Tag Archive | "buenos aires"

Where to get Brunch in Buenos Aires

[Editor’s note: If you have other recommend places for brunch in Buenos Aires, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section!]

Brunch, a tasty combination of breakfast and lunch, is still catching on in Buenos Aires, but there are more and more places offering the late-morning feast. To help you find what you’re looking for when you roll out of bed on the weekend, we’ve tried and tested brunch spots around the city (and even survived a spot of food poisoning).

Here are the five kinds of brunch for every need and the places where you can get them!

The Classic: Malvón

For a classic brunch experience look no further than Malvón, a café with all the fixings for a boozy brunch with friends.

Brunch at Malvón (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Brunch at Malvón (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

The Villa Crespo location is in an open, airy building with high ceilings, but it has a cute, eclectic feel to it. There is a hotchpotch of antiques and vintage items from different eras, including old telephones, newspaper clippings, a vinyl record player, and paintings of plants. There’s also a beautiful plant-filled patio in the back if you want to soak up some sun. The interior has lots of windows with yellow stained glass and a stained glass skylight to let in as much light as possible.

All the brunch meals come with a cornbread muffin, a fresh bread basket, a fruit bowl with strawberries, kiwi, sunflower seeds, grapefruit, pear and cornflakes. They also include a café con leche or a glass of lemonade or flavoured water. You can even upgrade your drink to a beer or glass of wine for as little as $15 extra.

The lemonade is delicious – not too sweet, cold and refreshing with a hint of mint. Their eggs benedict is smooth and creamy with crispy sweet potato chips and salty bacon. They also have a vegetable frittata, barbeque ribs, mac and cheese, to name a few.

There’s also a kids menu for $90 that offers macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets.

The service is quick, so the turnaround is relatively fast, but since they don’t take reservations on weekends try to get there before you’re absolutely starving in case you have to wait.

Locations: Serrano 789, Villa Crespo and Lafinur 3275, Palermo
When: 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. No reservations on weekends.
Cost: $130+

The Hangover Cure: Sugar Bar

For those on the hunt for the perfect brunch to ease the pain of a brutal hangover after a night of boozing and schmoozing, the cure may be Sugar.

Soak up last night's booze with a brunch at Sugar (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Soak up last night’s booze with a brunch at Sugar (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Not the sweet stuff, but a sports bar in the heart of trendy Palermo Soho. The bar is a nightlife hotspot for expats and tourists eager to party till the sun rises, meet other English speakers, and enjoy a few comforts from home like NFL and rugby games on television. But it also re-opens relatively early for those needing nourishment the day after.

“It’s a mix between a sports bar and club so people can see the game and stay longer,” says Matias Kritz, a part-time manager. “It’s a place you can find a lot of people to make friends.”

The well-established Sugar Bar has been ahead of the pack when it comes to brunch. This year, they’ve revamped their brunch menu to feature three classics: a healthy yogurt parfait ($65), a breakfast burrito with ham, cheese and tomatoes ($80), and a smoked salmon with thick fries and scrambled eggs feast. They also have a traditional Irish breakfast with chips, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon ($95).

It’s the kind of heavy, greasy food that hits the spot after a night out and it starts at noon on weekends. They have bottomless Mimosas ($120), Bellinis ($120), and Bloody Marys ($150) if you want to keep the party going or fend off a hangover for another few hours. And they also have decaf coffee, something of a rarity in Buenos Aires.

Location: Costa Rica 4619, Palermo
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm
Cost: $65+

The Lux: Elena at The Four Seasons

Fancy something fancy? The Four Seasons’ Elena restaurant may have what you’re looking for. The lux former mansion-turned-hotel has one of the most decadent brunches in the city. It will set you back a cool $690, but the all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch has some delicious offerings.

Featuring an array of seafood like garlic prawns, octopus and a catch of the day, as well as a charcuterie with cheeses, cold cuts, and smoked meats, there’s probably something there for even the pickiest eaters. There are also beef dishes for the true Argentine in all of us, a dessert station with ice cream and cakes and, of course, unlimited wine.

Be sure to make a reservation because it fills up quite quickly.

Location: Posadas 1086/88
When: Sundays from 12.30pm to 3.30pm
Cost: $690 per person

The Healthy Splurge: Ninina

If you’re looking for a back to basics brunch that you won’t leave feeling 5kg heavier, consider Ninina’s option for two. At just over $430 for two people, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s also delicious.

A healthier option prepared fresh at Ninina (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

A healthier option prepared fresh at Ninina (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Opened two years ago, Ninina made its mark with some of the best pastries and desserts in Buenos Aires. They’re freshly made in house and as a bonus you can watch their chefs make them through a glass wall into the kitchen.

The décor feels chic and European with marble, white tiles, warm wooden floors and lots of light. It’s the perfect place for a casual brunch with friends or a cozy date.

The coffee here is good, with a selection of beans from around the world. The brunch menu gives a choice of pancakes, waffles, eggs, and a delicious homemade granola with seeds, pears, blueberries and strawberries. They also have fresh juices made from fruits and vegetables.

Also check out the cool selection of cocktails like the beet martini and the rest of the extensive menu that includes burgers and sandwiches.

The staff are friendly and attentive even though it opens at 9am on weekends, making it the perfect way to start your morning early before the rest of the city rolls out of bed.

Location: Gorriti 4738, Palermo
When: Every day until 3pm
Cost: $432 (for two)

The Budget Yum: Mooi

Technically not considered a brunch by itself – they call it a breakfast – trendy Mooi gets our vote because for under $100 you can eat a delicious meal that includes coffee or tea and a glass of orange juice.

Technically not a full brunch, but Mooi is a great option for hearty, good-value breakfasts. (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Technically not a full brunch, but Mooi is a great option for hearty, good-value breakfasts. (Photo: Azzura Lalani)

Mooi’s Palermo location is a cute spot that feels sort of like an industrial loft, but at the same time remains warm and bright. The ceiling has dozens of brightly patterned lampshades and there’s a lot of attention to detail in the décor.

On the menu are scrambled eggs with a New York bagel and cream cheese, delicious waffles with a berry coulis, a yoghurt parfait, and a few other meals. They’re all tasty and well prepared and the perfect option if you’re looking for someplace nice that won’t break the bank. And, of course, they also have a solid drinks menu.

Location: Cuba 1985, Belgrano and Costa Rica 5468, Palermo
When: Palermo: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9am until close. Belgrano: All week from 9am until close.
Cost: $80+

Posted in Food & Drink, TOP STORYComments (0)

The Indy Eye: Buenos Aires Pride Parade 2015

Saturday marked the 24th Marcha Del Orgullo LGBTIQ, Buenos Aires’ annual pride festival and parade. The colourful party began in Plaza de Mayo with concerts, vendors, and speakers advocating the advancement of Transgender rights, and ended at nightfall after brightly decorated floats and drummers paraded down to Congreso. Thousands of people from all ages and walks of life joined in the jovial celebration honouring the city’s LGBTIQ community while also calling for a new national law against discrimination.

All photos by Reilly Ryan

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Indy Eye- Pride Parade

Posted in Life & Style, Lifestyle, Multimedia, Photoessay, Society, The City, TOP STORYComments (0)

Thousands Still Without Power in Buenos Aires

Over 60,000 Buenos Aires residents remain without power in Recoleta and Palermo after a massive outage caused by damage to cables yesterday.

The local power company, Edesur, announced that 35,000 residents regained power earlier today, while La Nación report saying that “with luck” power will be completely regained by tomorrow. However, Edesur continues to stress that the problem is very complicated and that they are not sure when the issue will be entirely resolved.

Residents in several neighbourhoods continued to report power outages this afternoon (Photo: acanohayluz.com.ar)

Residents in several neighbourhoods continued to report power outages this afternoon (Photo: acanohayluz.com.ar)

The collaborative website ‘Acá No Hay luz‘, in which users can report power outages in their building and street, also showed ongoing problems in Recoleta and surrounding areas this afternoon.

According to an Edesur press release, the incident that caused outages occurred minutes after midday yesterday (13th October) at the corner of Av. Figueroa Alcorta and Vaz Ferreiro, where Telmex was working with a tunnel-boring machine.

“The actions of this machine, which works on public roads, caused severe damage by drilling into two sets of three 132kv high voltage power cables, leaving the Azcuénaga and Paraná substations without power,” Edesur’s press release stated.

Today, the government opened a legal case against Telmex for causing the large power outages.

Rafael Llorens, the legal and technical sub-secretary of the Urban Planning Ministry, who opened the case against Telmex, called the company’s actions “irresponsible.”

He also used the moment to attack City Mayor Mauricio Macri, claiming that it is “unacceptable that the Government of the City of Buenos Aires does not control and regulate companies contracted and authorised to carry out works in the district.”

Edusur told Clarín this morning that they plan to place 60 large, mobile generators in Recoleta to help regain power for some affected peoples, but as of now little change has been made to the situation.

The company says it continues to work in order to resolve the issue.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Mural of the Month: Fierro Hotel

Lucas Lasnier a.k.a. Parbo has been painting in the streets of Buenos Aires since 2001. A graphic designer by trade, he opened the multi-disciplinary art and design practice Kid Gaucho with fellow street artist Larva in 2002, working inside as well as out.


The composition of his wall done this month on the front of the Fierro Hotel in Palermo Hollywood combines swirling red vortexes with blue vegetation and is emblematic of his current colour palette and echoes recent works by the artist on canvas and textile.


This is the second mural that the boutique hotel has commissioned for its façade, the previous mural painted last year by local artist TEC. Other walls by Parbo can be found in Palermo and neighbouring Colegiales, where his design studio is based. 


This façade can be found at Fierro Hotel, Soler 5862, Palermo Hollywood.

Images courtesy of Parbo. To see more of his work, visit his tumblr.

This article was produced in collaboration with Graffitimundo, a non-profit organisation which celebrates graffiti and street art in Buenos Aires and supports local artists. For more information on the artists, exhibitions, and Buenos Aires street art tours, visit their website or facebook page

Posted in Life & Style, The City, TOP STORY, Underground BAComments (0)

Get Me Out of Here! Real-Life Escape Games in Buenos Aires

You can rob a museum, escape from prison or a psychiatric ward and you don’t have to leave the city or actually risk yourself in any way. All you need to do is participate in these live quests. You have 60 minutes to sort out puzzles and find hidden clues to escape from the room in which you are locked. Are you in for a rush of adrenaline? Buckle your seatbelt and dive into an awesome adventure.

Participants have 60 minutes to find the key and escape the room they are locked in (photo: Matías Lamouret)

Participants have 60 minutes to find the key and escape the room they are locked in (photo: Matías Lamouret)

A couple of gangsters are locked in a room with the corpse of one of the most prestigious detectives in town, who has been murdered in a mysterious way. The gang had nothing to do with it but, still, its members are the main suspects, because that private investigator had been trying to catch them red-handed for a long time. Now they are inside the victim’s office with his dead body lying on the ground and they must find their way out before the police arrive. Will they be able to do it?

This is the plot of a thriller. It’s not one you’ll read about or watch on the big screen, but rather one you’ll take part in, if you have the courage to do so. The scenario is called ‘Detective Spencer’s Office’ and is one of the two games you can play in Eureka Leg, which opened in September 2014 as the first place to offer real-life escape games in Argentina and South America. 

The origin of this sort of game can be traced back to 2006. In Silicon Valley, a group of system programmers created the first real-life escape game ever, following the logic of video games of this sort. The main concept is that, in 60 minutes, participants must find clues and strategies that will help them find the key to open the door of the room in which they are locked. The experience was a success, and a year later, Japanese Takao Kato, one of the main players in this field, followed suit with another escape game in Kyoto. Since then, the phenomenon has spread all over the world. It is believed almost 250,000 people have participated in these activities in the US, Asia, and Europe, where these games are extremely popular.

Christian (L) and Diego, owners of Eureka Leg (photo: Matías Lamouret)

Christian (L) and Diego, owners of Eureka Leg (photo: Matías Lamouret)

Although quite new in Argentina, such activities have been in the spotlight recently. “People come here looking for adventure and fun. They are tired of going to pubs or cinema, they need something different,” explains Cristian Buono, who owns Eureka Leg, along with Diego Pontoriero and Roy Christensen. They receive around 1,800 visitors every month and are currently designing new rooms to keep up with a growing demand.

These escape games not prove to be a great place to hang out with friends, but they could also be used a good a sort of “personality test” for companies wanting to analyse their workers.

“Human resources use these games to see how their employees analyse a situation, how they work under pressure, and also as a team-building strategy, because it’s crucial to work together in a group to find a solution. It is very difficult to solve the puzzles on your own,” points out Danil Tchapovsky, one of the founders of Juegos Mentales, in San Telmo.

Tchapovsky first came into contact with the concept in March 2014 in his native Russia. “I played in Moscow and it was mind blowing,” he says, and as soon as he arrived in the country shared his idea with his friend and now business partner, Alexander Matviychuk. “At first we weren’t sure if it was going to work out but decided to give it a try. We didn’t have much money, so we used our savings and did as much as we could, ourselves: we decorated the place, painted the rooms, it was really hard work,” he remarks.

They opened Juegos Mentales in March and, at first, it wasn’t exactly a success. “People didn’t know what it was about. But once it got media coverage things changed and now we are almost always fully booked,” he concludes, adding that over 10,000 participants have visited Juegos Mentales where two possible scenarios are offered: the psychiatric ward and the museum robbery. They are currently working on four other options – including one called ‘The Pirate’s House’ – that will be inaugurated in spring.

Danil stands with the 'victim' in one of the rooms at Juegos Mentales (photo: Matías Lamouret)

Danil stands with the ‘victim’ in one of the rooms at Juegos Mentales (photo: Matías Lamouret)

“There is no age limit: we receive children from around eight [it is not advised to take younger kids because the puzzles might be too difficult form them] and others who are over 60. And also we get visitors from both genders and different interests. We have even received claustrophobic people who tell us that had such a good time that they forgot all about their problems and enjoyed the game all along,” remarks Buono.

Why do people enjoy this type of activity so much? “They like the challenge it represents. They love sorting out puzzles and it’s also something completely different and new here,” he adds.

“I believe the rush of adrenaline visitors experience is very much like the one they have when riding a rollercoaster,” concludes Tchapovsky.

Juegos Mentales is based in San Telmo, at Venezuela 638. Prices range from $320 to $620 per group, depending on the time of day and size of the group. Visit their website for more information and reservations. 


EurekaLeg is in Almagro, on Billinghurst 835. Prices range from $120 to $255 per person, depending on the size of the group and the time of day. Visit their website for more information and reservations. 


Follow Desirée Jaimovich here: @djaimovich

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Undercover BA: The Artisanal Knitwear Revolution

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. 


There has been a marked shift in influences in Buenos Aires fashion trends over the last couple of seasons, especially among the new crop of young designers whose modus operandi is to stand apart from the monotonous offerings pedalled by commercial brands on the high street and in the shopping malls. Whereas perhaps a few years ago young creative eyes were glued to what was going on overseas with budding designers referencing Margiela, Cos, and JW Anderson -as well as the usual Japanese heavyweights in their minimalist designs- the tides seem to be turning.

Although I’m the first to swoon at a simple, dressed-down Belgian aesthetic and monochromatic colour palette, there’s something magical about Argentina, with its artisanal craft heritage, and plentiful supply of prime materials. It’s not just the leather you need to get excited about. As is often the case, for it to be embraced locally, it takes for something Argentine to get recognised abroad. Stella McCartney sourced Patagonian wool for several of her collections, which no doubt contributed to the shift in influences being sought on home turf, and to give the traditional techniques and Argentina’s knitwear identity a new lease of life.

I’ve selected designers who all draw on Argentina’s artisanal heritage in one way or another, working with craftsmen using traditional methods of production, working with premium local materials to create fashion forward pieces that bring these autochthonous traditions right up to date.


Maydi Knitwear. (Photo from Maydi)

Models show off Maydi knitwear. (Photo from Maydi)

Maydi has been at the forefront of the movement to champion the use of premium locally-sourced materials, focusing on hand-dyed alpaca and organic merino wool to produce a line of knitwear that has evolved and become increasingly versatile and sophisticated with each new season. Undeterred by the hot Buenos Aires summers, she uses lightweight materials to produce her summer collections, from sleeveless ponchos to loose-knit, strappy tops, always adhering to her founding principles of using traditional techniques to produce her exquisite hand-crafted garments.

Sold at Tupã or at her showroom, by appointment.


Nido Knitwear. (Photo from Nido)

Cozy, comfortable, and sustainable knitwear from Nido. (Photo from Nido)

Nido’s founder, Julieta Racket, is a former graphic designer and her approach to her label differs in that her focus isn’t purely on the design but rather the materials and the processes involved to create her sustainable collections. Her hand-knitted garments are made using sheep’s wool, and undyed goat and llama wool. Julieta is actively involved in overseeing the whole process, from selecting the natural dyes and textures to the final crafted result. The wool used is sheared then hand-spun with a treadle and wheel to create the wool she uses, all of which is produced by Argentine artisans. Her collection is therefore not only beautiful but also has a social conscience.

Sold at Reunión

Julieta Grana

Juliete Grana Knitwear. (Photo from Juliete Grana)

Julieta Grana’s knitwear products are both high fashion and artisanal. (Photo from Juliete Grana)

The UBA fashion design graduate has been carving out a solid reputation locally for innovative design as well as a love for natural fabrics, with knitwear a prominent feature of recent collections -now in her 5th. Her forte is producing high fashion garments which bear a tangible artisanal identity, while experimenting with an androgynous form, giving hand-knitted jumpers a twist with an oversize fit or with asymmetrical lines, and pairing coarse sheep wool snoods (a personal favourite of the current collection) paired with linen dresses with raw hems.

On sale via her showroom.


Animaná specializes in knitwear apparel and home goods. (Photo from Animaná)

Animaná knitwear products, featuring apparel and home goods. (Photo from Animaná)

This wonderful Argentine label has a clearly defined Argentine identity, producing versatile and on trend knitwear pieces with a proud back-story. The label oversees production at every stage, using prime materials sourced in Patagonia and the Andes from wild llamas to local species such as vicuña and guanaco, as well as organic cotton and raw silk. The label supports local communities who make the crafted items using ancestral production techniques, using natural plant extracts to dye the fibres, and creating garments that are biodegradable and non-toxic as well as soft to the touch and low allergy. Animamá also produces babywear, accessories, and offers a made-to-measure personalised service.

Sold at showroom, by appointment.

Manuela Rasjido

Manuela Rasjido knitwear. (Photo from  Manuela Rasjido)

Models strut the runway wearing Manuela Rasjido knitwear. (Photo from Manuela Rasjido)

Manuela’s handmade pieces can take anything up to a hundred hours to produce, as she makes each of her garments one by one – and by hand. The Catamarcan artist learnt her trade through investigative trips through the Andean border to source information on hand-dying techniques using natural plant extracts, and pestering the elderly ladies of the valle to share their secrets with her. She relishes the process of trial and error, producing unique pieces which cannot be replicated. Manuela’s designs also challenge the conventions of the use of earthy, nude colours in traditional textiles, using brilliant reds, blues, and purples in her collections, all produced from natural pigments.

Sold at showroom, by appointment.

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

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Mural of the Month: Humboldt 1510

Following on from the success of ‘Osmosis‘ in Elsi Del Rio gallery in Palermo, the second installment of the exhibition, ‘Composición Exquisita’, takes the form of the a mural composed of consecutive pieces by the three artists involved in the original show – Chu, Pum Pum, and Elian.

The first part of the mural was painted by artist Chu (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

The first part of the mural was painted by artist Chu (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

Both shows are curated by Victoria Tolomei, but whilst ‘Osmosis’ saw these urban artists leave the stage of the streets for the internal environs of a gallery, ‘Composición Exquisita’ brings them back to their roots to see them painting on walls.

First up was Chu, who graced the back wall of the patio with his signature connected dots and geometric shards, followed by Pum Pum, whose characteristic girly portrait incorporated some of the cosmic elements that defined her portion of the show. Elian will provide the final piece to the puzzle in the coming weeks once he returns from his summer travels to Europe.

Pum Pum adds a girly portrait to the mural (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

Pum Pum adds a girly portrait to the mural (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

The mural is about the collective contribution and exchange of ideas, with each of the trio independently adding their own visual offering to result in a wall that reflects the spirit of collaboration both on and off the streets.

The mural will be completed by a third artist - Elian - in the coming weeks (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

The mural will be completed by a third artist – Elian – in the coming weeks (Photo courtesy of Elsi del Río gallery)

For more information on Elsi del Río gallery and its other exhibitions, please visit: www.elsidelrio.com.ar.

This article was produced in collaboration with Graffitimundo, a non-profit organisation which celebrates graffiti and street art in Buenos Aires and supports local artists. For more information on the artists, exhibitions, and Buenos Aires street art tours, visit their website or facebook page

Posted in Life & Style, The CityComments (0)

The Robbery of Buenos Aires: An Interview with Gabriela Massuh

In the two decades since its renovation, Puerto Madero has become a must-see for anyone who visits Buenos Aires, with tourists leisurely strolling down the wide walkways that line the converted docks of the former port. But living in Puerto Madero is an entirely different experience. There are no public schools or hospitals in the neighbourhood, few buses connect to the area, and despite the abundance of elegant parrillas, food from conventional markets is hard to come by. It is a neighbourhood where the solution to many basic living needs are nowhere to be found. Which might explain why so few people live there —inside its gleaming new towers, more than 50% of residential units sit empty.

The Puerto Madero skyline (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Puerto Madero skyline (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Though Puerto Madero began its conversion long before Buenos Aires’ current mayor, Mauricio Macri, took office, Gabriela Massuh considers it to be the beginning of an urban planning style that has taken off under his government. In her book, ‘El Robo de Buenos Aires’ (‘The Robbery of Buenos Aires’), she argues that the legal machinations and powerful interests that built Puerto Madero set the tone for the next 25 years of development in Buenos Aires. Though Puerto Madero and similar developments make the city look better on paper, Massuh’s book points to a wide array of more troubling effects they have, and argues that their net effect is impacting the city on an even deeper level: they’re taking away its soul.

As Buenos Aires prepares for the mayoral runoff election on Sunday, Massuh’s book, published at the end of last year, is as relevant as ever. If, as polls predict, the election is won by Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, the PRO candidate hand-picked by Macri to succeed him, the city appears set to follow the same development patterns Massuh describes in her exposé.

The Soul of the City

Gabriela Massuh's book, 'The Robbery of Buenos Aires'

Gabriela Massuh’s book, ‘The Robbery of Buenos Aires’

As the blunt title of the book would indicate, Massuh —a philologist, journalist, and writer— doesn’t mince words. Much of her ire is directed at Macri and his ruling PRO party. But this doesn’t mean that the Frente para la Victoria (FPV), the party of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and a traditional opponent of Macri, gets a free pass. As she writes in the introduction, “If ultimately the balance tilts against PRO, this is not because the Frente para la Victoria is in any way less responsible for degrading public resources for private gain or resorting to abusive methods that smack of authoritarianism and intolerance.”

Massuh is more optimistic about Martín Lousteau, Larreta’s only remaining challenger in the election, who trails in the polls and faces criticism as his party is affiliated with candidates who are allied with PRO on the national level. Nevertheless, she is still concerned that the same planning patterns may hold sway even if Lousteau wins.

I met with Massuh in a café in Palermo. Outside, cyclists periodically passed by on the street’s bike lane, built during the Macri government. “It’s a shame,” she told me, nodding in the direction of the bike lane. “The purpose of these bike lanes should be to improve the quality of life in the city, but like all his other projects, Macri has turned them into a marketing campaign.”

You begin your book by talking about the “soul” of a city, in this case Buenos Aires. What do you mean by that?

This is very important for me, but hard to explain. My generation grew up playing in public spaces that were parks and plazas. People would bring their own chairs to sit and talk with each other on sidewalks. And there was a great mixture of ethnic groups – it wasn’t a city of ghettos. Today, public space means shopping centres. When I think about the soul of the city, I always go back to Marshall Berman’s description of the destruction of the South Bronx by Robert Moses’ freeway plans. He shows how tearing down parks and buildings wrecks social networks and lives. It may sound overly poetic, but it’s very real.

So public spaces were gradually transformed from places where people built personal relationships to centres for consumption?

Exactly. The last time there was a real feeling of integrated public space in Buenos Aires was in the 1980s. The creation of Puerto Madero, along with the cultural shift that happened in the ’90s, began to chip away at that. For instance, the park I used to play at when I was a kid doesn’t exist anymore.

How was Puerto Madero developed, and why is it so indicative of Buenos Aires’s development today?

The creation of Puerto Madero made use of a legal framework that had never been used before in Argentina. Both the city government and the national government became business partners with the development company created for the project. Their goal was to “build an urban centre based on genuine investment”, with no mention of public services. For me, it’s emblematic of development in Buenos Aires since then, since the same scheme was used in roughly a dozen other similar projects, which aren’t as well known.

Development of Puerto Madero in the 1990s (photo: Wikipedia)

Development of Puerto Madero in the 1990s (photo: Wikipedia)

You take issue with a number of projects the city has carried out under Macri. Which projects have you been most critical of?

First of all, housing. The number of high-rises has soared and yet the population of Buenos Aires has stayed the same for decades. Roughly 25% of housing units sit vacant, while the villas continue to grow. This shows that the government sees housing not as a practical need, but as a lucrative trade for its industry connections. The government has also stripped the comunas of much of their political power, hurting public representation. And they are systematically defunding public schools and hospitals. Their financing is fairly similar to the scheme set up under Carlos Menem at the national level: they sell off city properties for short-term gain. And most of that money only seems to go toward ad campaigns.

What is the PRO-K pact?

Though the relationship between PRO and FPV [also referred to as Kirchnerists, or “K”] is portrayed in the media as hostile, they actually see eye to eye quite often. The PRO-K pact is basically an agreement between the city legislature, controlled by PRO, and national legislature, controlled by the FPV. Both blocs are in bed with big construction interests, and they all agree to keep quiet so that projects get built. A perfect example of this is the Isla de Marchi, near Puerto Madero, which the national government wants to turn into a sort of mini Dubai. The national level PRO legislators don’t object in exchange for the city level FPV legislators approving PRO-backed projects. This agreement has allowed for dozens of megaprojects to be built with minimal public input.

Your book was published last October. What has changed in Buenos Aires since then?

The basic structure has remained the same. Macri has opened a few more Metrobus lines, a few more bike paths. There was a project to convert buses from non-renewables to renewables that fell through. The biggest change is that Martin Lousteau’s arrival on the scene has added a much-needed level of criticism to the public dialogue. At least it did – Larreta is now refusing to debate him.

What’s your take on Lousteau?

He has a good background in management and, obviously, economics. I find it encouraging that many of his relatives worked in public schools, as well as the fact that he studied at the London School of Economics, which doesn’t have as rigid a perspective on economic principles as, say, the Chicago School. It allows for a government that regulates more instead of allying with big business. Overall, he’s brought a level of rationality to the debate that has been lacking.

Do you have any criticisms of Lousteau?

I think he could be more firmly rooted in a social movement. He got a late start in the campaign, and despite his efforts to meet with members of the community, he isn’t as established at the base level of the social pyramid. And there’s always the risk that he could form an arrangement similar to the PRO-K pact.

What will happen if Larreta wins the Buenos Aires election and Daniel Scioli, presidential candidate for the FPV, wins his election?

Things will continue basically the way they are now. Scioli has already reached out to Larreta, basically looking to establish a friendly relationship in case both of them win.

Would Macri have a strong influence over Larreta’s governance?

I think so, via their mutual ties to Nicolás Caputo, a powerful presence in the construction industry. And don’t forget about the legislature. Many of the same principal blocs will still be in place, no matter who wins. I still can’t believe some of the legislators who went along with the PRO-K pact: Aníbal Ibarra, Gabriela Cerruti – I was really disheartened to see them do that.

Rodríguez Larreta celebrates the election results (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

Rodríguez Larreta celebrates the election results (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

What would you do to make things better for Buenos Aires?

We really have to take a serious look at public space. Macri has been very aggressive at fencing off parks and plazas. It all comes down to the desire to homogenise the social makeup of certain neighbourhoods. We need to get beyond that, it’s harmful for the city overall.

Regarding housing, is a tax on vacant units the right way to go?

I think that in the long term, the housing situation is so unsustainable that something like that is inevitable. But for the time being, it’s a complete taboo for politicians. You bring it up and you’ll be crushed. It’s one of the things Lousteau mentioned to me – he said that the situation was so bad he had even considered a moratorium on new construction to figure it out. But there was no way for him to bring it up during the campaign without serious blowback. All the major media outlets, including those aligned with Kirchner, would have come down hard on him.

How can Buenos Aires and other cities get their souls back?

It’s possible if we recognise the problem. In its current state, democracy doesn’t work very well. You get a vote and nothing more. We have to think more on the neighbourhood level, and think differently, to break away from the bland thought patterns instilled in us by political leaders and corporations. Things like alternative energy are very important. But one of the things that really gives me hope these days is the Pope. It’s good to see him taking on issues that others are afraid to touch. He’s even spoken out about the importance of good urban design to build better communities. If only his hometown would listen to what he had to say.

Drew Reed is a writer, translator, and occasional composer. He writes mainly about cities. Follow him on Twitter: @the_drewreed.

Posted in Current Affairs, Development, News From Argentina, Social Issues, Urban LifeComments (0)

Betsubara Dojo: Martial Arts for the Ladies

Tucked away on the corner of Scalabrini Ortiz and Lerma stands an unassuming door. Inside and up the stairs, students clad in martial art uniforms are practising their steady movements as the hum of low voices mingles in the kitchen just beyond. Calm and comfortable, the tranquility of this community starkly contrasts with busy life below.

All-female class observes as Walter instructs an Aikido class at Betsubara Dojo  (photo by Katie  McCutcheon)

All-female class observes as Walter instructs an Aikido class at Betsubara Dojo (photo by Katie McCutcheon)

Welcome to Betsubara Dojo, the first Argentine martial arts school with all-female classes and an “urban refuge where ladies have the floor”.

Although it lacks direct translation, the Japanese word betsubara is best described as an insatiable appetite for something you like.

“That’s what I felt when I was practising Aikido,” says California native and owner Amanda Gary, who began the martial art four years ago in Buenos Aires. Soon enough, however, Amanda discovered the difficulties of being a woman in this male-dominated sport.

“There were social dynamics that influenced who would practise with me and how they would practise with me,” Amanda says. It quickly became apparent that women had to put in twice the effort of men to develop their skill. Many dojos that Amanda went to lacked an optimal learning environment for females, as they feel cold, intimidating, and entirely geared towards men. Some don’t even have a ladies’ bathroom.

Frustrated but not discouraged, Amanda took matters into her own hands. “I wanted to create a space where people who are already intimidated by something don’t have to overcome any other obstacles except just showing up. I wanted to make the place comfortable and warm” for everyone, but “especially for women”. Thus, a year and a half ago, Betsubara Dojo opened for business.

Women practise Aikido in an all-female class at Betsubara Dojo  (photo by Katie McCutcheon)

Women practise Aikido in an all-female class at Betsubara Dojo (photo by Katie McCutcheon)

The vibes at Betsubara Dojo resemble more of a clubhouse than a gym. It’s a welcoming community where the other instructors encourage people to come to the dojo early, “hang out, drink mate, take a nap”. If you want to watch a different class before trying it out, you’re welcome to do that too. In fact, it’s this attitude that has turned entire families into martial artists. Mothers, fathers, and siblings regularly sign up after observing a loved one’s class from the couch.

The school offers a wide variety of classes, including Kung Fu, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Tai Chi, and Ukemi. Betsubara Dojo’s seven teachers instruct classes specifically for children, women, or mixed adults. Beginners and more experienced students are taught together, as there is always something to learn from one another.

While the wide range of classes offered at the school attracts a diverse community, even more varied is each student’s inspiration to practise. Some may come for exercise while others attend out of pure curiosity. Fourteen-year-old students Belen and Yara practise Aikido in the women’s only class to learn self-defence. It’s in this comfortable environment where the teens feel capable and empowered to learn.

Amanda believes that “giving women a space to do something that is not, up until now, very female, is making a difference for everybody. Men seem really supportive of it and women seem to think that they like it and that it’s necessary.” Belen and Yara, as the first within their social circle to practise, hope to help spread the word.

Students laugh during all female Aikido class at Betsubara Dojo in Villa Crespo (photo by Katie McCutcheon)

Students laugh during all female Aikido class at Betsubara Dojo in Villa Crespo (photo by Katie McCutcheon)

Although Amanda hasn’t heard of instances in which students have utilised their skills on the streets, she thinks the difference is in demeanour. “It’s how they wear it,” she says of the newly developed confidence. If you know how to handle a certain situation, you exude an attitude that helps deflect it.

Since Betsubara Dojo’s opening, a handful of other dojos have followed suit by offering female-specific classes too. What sets this school apart is the community. “That feeling of just constantly wanting to learn and feeling good while you are doing it- that’s what I wanted to transmit to people,” Amanda says. Given the success Betsubara Dojo has seen, this plan seems to be working.

For more information on Betsubara Dojo and the classes on offer, visit: betsubaradojo.com or follow the centre on Facebook


Posted in Life & Style, SportComments (0)

The International Human Rights Film Festival Returns to Buenos Aires

Last night, the 16th Human Rights Film Festival (FICDH) opened in Buenos Aires. Films and activities will take place at more than ten venues across the city until 24th June. In addition to a list of over a hundred films in sections such as Gender Views, Childhood and Youth, Migrants, Panorama, Environment, and Native Cultures, the festival agenda also includes round tables, photo exhibits, performances, workshops—and even a chance to get tattooed!

From the film 'El Regreso'

From the film ‘El Regreso’

The theme of this year’s festival is ‘EnREDando, identidades en contacto’, which emphasises the importance of networking, media, and the connections among people in spite of geographical and cultural distances. In highlighting the importance of these connections, the festival will be hosting Human Rights Tattoo, a Dutch project that invites the public to get a tattoo for human rights. Nearly 7,000 people across the world have already gotten their tattoo, which consists of a single letter from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Tattoo artists Mandinga Tattoo, Guillermo Caldentey, Bruking, Daniel Demilio, Black Queen, Popiz Urrere Pon, and Agostina Perrone will be taking their turns today and tomorrow at the Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas from 5-10pm, and on Sunday at the Fundación Mercedes Sosa from 2-8pm. Definitely a whole new way of experiencing a festival!

But let’s get to the films themselves. This year, a new theme section has been added: Sports and Human Rights. The movie at the top of the list is ‘Boxing for Freedom’ (Juan Antonio Moreno and Silvia Venegas), about Sadaf Rahimi, a female boxer from Afghanistan, and her struggle to have a career in boxing in a country where women’s opportunities are so narrow. Naturally, it would be difficult to have a a festival section on sports without a film on football, and so ‘En el nombre de la Copa’ (Diego Marín Verdugo) will be screened, a film that recounts the underside of Brazil that did not appear on television screens during the World Cup matches. In ‘Giovanni and the Water Baller’ (Astrid Bussink), a young boy fights against another kind of discrimination when he decides to join a synchronised swimming team. In addition to the films, there is a rugby clinic scheduled for Saturday at 2pm at the Centro Cultural de la Memoria Haroldo Conti at the Centro de Memoria ex-ESMA.

Some of the films screening use different multimedia formats, such as animation in the case of 'Atrás de la Vajilla'

Some of the films use different multimedia formats, such as animation in the case of ‘Atrás de la Vajilla’

In the year where gender has come to the forefront in Argentina through the massive protest #NiUnaMenos, the Gender Views section should be a particular focus during the festival. On Sunday, the Fundación Mercedes Sosa (Humberto Primo 378) will host Espacio Mujeres, redes y maternidad. Three short films (‘Puja’, ‘Las formas de nacer. Historias de mujeres por el parto respetado’, and ‘Las que en vida fueran’) on giving birth, obstetrics, and respecting women’s choices during this critical life moment will be screened at 4pm. After the screenings, there is a play, ‘Parir-Nos’, directed by Eugenia Díaz, followed by a debate on the topic. On Tuesday, the topic turns to abortion at the Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas, with a screening of the film ‘A quiet inquisition’ (Holen Sabrina Kahn and Alessandra Zeka), a presentation of a book on abortion and feminism by Mabel Belucci, and a roundtable debate. Other films in different sections of the festival also touch on gender, such as ‘Vestido de Novia’ (Marilyn Solaya), a film in the feature-length competition, which explores the entrenched machismo in Cuban society.

The festival is also a chance to see Argentine documentary filmmakers focusing on a wide range of human rights topics. A few from this selection include ‘Mujeres de la Mina’ (Loreley Unamuno and Malena Bystrowicz), on three women who work in the Cerro Rico mines of Potosí, Bolivia, which is included in the Argentine competition. Another, ‘Tacos Altos en el Barro’ (Rolando Pardo) follows six indigenous transvestites in the province of Salta. One of the Argentine short films in competition, ‘Invisible’ (Juan Manuel Echalecu) focuses on the issue of human trafficking through a woman and her baby in captivity.

'Born in Gaza'

From the film ‘Born in Gaza’

For more information on all the screenings and other activities during the week of the festival, check out the festival’s Facebook page and website—or check back at the Independent for updates on all the happenings!

Lead image from the film ‘Just Kids – The Lion and the Brave Mouse Nora’ 


Posted in Film, Human Rights, Social Issues, The ArtsComments (0)

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