsl)

Argentine Army chief César Milani has submitted a request to resign from his position, according to a military press release today.

According to the statement, Milani’s request is based on “strictly personal reasons”.

Milani was proposed as the new head of the army by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in June 2013, with his appointment eventually ratified by the Senate the following December.

His appointment was controversial due to claims that he was involved in crimes against humanity during the last military dictatorship.

Specifically, documents gathered by human rights groups and presented by the Centre of Social and Legal Studies (CELS) link Milani to the disappearance of conscript Alberto Ledo in Tucumán in 1976, as well as the illegal detention of Pedro and Ramón Olivera in La Rioja in 1977.

Milani has always denied any involvement in these crimes, but CELS challenged the decision to promote him and called for a complete investigation into his past. A report published in December 2013 stated: “We don’t affirm that [Milani] tortured people, but we find his claims that he did not know others were doing so unacceptable. For that reason, we believe that he does not deserve the confidence that a democracy should have in its army chief.”

The government defended its decision, stating that Milani had not been charged with any crime and must be presumed innocent until that changes.

So far there has been no official response to Milani’s request.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Undercover BA: The New Breed of Artisan Shoe Designers

Undercover BA: The New Breed of Artisan Shoe Designers

vanessa bell

Vanessa Bell is a freelance writer and trend hunter, running a bespoke personal shopping service called Creme de la Creme, as well as writing as a lifestyle, food, and fashion insider for Wallpaper*, Monocle, and other international publications. She’s lived in Buenos Aires since 2010, having visited all her life as her mother is Argentine. 


For any visitor to Buenos Aires, an initial stroll around Palermo, taking in the high street shops on Av. Santa Fe, and a general overview of the sartorial offerings of the major shopping centres would suggest Argentine fashion is a little disappointing, both repetitive and playing safe. Indeed, there are many stubborn trends that never seem to die – wet-look leggings, leopard print, studs, and fringed details are just a few of the perennial offenders. Dubious propositions for those with an iota of fashion sense.

Footwear suffers a similar affliction. The ardent love for vertiginously high platforms is no doubt in part due to the fact that Argentine women tend to be more petite than their European counterparts. This should not be an excuse to justify ‘height at any price’, and yet the offensive platform birkenstocks have been a regular fixture for the last two summer seasons and the recent platformed tractor-style boots and variations on the theme have become the current mainstay of most shoe shop window displays. The snaggle-toothed sole makes even the most elegant porteña look ungainly, as they clomp, bottom-heavy, down the street.

Yet away from the main shopping drags, the picture is much brighter. A crop of young designers unfazed by pandering to the status quo are initiating a fledgling revolution: independent boutiques and designers working from showroom spaces who are quietly carving out their own identities, selling stunning models which buck mainstream trends. One of the exponents of this movement who I mention in one of my previous columns is Jessica Kessel, whose original sassy artisan shoes don’t compromise comfort for style and are made in small quantities with bags of personality.

Here is a round-up of other young designers who are also proposing refreshing alternatives (click titles for more information).


By appointment or buy online.

Bauths shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Bauths shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

This small label’s focus is on experimental design, with an emphasis on creating a one-off, personalised product. Its styles are practical for walking along Buenos Aires’ uneven pavements yet equally stylish, and can comfortably double up as evening wear. Bauths works primarily with leather, which is embossed and treated to create unique effects and textures with each pair. Models such as their ROD moccasins or TIUS sandals experiment with the use of patent leather and metallic detailing, offering fresh alternatives to conventional styles.


Jorge Luis Borges 1918.

Shoe designs by Masklo (Photo: Masklo Facebook page)

Masklo shoe designs  (Masklo Facebook page)

Having just opened their debut store, this unisex brand specialises in design-conscious sandals and minimal trainers, appealing to a gap in the local market. The label was in the official selection for the recent Feria Puro Diseño and their shoes on display highlighted their alternative propositions in terms of form and design. Using quality materials and excellent leather, the emphasis is is also on small-scale artisan production. Wish list favourites are the all-white leather lace-ups, a welcome understated aesthetic that locals are only recently starting to embrace.


Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1800.

Centrico shoe designs (Photos provided by Centrico)

Centrico shoe designs (Photos provided by Centrico)

Located on a quiet crossroad on the periphery of the main Palermo shopping strip is Centrico, a chic glass-fronted store which occupies half a block. Having nurtured a loyal local following, its location has thus far prevented it from becoming overexposed, and it tends to be a more discerning tourist who discovers this picturesque store on their own. Producing both mens and womenswear, the label oozes contemporary sophistication and produces a welcome line of beautiful flats for women, including loafers and brogues.

Hey Coronado

By appointment.

Hey Coronado shoe designs (Hey Coronado Facebook page)

Hey Coronado shoe designs (Hey Coronado Facebook page)

Nati Delgado’s new label has been running for less than a year, but already her innovative and highly original designs have set tongues wagging. Working from a studio space in her Palermo home, she offers her shoes on a small production scale, and makes them to order with different colour options for both uppers and heels. Her cut-out lace up brogues are a personal favourite, and her prices are friendly, hovering around the $1,000 mark.


By appointment.

Bronco shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Bronco shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Romina Iglesias started her label three years ago with a desire to produce classic designs that defied faddy trends. She also offers a personalised service, with a made-to-order policy. Working from her showroom in San Telmo where the samples from her collection are on display, clients have their feet measured and choose the model and material for the uppers according to personal preference, with turnaround in a matter of days. Many of her styles are unisex and go up to a 42, a rarity in Argentina and welcome news for frustrated girls with bigger feet.

For more insider tips, news, and updates, follow Vanessa on facebook or instagram

Posted in Fashion, Underground BA0 Comments

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