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Thoughts of a Foreigner

Adrian was born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and he hasn't been able to stay put ever since. Admittedly a pop culture lover, he has been moving back and forth between the United States, England and Argentina while writing chronicles of his many adventures, mostly a result of his so-called 'Indiana Jones complex'.

Besides being a contributor for the Argentina Independent, he also writes about local politics at the Buenos Aires Herald.

Census 2010: Party’s over kids!

OK. So Buenos Aires is allegedly the city that never sleeps.

Well, not tonight it’s not! Its Census day tomorrow, so if you were planning on partying hard tonight, you’re screwed.

Tomorrow is the day that Argentina comes to a halt, with only public services operating between 8 am to 8 pm and everything else pretty much closed. There’s also a ban on alcohol sales after midnight so you might wanna stock up if you’re planning on getting drunk (I’m sure you most certainly are, since the entire population considers this to be some sort of a mid-week Friday).

So no night clubs, no restaurants, no bars. Nothing. It sucks, I know. But at least I can assure you that a large portion of the Argentine population is as upset as we are (although for different reasons).

Now, this is the boring part about politics. If you’re put off by that, you can stop reading now (I will think less of you for doing so, though).

The INDEC census bureau (usually called “INDEK” by detractors who replace the letter C by a K to suggest that it is being run by the Kirchner marriage) has been in the eye of a storm for several years now, especially after it was taken over by the government and its “goons,” who allegedly “retouch” inflation, poverty and unemployment rates in order to make it sound as if the country is doing great.

The head of the INDEC, Domestic Trade Secretary and Black Arts Overlord Guillermo Moreno has been compared to fictional villains such as Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger and Dick Cheney due to his unconventional “coercion stunts” that include entering a shareholders meeting while brandishing a handgun (not a joke) or putting on some box gloves in order to fight them (not a joke either).

So since a large percentage of the population is convinced that no matter what results, the census figures will be retouched in order to favor the government, many around the country have said they will refuse to disclose any information.

And here’s the funny thing: there’s a certain sign for the Census people that has been floating around the internet, which many have vowed to stick to the door of their homes in order to avoid answering any questions.

The sign, which you can see on the right, reads as follows:

“Dear census people:

Please do not bother ringing the bell. In this home, we are certain this survey is going to be “retouched” by our most excellent presidents (the Kirchners). Therefore, we ask you not to waste your time knocking on our door.

However, here’s some information that we are sure will be of interest to our “beloved” president:

1 – We are an average Argentine family.

2 – We have four cars, all bought in 2010 (and we’re already thinking of buying a new one before year’s end).

3 – Our floors are all wooden. Yes, even in the bathroom.

4 – We have a dog that only eats the best beef cuts.

5 – We have central air and central heating.

6 – Our fridge is filled with imported delicacies.

7 – We eat beef at least three of four times a week.

8 – We have a wireless internet connection at home and a Bluetooth connection in our molars.

9 – We only get our news from government-friendly newspapers such as Pagina 12 and the Telam government news agency.

10 – We are all blonde and have blue eyes.

We consider it useless for you to survey us since Mr. Moreno, the lord of the INDEK statistics agency already has the census results before hand. Please do not spend a whole day away from your family. Go home, have some mates with your wife of cook some pasta for your husband (if you have one).

Yours truly,

A family that tries to be in a good mood despite it all.

(And please don’t say this out loud or we might get taxed for it).”

Ha! I swear it wasn’t me who wrote this, although it may sound like it. You see? Politics can be fun, and when you call your parents via Skype tomorrow because you’re bored, now you know what to bitch about.

Have a happy stay-at-home Wednesday and enjoy some good old Argentine TV. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s has been pretty educational lately.

Enjoy Census Day (and thank God it only happens once every ten years)!

Posted in Thoughts of a Foreigner1 Comment

Weekly News Roundup, Oct. 24th.

So, it was my birthday last Friday (not that you care)! And instead of spending my day partying with my friends and drinking to forget, there I was, writing the Weekly News Round Up because I see you people don’t really care about leaving messages of support such as “Great work, Adrian!” or “You’re so funny,” but when I mentioned that this week’s roundup would go up today, you filled my Hotmail (yes, Hotmail. Is there a problem?) account with tons of hate mail telling me what an idiot I was for not acting like a professional.

So after much partying, here I am again, writing for you.

Thanks for ruining my birthday weekend.

Here’s what you need to know:

Probably Palermo Soho, circa last Wednesday (Photo/Wikipedia)

  • The week began with Buenos Aires covered by garbage after trash collectors did not pick up the trash due to a CEAMSE landfill workers strike. Fortunately, the conflict was solved in a couple of days and the population went back to their regular lives, happy that once again it’s only the poor who have to live in a dump.
  • Fallout against Vice-President Julio Cobos continued this week after his tie-breaking vote in favor of a pension hike bill. So it was the turn of Chief of Staff Anibal Fernandez to criticize him, calling him “immoral.” And this coming from a guy who once hid inside the trunk of a car to escape the police after he was accused of  corruption. True story!
  • President Fernández de Kirchner sent the controversial newsprint draft bill to Congress, in what constitutes by many- God, you know what? Just read about it here. I’m sick of this newsprint controversy so I’m not gonna write about it again. The President and Clarin are like two kids fighting for a lollipop and I, for one, do not give a shit anymore.
  • The Argentine Foreign Ministry has decided to send an emergency mission to Spain after several Argentine citizens were denied entry to the country last week. Argentines here are horrified, accusing the European nation of racism, although in all honesty, it’s nothing personal. We’re just assholes. I mean, have you read this column? We really are douche bags.
  • President Fernandez de Kirchner launched a digital TV plan so all households can afford access to it and called for the democratization of technologies. Because you know, food may be good to live and stuff, but I’m sure what people really want is to see Nazarena Velez’s titties in High Definition.
  • Remember when I said Juan Martin del Potro had committed suicide after suffering from depression? Well apparently I was kidding since I just heard he’s still alive. However, he announced he’s dropping out of all 2010 competitions so he can focus on next year’s. Which is the exact same thing he said last year. Wuss.
  • Argentine TV was mostly horrible, although there were a few gems to appreciate. Like this one.
  • Last month President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner suggested taking the Argentine case against Iran to a third country in order to guarantee impartiality.  And now Iran has said no. Any more bright ideas, Sherlock? Yeah, didn’t think so.
  • Speaking of Iran, Insane-but-funny Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and insane-and-scary Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced they were “united to change the world order.” Heh! Now we’re fucked.
  • You know that “Tecnopolis” science and technology fair the government has been planning for months in Palermo, with a cool mega stage that lets traffic run under it and is going to make millions of dollars in investments? Sorry! Not happening. Mayor Mauricio Macri doesn’t feel like authorizing it.

So you know.

Fuck you.

Happy Monday everyone!

Send Adrian your comments, thoughts or tips at adrianbono@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @AdrianBono

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Weekly News Roundup, Oct. 15th

In honor of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, I decided to upload this weird looking photo of him. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Oh, hey there! Nice of you to drop by while you’re still recovering from last week’s alcohol poisoning during the Oktoberfest. Well, not so much in the news this week, my friends. Sure, thousands were dying of famine around the world and corporations kept eroding our democracies on a global scale, but the truth is that all we cared about were those 33 miners trapped down in a Chilean mine. And even though we were all somewhat disappointed (especially the media) to see they all made it out safely and there was no tragic accident to report, we must admit we cried tears of joy when they were all rescued.

  • So now that the miner’s story is complete, those Hollywood bloodsuckers have begun penning the script for the film and have apparently approached Spanish actor Javier Bardem to offer him the lead role. Because you know…Spaniard, Chilean, it’s all the same, right? I mean they all speak Spanish. Who’s gonna know?
  • Certain aspects of the story will surely be “slightly changed” for the sake of storytelling. Such as:
  1. A woman will be trapped with the miners. They can either go with the “pregnant” storyline or the “rape” storyline. Both are gonna suck anyway.
  2. One of the 33 miners is gonna be gay, obviously.
  3. There’s gonna be a black guy, an Asian guy and a Latino. The rest of the cast is gonna be white, and will speak with a Latin accent. (Do you think I’m kidding? Have you seen Prince of Persia? This is the guy who played THE FUCKING PRINCE OF THE PERSIANS. And he spoke with a British accent of course).
  4. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera will have to deal with a conspiracy within his government that is trying to sabotage the rescue.
  5. An earthquake is rumored to hit while the rescue is taking place.
  6. For some reason, when there’s only two miners left, the pod carrying them will break and rescuers will only have the chance to save one of them. This is the final part of the movie intended to make you cry since one of the miners sacrifices his live for his friend.
  7. Jack Bauer is said to have a cameo.
  8. Celine Dion is to compose a song named “You’re the light at the end of my tunnel” or some crap like that.
  9. What a horrible movie this is going to be.
  • But enough of the miners. Remember when a few weeks ago students vandalized City Hall and the national government minimized the conflict saying they were just “healthy expressions of disagreement”? Well guess what! Last Wednesday students attempted a takeover on the National Ministry of Education, to which authorities replied that “violence is never the answer” and called “just plain wrong.” Oh, the hypocrisy! (By the way, students are still pissed, so if you see any one carrying books, beat them up. Just in case.) They tend to look like this.
  • Seriously now. Somebody has to tell President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to stop tweeting. It’s not even funny anymore. I know she’s trying to be cute and all, but enough already.
  • Bringing us one step closer to World War III (damn, Wikipedia already has an entry for it. That’s creepy.) Russia sealed a deal with Venezuela to provide Hugo Chavez with the necessary elements to build a nuclear weapon plant for “peaceful” motives. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, we’re all fucked.
  • Speaking about World War III, the British army carried out some military exercises around the long disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands that took Argentina and Great Britain to war back in 1982.  The government here was pissed and Fernandez de Kirchner even called the British “pirates” on her Twitter account. (See now why it’s embarrassing? And don’t even get me started on her conversations with Hugo Chavez. Get a room already.)
  • After a very heated debate in Congress, the opposition passed a pension hike bill with a tie-breaking vote by Vice-President Julio Cobos (who in case you don’t know, is at odds with the President and is now working against the ruling party). The President, clearly pissed off at him, called him a “squatter” and vetoed the bill since in her opinion it was going to “bankrupt the country.” Do you now understand where telenovelas come from?
  • Yay! It’s Loyalty Day this Sunday! The peronist festivity in which you get to promise to keep voting for a guy that has been dead for almost 40 years instead of really learning about Argentine politics!  It’s OK though, this country does it too, so I guess it’s fine.

That’s it for today then! I’m off to buy some crap for my mom since it’s mother’s day this Sunday (not that you care or anything. You probably celebrate it some other day.)

Happy weekend everyone!

Send Adrian your comments, thoughts or tips at adrianbono@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @AdrianBono

Posted in Thoughts of a Foreigner3 Comments

Weekly News Roundup, Oct. 8th

It’s Friday again! And you wanna hear some extra good news? It’s a holiday weekend! Which means tha– Fuck it, you know what? What’s the point of this? None of you are going to read this since you’re all on your way to freaking Oktoberfest and you couldn’t care less about politics or anything else for that matter.

So fuck you.

When you’re back on Monday (if you survive) this is what you need to know, if you even care to check:

  • (Photo/Wikipedia)

    Even though they had been sponsored by high-profile figures around the world such as Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon and football star Diego Armando Maradona, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo were once again snubbed by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, who decided to give the award to this Chinese dude you probably never heard of. Hopefully the Grandmothers will learn the lesson for next year, and realize that having Maradona being involved in any kind of way pretty much fucks everything up.

  • It’s Oktoberfest this weekend! Meaning we’re all going to visit Villa General Belgrano in order to get wasted, get laid and forget the fact that we’re being part of a celebration created by Nazi officials who were granted political asylum in Argentina after World War II.
  • President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner plummeted in the Forbe’s Power Women List, dropping from #11 to #68 this year. She is now behind Sarah Palin. And that has got to hurt. I mean, Sarah Palin? She’s kind of brain dead.
  • Juan Martin del Potro has killed himself. Ha! No, he’s actually quite undead, but he quit the Shanghai Open because apparently “his wrist still hurts.” Wuss. That’s probably even worse than killing himself. Argentines are going to eat him alive.
  • Oh-oh! Argentina has fucked up again! After the government refused to extradite a Chilean former leftist guerrilla leader, the Piñera administration is now pissed off and bilateral relations seem to be going to hell in what is probably the biggest diplomatic stand-off between the two countries since the 70’s, when Pope John Paul II had to intervene to avoid an Argentine – Chilean war, started by their insistence in ruling a territory no one cared about. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, because if it’s up to this new Pope, we all know this is how it’s going to end.
  • Contrary to what you may believe, the Roman Catholic religion still exists in Argentina, and people actually walked all the way to Lujan, like they do every year, to pray God for stuff. Personally, I don’t really get it. If God didn’t hear you last year, what makes you think he will this time? Although probably that’s the reason why I’m going to hell.
  • President Fernandez de Kirchner flew to Frankfurt (if you clicked on “Frankfurt,” you are an idiot) to attend the International Book Fair to which Argentina was invited as this year’s special guest. No one reads here anymore, so no one cares.
  • And finally: Argentina lost 1-0 to Japan in a friendly football match today, which, as a Spaniard, makes me extremely happy since last month Spain lost 4-1 to Argentina and I had to put up with a lot of crap. What! I’m a sensitive guy!

Happy (long) weekend everyone!

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Dust off those lederhosens, boys!

Yeah, this article is strictly for boys looking for a weekend of refined tomfoolery and non-stop drinking in Villa General Belgrano…

Probably some Nazis (Photo/Wikipedia)

Because, my friends, it’s Oktoberfest!

The National Beer Festival, as it’s officially known, attracts thousands of expats, tourists and Argentines who travel all the way to Cordoba province to be a part of such a delightful celebration, all in the spirit of camaraderie and cultural exchange that includes throwing up in the face of strangers and wearing ridiculous/regrettable costumes.

Started in the 60s by the citizens of Villa General Belgrano (who were mostly of German descent), the celebrations have become a must for people who approach the alpine town due to its beautiful Bavarian architecture, delicious brewery and slutty girls who have been drinking too much.

Why not come? You’ll drink, laugh and probably brag about your newly acquired fluency in German after learning words like “lederhosen” or “schwarzenegger.” Who knows, you might even become the next Oktoberfest idiot on You Tube, like this guy did!

This is the only weekend in the year in which we have an excuse to drink 24/7 without feeling guilty about it on our bus trip back to Buenos Aires.

So now you know. It doesn’t matter that we’re all taking part in a festivity brought to the country by fugitive Nazis who were granted political asylum in the 40s. Because this weekend is all about dancing ’till you drop (i.e. passing out from alcohol poisoning) and spreading the love (i.e. getting laid).

Unless you’re a Jew. In that case… you know. Watch out.

Happy drinking everyone!

Click here to read more about Oktoberfest in The Argentina Independent.

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Weekly News Roundup, Oct. 1st

Holy crap! What a week, huh? A coup in Ecuador? Political asylums? An emergency UNASUR meeting? Kidnapping and murder? All exciting news that took place while you were probably pub crawling and getting wasted in some hip bar in Las Cañitas. Well, no need to worry since here’s what you need to know before you’re hospitalized due to alcohol poisoning again tonight.

  • (Photo/Wikipedia)

    After 9 months of being inactive, last year’s US Open winner Juan Martín del Potro, made a much-hyped comeback to the courts this week. Despite statements saying he was suffering from a wrist injury, the media reported that he was actually suffering from stress due to the overexposure he had had after beating Roger Federer in 2009, so he took a sabbatical to recover from it.  All eyes were on him last Tuesday. Oh yeah, he lost. He’s under suicide watch.

  • Former Human Rights hero and current train wreck Hebe de Bonafini opened her mouth to spew her venom again, although fortunately this time it wasn’t to say the US deserved the 9/11 attacks like she did some years ago. No, this time she said the Judiciary system was broken (because they don’t agree with her, that is) and urged the population to take over their courts and buildings. Fortunately, Bonafini, who bears a striking resemblance to Star Wars‘ Jabba the Hut, has been going down hill and hasn’t done anything relevant in decades, so we choose to ignore her. Just like Maradona.
  • The Special Investigative Committee in charge of deciding whether City Mayor Mauricio Macri is guilty of leading an espionage ring or not still hasn’t been able to summon any of the 100+ witnesses they were originally expecting to question. And they’re beginning to sound desperate. Expect hilarity to ensue soon.
  • Now that Argentina and Uruguay have buried the hatchet and become friends after the whole paper mill fiasco, I guess it was only time until we found a way to fuck up our relation with one of our neighbors. So we decided to grant political asylum to a Chilean terrorist that his country is desperate to take to trial. Of course, the fact that his wife works for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner did not carry any weight on the decision. Right? Or maybe Bonafini is right.
  • After many comings and goings, the Glaciers Act was passed, which means glaciers in the country are to be protected from the mining industry’s predatory actions. Too bad pretty soon they’ll be underwater, like the rest of our climate change-denying civilization.
  • The country is in uproar after 16-year-old Matías  Berardi was found murdered in the Greater Buenos Aires area with a gunshot to his back. The boy had been kidnapped by a psychotic family who had demanded a $500 pesos ransom for him and authorities are still trying to understand why they still decided to kill him.  Many believe this case will once again force government officials to review & toughen up the law, although cynics like me believe people are gonna whine a little and then go back to getting mad about a football match.
  • Actress Romina Yan passed away due to a massive stroke she suffered after a workout session. The 36-year-old daughter of media mogul Cris Morena was honored all over the news, while networks and fans played her greatest hit song “Tengo el corazón con agujeritos,” (“There are holes in my heart”) which is totally not in poor taste.
  • In our ridiculous story of the week, workers at Blockbuster Argentina demonstrated throughout the city, requesting the government to take over the company and keep it open after Blockbuster USA recently filed for bankruptcy. This left many in shock, not due to the odd request, but after learning Blockbuster still exists.
  • A private school for boys in the city of Rosario gained national attention this week after the media reported that starting next year teachers would have parents sign a waiver stating that their children (six years old and up) are not gay. Which is totally ridiculous, I mean have you looked around lately? Basically it’s wrong not to be gay. So I say let boys be boys, and be glad they’re not into necrophilia.
  • A coup d’etat in Ecuador! Finally some action right?? Bad ass Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa literally opened his shirt and pounded his chest in front of thousands of rioters, daring them to shoot him right there. No one did, obviously.
  • At the same time, the UNASUR called for an emergency summit in Buenos Aires so all South American presidents were flown to the city to pretend they could actually do something about what was happening in Quito. Well, the joke was on them because as soon as they all got together the conflict in Ecuador was solved. Ha! I can totally see Chávez going insane. “You mean I flew all the way here for nothing??” Ha! That guy…
  • And finally: winter had us all fooled and came back strong this week. So to all you douchebags who last week decided to get a tan to celebrate the arrival of spring, congratulations. You now officially look like idiots.

Happy weekend everyone!

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Weekly News Roundup, Sep. 24th

It’s Friday again! Are you planning on going out this weekend? I bet you are, now that spring is here and the nights are getting warmer I’m sure all you want is some sun and fun. We all miss the summer, of course. Until we have to enter the subway on a Tuesday at 3 pm and realize that it’s a million degrees down there. That is when we start counting down the days until winter again, hating that we decided to choose to live in Buenos Aires instead of, I don’t know, Jan Mayen island.

So before we begin roasting under the sun, here’s what you need to know:

  • (Photo/Wikipedia)

    I warned you, didn’t I? This year’s spring celebrations were insane! Not only thousands of students got totally wasted in the Palermo parks last Tuesday afternoon, this year they even killed someone! My favorite story was the “student” who took his three-year old son partying with him and made him climb a tree “just for fun.” Of course, the child ended up in the hospital with his skull cracked open. I’m telling you, we better take action against these kids or before we know it they’ll start smoking and having sex.

  • President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tried to get jiggy with it and sent Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica an “informal thank you video,” saying how much she appreciated that he had given several British ships the middle finger and denied them access to refuel as a gesture of solidarity with Argentina. Anyway, the result was this creepy video. Please Madam President, never again.
  • Do you know who José Luis Cabezas was? If you are an expat and you do, you’re a freak. Anyway, in short, he was a photographer murdered by a very powerful businessman back in 1997 (you can read all about it here, courtesy of Wikipedia). All the members of the gang who executed the guy and were sent to prison for life 12 years ago are now enjoying house arrest due to good behavior. Life is good (although for murder victims it’s not).
  • While in New York, former President and modern-day Napoleon Nestor Kirchner ordered his aides to get him a photo with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. After working endless hours against the clock, all they got was for him to stand next to Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, who no one cares about. The aides have all been killed.
  • Justice Minister Julio Alak briefed Congress this week and stated that ever since Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003, crime rate in the country has gone down, not up.
  • Oh. I’m sorry, were you waiting for a joke? Well that’s it. Alak’s statement. That’s the joke.
  • While speaking before the 65th UN General Assembly in New York, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner urged full-time nutjob and eventual president of Iran to invite a third party into trying to solve their current bilateral controversy surrounding the extradition of high-ranking Iranian officials. Mr. Ahmedinejad’s response, of course, was this.
  • After weeks of silence, Diego Armando Maradona talked to the press again, blasting everyone as usual. The thing is, nobody gives a fuck about him anymore and I, for one, celebrate that fact. Please go away, you untalented idiot.
  • Talking about people we actually care about, Lionel Messi took a serious injury to his ankle after Atlético de Madrid player Tomas Ujfalusi clearly tried to kill him. He is expected to skip a couple of games, for which many Messi fans suggest Ujfalusi’s death by hanging.
  • Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernández starred in a rock music video with Andrés Calamaro, just because he fucking wanted to. And don’t you dare contradict him. God only knows what lies behind that intimidating mustache.
  • Finally, there were some other news, like Obama thanking the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo for their fight during the Dirty War and something about a Chilean refugee that his country wants extradited but quite honestly I have this party to attend to and I have to get ready so figure it out yourselves.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Into the Lion’s Den

Adrian has kindly given over some space to Eric Murray for his first-hand account of a trip to Iglesia Universal. Note: The goal of this piece is not to discredit the Iglesia Universal or disrespect its many followers. It is just a description what goes on within the church’s walls. The reader will be the ultimate judge (guided by a little of my subjectivity, of course).

Any porteño driving down Av. Corrientes Avenue will have certainly noticed a large white building that resembles a Greek temple. The Templo de la Fe (Temple of Faith), located on Corrientes 4070, in Almagro, catches the eye of anyone who’s passing by. It is a huge structure that draws attention during the day because of its imposing façade, which is illuminated conspicuously by night.

The temple boasts over 25 “masses” every week, with a wide variety of starting times so any one can find the time to attend, on any day.

Sunday morning is a special time of the week. The 10am mass is apparently the most important one and no one wants to miss it. So we head off to the temple hoping to have our very own religious experience.

The street feels alive that morning. Vendors keep walking up and down the avenue selling roses and other flowers, Jesus-themed regalia and even facturas so anyone can have a hearty breakfast before entering the building.

Several security guards wearing black suits and black ties, along with shades and a walkie talkie, keep staring at the public going through the doors of the temple. Their purpose there isn’t really clear and they  look more like bouncers at a nightclub that the typical sweet old greeter expected to be standing at the entrance of a church.

Another man in plain clothes is also looking around, staring at everyone’s faces. This man’s purpose, according to others who have tried going undercover before, is to identify first timers and find out the reason of their visit If their intentions are (deemed) legitimate(meaning, they are not after a story), he will find a way to make them join the congregation. Hard to believe that a man has the ability to remember thousands of faces, but according to several colleagues he has been able to spot in the crowd, he does.

As a fellow journalist – pretending to be my wife – and I walk by his side and enter the temple, we hear the man saying ‘hello’ from behind us, trying to catch our attention. We intentionally ignore him and keep walking straight, until we enter the grand salon where the ceremony takes place.

The view is certainly impressive.

The stage, tackily decorated with Greek architecture and religious paintings, has only a simple podium with a microphone and a couch. Behind them, there’s a swimming pool in which “baptisms” take place from time to time. Everything is under a very, very high ceiling.

The same Brazilian man from TV steps up and says hello in  casual Spanish with a strong accent. Dressed in a white tuxedo, he resembles a southern preacher from the United States.   The large crowd – which I estimate is close to 800 people – cheers and salutes him.

And without further ado, the ceremony begins.

“Did you remember to bring your envelope?” the preacher asks. Hundreds of people raise their arms in response, showing him in return a small, white envelope. “Well, come on over then!” he says, as people start leaving their seats and standing in line in front of him. One by one, they walk up the steps to the podium and throw their envelopes into several black,  industrial-sized garbage bags. I ask an old lady standing next to me what the envelopes contain, thinking that she’ll tell me they are letters to God.

“Money,” she replies with a smile.

Or in church jargon, “donations.”

For almost 20 minutes, it’s all about the line and dropping the money in the bags. By the time it’s over, several assistants are needed to move them, since they are fat and heavy with cash.

“It’s our first time, so we didn’t know we were supposed to bring money” I tell the lovely lady. “Don’t worry,” she smiles back. “Just don’t forget the next time”.

As the bouncers carry the bags into a small door behind the stage, two sentinels with unfriendly faces take up guard duty outside.. I guess no one is going to be getting any crazy ideas about taking some envelopes for themselves.

Next  on the agenda is the Iglesia Universal’s raison d’être: to preach on the benefits of worshipping the Holy Ghost.  As the preacher on stage gets emotional, he asks everyone to approach him, and like bees to an  empty bottle of Pepsi, they begin their procession. The pastor then starts uttering a series of sentences, which, in all honesty, allsound the same, and asks us to close our eyes and open our arms to let the Holy Ghost enter our bodies.

With his thick, raspy voice, he says we must “allow for the Holy Ghost to pierce our hearts, because if we don’t let the Holy Ghost pierce our hearts we will be sorry we didn’t let the Holy Ghost pierce our hearts and the Holy Ghost will be mad we didn’t let the Holy Ghost pierce our hearts.”

And no, I am not kidding.

For over half an hour he keeps repeating the same sentence over and over. As my back begins to hurt for standing for such a long time in the same position, people around me begin sobbing and moaning.  I realize this is most important part of the two-hour ceremony, and I’m missing it because my eyes are closed.

So I decide to sneak a peek and slowly open my eyes. The view is surreal. Hundreds of people stand around me in a trance, talking to themselves, painfully crying in agony for all the current suffering in their lives while blowing their noses and drying their tears.  They ask God why he has forsaken them.

If I weren’t such a cynic, I would even dare to say they seem truly possessed by the Holy Ghost, all joining hands in collective, heart-breaking sadness.

And I realize these people aren’t here because they are devout Christians or avid church goers. No, the truth is these people are desperate.  They need someone to tell them that everything is going to be ok. And to have someone who claims to represent that which you believe in is a palliative enough to make you hopeful, at least until next Sunday.

As I’m still observing the people around me, my fakewife begins squeezing my shoulder.

Something is wrong.

As I look up, I realize two of the pseudo-bouncers are staring at us,making some  unfriendly gestures. In our effort to observe as much as we could, we hadn’t realized that we were the only two in a group of 800 people whose eyes were wide open.

As the preacher ends his speech and we all return to our seats, I feel like a big red bull’s-eye is now on my forehead.

“I have to go to the restroom, do you know where it is?” my (fake) wife asks. I don’t.

But just like that, the nice lady who was sitting next to us enters the conversation and kindly offers to chaperone her to the ladies room. We exchange looks, unable to discuss the possible dangers of such a bold proposal, but in the end stay in character. “Thank you very much,” I reply, and I offer a nod to my wife, hoping she will be careful.

As she leaves, the Brazilian preacher announces the time to celebrate in Holy Communion, for which ushers start handing out small bread buns and plastic cups containing something that I hope is wine, since I’m sure a little alcohol is going to help  release the tension mounting up inside me.

Unfortunately, it’s only grape juice.

Worse, grape juice from concentrate and extremely disgusting.

We eat, we drink, we pray, we sing.

And as the Communion ends, I realize it’s been fifteen minutes since my wife left for the restroom.

As I begin to fear for the worst, I decide it’s too late for her and start eyeing for the closest emergency exit.But before I canbolt, she returns, still with the nice lady by her side.

“Everything ok, love?” I ask.

“Hmm-hmm,” she replies without even looking at me.

I notice the old lady has a small notepad in her hand with information on my wife written all over it. And that’s the reason why this silver haired Mata Hari was so friendly: she wanted information.

“Your wife has told me all about you,” she says, menacingly. “And before you leave, I’d like you two to meet the preacher.”

I swallow hard, since we’ve just been told we’re going to meet the (local branch) puppet master.

“It’s time for me to bless your families!” the preacher says, and asks everyone to raise the photos of their children, their parents, grandparents and friends in general. Of course, for those people to be really blessed, their photos must be nicely framed in the Iglesia Universal’s Photo Album™, like something out of Disneyland.

No photo album, no blessing. Simple as that.

So we finally get to the last part, in which the preacher, as he “always does,” tells the story of the Good Samaritan. “Always remember to help others,” he says. “And what better way to help those in need than telling them to come here?” he asks, as assistants hand out the “Good Samaritan flyer”, which urges those in need who still have not joined the Iglesia Universal to do so immediately.

People begin to leave and my (fake) wife and I head towards the door, in an effort to get out of there as soon as possible. But the persistent lady reminds us that before leaving we must meet the preacher.

we exchange glances and realize it may be best not to stand out from the crowd and we agree to a short conversation with him.

As we walk down the aisle towards the stage, the lady asks me why it is we waited for so long to join the church. I try to come up with the best possible answer and blame my catholic parents, “who are against it.”

“Well I’m sorry to be the one that tells you this,” she says, “but I’m afraid your parents have been possessed by the devil and that’s the reason why they are trying to keep you away from us.”

And just like that, without any preambles, she has just told me my mom is Satan (I had somewhat suspected it all my life but never thought I would find out about it here).

As we approach the main stage, I feel as if we’re entering the lion’s den.

The old lady tells us to wait in line to meet the Preacher, and as we do so, we notice several assistants greeting other parishioners as well. Some people are crying, others just look desolate, their gaze lost in a sea of sadness.The helpers are telling them that, if they keep coming every week, eventually they will find salvation.

It’s our turn and the Preacher greets us with a smile. “It’s a pleasure to have you both here for the first time,” he says. “As you can see, this is a great place for the whole family,” he adds, although I’m having trouble paying attention to him since only two meters away from us an assistant is performing an exorcism on a woman. Her demonic voice sendsshivers down my spine.

“All done!” the assistant says, as the woman grabs her purse and leaves.

After he blesses us and lets us know of the entire weekly Schedule, he lets us go. We begin walking down the aisle, looking miserable on our way out. We reach the sunlight. We’re free.

However, the people coming here more than two or three times a week are not.

After experiencing two intense hours in front of a Brazilian charlatan who promised desperate people that the only possible road to salvation is through him, it’s very hard for me to find any positive aspects in the Iglesia Universal, although I’m sure many of its parishioners beg to differ.

So if you ever walk by the attractive façade of the Iglesia Universal and decide to venture in because you’re either religious or insane, make sure you at least keep these helpful tidbits in mind.

God only knows when you might need them.

Posted in Thoughts of a Foreigner2 Comments

Spring is here!

Good morning expats and Argies!

Happy faces on the streets today as the sunlight seeping through your window this morning finally announced the arrival of spring.

(Photo/Wikipedia)

The florealis generica in Palermo looks shinier during the season of love, and the San Telmo and Soho cafés become the favorite spot for both locals and tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of some skin under the warm sun.

Ads on the street are all sex-themed, most of them dominated by condom brands comparing teenagers to rabbits or clinics treating men with erectile dysfunction.

Men and women alike return to the gym, and fix a date with their tanning beds, since today officially marks the beginning of preparations for the summer season in sunny Punta del Este or chilly Mar del Plata.

And also today, thousands of teenagers prepare themselves for an afternoon of fun and chaos, since in case you don’t know it, September 21st is also Student’s day in Argentina, which means classrooms are exchanged for public parks and fresh air and alcohol and unprotected sex.

Sure, they always trash the whole place; get drunk and crack open a couple of skulls after getting into a fight, but oh well. Kids, right?

So make sure you avoid public spaces today! It’s going to be this insane! (Of course you may run into people like this douchebag, which I suggest you avoid).

Happy spring everyone!

PS: Don’t forget to mock your friends and relatives in the northern hemisphere that it’s our time to get all the sun!

Posted in Thoughts of a Foreigner1 Comment

Weekly News Roundup, Sep. 17th

TGIF everyone!! It’s Friday again, and what better way to enjo– Oh, you know what? Fuck it, let’s get down to business.
Here’s what you need to know:
  • (Photo/Wikipedia)

    In front of dozens of murgas, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner decided 13 holidays a year wasn’t enough, so she announced she would present Congress with a draft bill urging lawmakers to make carnival a national holiday too. She did it while wearing this hat, so I’m not sure people are going to take her that seriously.

  • The Leonas won the Women’s Hockey World Cup and Argentina did it again! Sure, the afterparty got crazy and they ended up trashing a nightclub, adding up to $40,000 pesos in damages, but the fact remains that they’re still hot.
  • Thousands of students demonstrated against City Mayor Mauricio Macri last night, to protest against rundown schools and for some reason to commemorate a new anniversary of the Night of the Pencils. They spray painted several historical buildings around City Hall because, you know, they wanted to show they were really badass, and burned an effigy of Macri. After all this chaos, the National Government said they were just “healthy” expressions of concern. Oh, you mean like this?
  • The iPad is finally here! I mean, the cheapest model is gonna cost like 1100 dollars, but whatever right? We’re almost a first world country! Yay, us! (And in case you missed it, there was this black tie event last night at the Garbarino home appliances store to celebrate it, in which VIP people could be seen drinking champagne while standing next to a washing machine and a blender. How lovely and crass.)
  • Financial researcher Standard & Poor’s was feeling generous this week and decided to upgrade Argentina’s long-term credit-rating from B- to B, a move celebrated by everyone across the country. “What does that mean?” you say? I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure we still won’t be able to buy an iPad.
  • Are you a fan of U2??!?! Yeah, me neither, but whatever. This week they confirmed they would be returning to Argentina for a concert, only they will be playing in La Plata, a city some 50 kilometres away from Buenos Aires. So… good luck not getting robbed/raped on your way there.
  • The president’s Chief of Staff Anibal Fernandez entered the Lower House floor for the first time this year to address lawmakers on the state of governmental affairs. Sure, Article 101 on the Argentine Constitution stipulates a mandatory briefing once a month but you know Anibal, he just doesn’t give a fuck. About anything. Ever.
  • After a dismal performance by the Spanish football team in a friendly match against Argentina, the players were accused by the local media of going out the night before the game and engaging in some hard-partying that involved South American Mata Hari and wannabe singer Luciana Salazar, who, rumor has it, spent the night with goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Of course, this story sounds totally bogus, but after local papers published that Bill Clinton had attended the Cocodrilo local joint during his last visit to Buenos Aires and made out with this fine lady, I’m not sure what to think anymore.
  • For the second time in six months, former (and probably future) president Néstor Kirchner had to undergo heart surgery after suffering from a stroke. His followers, who wanted to express their support, began chanting and yelling outside the hospital at 2 AM, which I’m sure made all other recovering patients really happy. Idiots.
  • Shrek-looking and lovable boxer La Mole Molly decided to call it quits from the Argentine version of Dancing with the Stars this week after a series of controversies with one of the show’s jurors and citing “irreconcilable differences,” he vowed never to return. Which means he’ll be back in a week.
  • Did you click on that link above taking you to the book burning? Did you see the first comment below the video? Sweet mother of God, I can’t stop laughing.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Send Adrian your comments, thoughts or tips at adrianbono@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @AdrianBono

Posted in Thoughts of a Foreigner2 Comments

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