Foto del día: ¡Feliz Halloween!

There’s a little playground tucked behind a church between Gurruchaga and Serrano in Villa Crespo.  It’s one of the cleaner ones – someone from the church comes and rakes out the sand regularly – with a distinct lack of dog shit, bird shit, yerba lavada, gum, and other nastiness.

Today, this boy with a toothy grin (and a few teeth missing from that grin) was well-armed for Halloween.  Four masks: Frankenstein, “The Scream”, a scary looking owl, and a bloody saw that sit on top of your head and makes it look like your head’s been sliced into.

 

Halloween’s a distinctly Anglo holiday – it was started by the Irish and didn’t become popular in the United States until the immigration wave of the late 19th century.  But you can see splashes of the holiday across Buenos Aires today.  Jumbo sure took advantage, renaming it “El Día de los Caramelos”.

Halloween is a fanciful manifestation of our darker, sillier sides, our desafío to The Other Side that things are still pretty good in this life, all things considered.

So whether you celebrate it or not, stuff a little sweetness in your mouth (a caramelo, chupa-chup, huevo de chocolate, even a medialuna or bocha de helado will do).  Happy Halloween!

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S2 E13: Citizens of the World

Hello! We are back this week, with our most international episode yet!

Expat, Immigrant and Travelling Chamuyo with voices from and/or in connection with the following countries:

  • Argentina
  • US
  • Ecuador
  • Spain
  • Italy,
  • UK
  • Sweden
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • South Korea
  • Poland
  • and New Zealand.

Plus:

  • Spanglish Playground: Words for “Dude” in Argentina
  • Daniel demonstrates he’s not only about bashing Argentina with a top 3 favorite things about this country.
  • And BA Cast brings you the number one hit single in Argentina. Wonder what might that be?

 

[box] We hope you liked it, if you have some questions or comments, please use:

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Image credit: Dcoetzee

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Zizek: the cutting edge right under our noses

If you’re sick of the cumbia-pop that saturates a lot of radio here, there’s something special happening tomorrow night in Palermo.

Zizek – Buenos Aires’ homegrown DJ collective and record label – is throwing down with a 5th anniversary extravaganza featuring more than a dozen DJs, rappers, musicians, and performance artists, dizzying audiovisual fun, and the cutting edge electrocumbia-meets folkloric samples-meets-hip hop-meets-funk-meets-dancehall that’s made Zizek a phenomenon worldwide.  I mean, check this out…

I started playing Zizek beats on my radio show in the U.S. when the label released a kickass compilation.  But I fell in love when I heard Chancha Via Circuito’s album, Rio Arriba.  Chancha channels the new and old sounds of Buenos Aires.  His music sounds like this city.

The show goes all night on both stages at Niceto Club.  It’s a modest AR$30.  And it looks like the Zizek folks are ready to have some fun.  You won’t want to miss it.

 

 

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Argentine Style Protests Are Alive and Well in the USA

Fernando always contends that there is no more left in the USA. While it is a much more conservative country than most of the rest of the world, there is a part that is decidedly left…

A few days ago in the Wall Street Journal (a publication that is obviously conservative) there was an article by Douglas Schoen discussing how the Democratic party should create strategy with respect to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The interesting thing to me was the polling that Schoen had done of the occupiers of Zuccatti park in lower Manhattan. In his words “The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies”.

Did you hear that Fer?? RADICAL left wing policies. In New York!

Granted its the Wall Street Journal that is saying this but I keep telling you that the USA is not without its true liberals (in the American sense of the word liberal, because the word “liberal” in Spanish actually means the opposite).

But whats much more interesting to me than nagging Fer on a blog is that this movement is growing in its power every day. Will the left be able to get anything done in the USA? Probably not in my estimation. Why? Their whole idea, pretty much just like the left’s idea in any country, is that their agenda is not super clear, they don’t have clear goals and they lack organization. Hello Democratic party! The only reason you ever take power is because the Republicans almost melt down the world as we know it so the people go, “Oh, we should give the democrats a shot.” And as soon as they realize that the democrats lack a coherent message, don’t market well, and so forth, the republicans come back and kick their tails again.

Why can’t there be a Reasonable Party? A party that simply asks “Is this policy reasonable?” So many of the policies we have in the USA and in Argentina are totally unreasonable. Take the tax code in both countries. TOTALLY UNREASONABLE!!!

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Who’s Your Padrón? Presidential Election in Argentina


Fernando as Ballot Captain ("Presidente de Mesa")

 

 

It’s Election Day in Argentina.  I took the opportunity to check out the scene firsthand at the precinct in Montserrat where BA Cast co-host Fernando Farias was brandishing his list of approved voters, “el padrón” – “it’s like the Bible,” says Fer – and checking it twice.  He was minding the “cuarto oscuro” where each voter enters alone to fill out his or her ballot – “only one person at a time.  It’s sacred,” says Fer, “like the bathroom.”  For the full rundown of Argentine election terminology and ins and outs, listen to this BA Cast show from last month

 

 

I had a few observations/thoughts:

1. Argentinians are renowned for the passion they imbue politics.  So I was amazed how restrained, mellow, cordial, and ordinary the whole voting process is.  It’s forbidden to discuss politics or even mention a candidate’s name.  The lines were no more than five people long at any given time.  There were a lot of smiles and hugs (as there always are here).  Outside, the streets are largely empty and most businesses are closed.  Which brings me to…

2. Why can’t the United States do it this way?  Why can’t the U.S. make Election Day a national holiday, on a weekend when people aren’t working?  Here, voting is mandatory and you get a little stamp in your national ID card to signify that you voted.  In the U.S., we’re happy to get 40% turnout in a presidential election.  Huge swaths of voters, especially poorer ones, disenfranchise themselves or are disenfranchised by quirky registration rules and out-of-the-way voting precincts.
Today in Argentina they’re using paper ballots and cardboard boxes to slip them into, and the system seems to work.  Federal officers mind each cardboard box to look out for funny business.  In the U.S., we’re world famous for hanging chads, recounts, and electronic voting machines that “disappear” votes (or so some allege).
Isn’t the U.S. supposed to be the pillar of Democracy?

3. Talking with voters outside, there was a mix of excitement, resignation, and trepidation.  Excitement for avid Cristina supporters who say she’s showed what a strong, competent, female leader can do.  Resignation for those who felt Cristina’s re-election was an inevitability, “cut their ballot”, voting for a different party for their Congressional representative to achieve a better balance of power.  Trepidation for voters who worry about inflation at 25%, about the engines of a booming economy starting to slow down, about the recessional woes of the rest of the world finally coming to roost here in Argentina.  But a lot of people said basically the same thing to me – sure, we’ve got lots of problems, sure, Cristina has her faults, but hey, we’re not Greece, or Portugal, or Spain.  At least, not anymore.

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Cheat sheet for Episode 12, Season 2

Cheat Sheet for E12S02

Listen to  episode 12 here

 

  • Rio-Sao Paulo: It’s a huge rivalry, like Madrid-Barcelona, NY-LA, Paris-Lyon…
  • Carioca: A native of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
  • Paulista: A native of the STATE of Sao Paulo
  • Paulistano: A native of the CITY of Sao Paulo
  • Saudade: A very strong concept in Brazilian culture, that can mean melancholia, nostalgia, sadness””
  • Quinceañera: a Latin American tradition of celebrating with a big wedding-type party the coming of age of a girl, at the age of 15.
  • Carnaval Carioca: Notice the music in the back is in Portuguese:

httpv://youtu.be/sBviWP9QVKA

  • Flaca: It literally means “Skinny girl”, but it actually means “babe” in Argentina.
  • “Muito obrigado”: Fer thanks the Brazilian guests in Portuguese.
  • “Before the Quilombo”: Fer refers to the economic meltdown of 2001, that put an end to the convertibility scheme of pegging the Argentine peso to the US dollar 1 to 1.
  • Pesetas: The name of the Spanish currency, before that country joined the Euro.

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S2, E12: Una flaca con saudade en España

Hi! In this episode:

 

  • Dan Karlin decides to run for office in Argentina.
  • We Chat with Brazilian travelers staying in BA
  • The use of  ¨CHE¨ in Spanish Playground
  • We talk to Rodrigo Lopez, an Argentine that relocated to Madrid many years ago.
  • Expat chat with our new team member David Sommerstein talking about his experience as an expat for several years in spain
  • And an innovation on BA Cast songs
Cheat sheet available here:   Cheat sheet episode 12

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No openly right-wing party in Argentina

As presidential elections approach this Sunday, the latest polls indicate that Cristina wins the election and that the second would be the incumbent governor of Santa Fe, Hermes Binner.

Both candidates are considered and/or claim to be center-left, progressives, liberals (according to the US use of the term), whatever.

This post is not about what exactly that means, but about what this fact reasserts: that there are no openly conservative parties in this election. And there hasn’t been for a time. So many right-wing voters were left without a clear option.

(Note: I guess some readers may say “hey, I think big government is bad, and that free markets should always be used to allocate resources and wealth, but I’m not a rightwinger because I’m not a conservative in social issues”. I learnt, thanks to Dan, that that is called a “libertarian”. But that practically doesn’t exist in Argentina, as most fiscal conservatives are socially conservatives as well, and viceversa)

Let me stress the word “openly”. Because if one analyzes what candidates say, in order to place them on the political spectrum, we could say that former caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde is that conservative candidate.

For instance, he advocates clearing piquetes by force if necessary, he favors some kind of amnesty for the military accused of HHRR violations, he’s anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion , and is a very religious person.

But he’s not entirely a fiscal conservative, and as a peronist has implemented social programs and has an interventionist approach to economy that would irk free-market, small government, pro-business supporters.

It is believed that BA Mayor Mauricio Macri is that guy. He is a businessman, he doesn’t get along at all with unions, he dennounces out-of-control immigration (of Paraguayans, Bolivians and Peruvians, not of US Americans and Europeans, don’t worry). According to the US diplomatic wires exposed by Wikileaks, he went to the US embassy in BA and said his political party PRO “is the first openly pro-business and pro-market party to exist in Argentina in 80 years”. The problem is that he dropped out of the presidential race because his campaign chief told him he had no chance of beating Cristina. So he chose to re-run as mayor, and he easily won the local elections back in July, and everybody expects him to figth for the presidency in 2015.

It strikes me as something distinctively opposed to the campaign in the US, in which GOP candidates compete for being the most conservative, anti-big government, while Obama attempts to canvass himself as a moderate, not a “leftist”.

Check out episode 7 for an explanation of why so few politicians identify themselves as right-winger, conservative.

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Occupy Wall Street and Accountability in Argentina and the United States

It strikes me as odd that the origin of the current world financial crisis is actually the United States. After so many of us yanquis down here in Argentina argued for free markets and capitalism and that Argentina should follow those ideals, we may have lost sight of the fact that the policies that our own country has instilled have created what we have now.

The bottom line is accountability. This is as much a problem in Argentina as it is in the United States. The politicians and big business owners lie, cheat, steal and manipulate in both countries, equally. It’s that in the United States, our media has done a much better job of telling us that everybody is honest and fair in the USA and that the crooks, untrustworthy and money launderers are all in Latin America. Remember all those 80s action movies with Colombian drug lords? Yeah, that actually has an impact on how our culture sees the entire group of 1 billion people south of the border.

It seems that nobody wants to be accountable, though, and that a rational approach to government and oversight has not ever really been considered. In Singapore, every government employee is held accountable to strict standards of productivity.  Your job is quantified in as many ways as possible and government employees can be fired if they do not uphold the standards of productivity.

It seems to me that too much focus on the system of government has distracted us from the bottom line which is accountability. We know that the communists in Soviet Russia hoarded all the money and made everyone else poor and we also know that the capitalists in the USA are doing the same thing right now. Neither of those systems are in practice, in the real world, working(ed) as they are designed do… to create some sort of reasonable wealth distribution.

Checks and balances are important, how laws are made is important and how contracts are enforced is all very important. But if we do not have a system of government (in any country really) that has strict, definable, quantifiable accountability, then there cannot be any hope that corporations will be held accountable by the government.

I hope that the Occupy Wall Street movement is able to get itself organized so that some sort of positive and practical reform is realized. There will not be any good done by simply sitting in the street and being angry. The anger and energy of the movement must be directed toward positive reform. I know that this “political disobedience” that these people are practicing is meant to be more of a refute of the entire system but it will be a giant waste of time and nobody will benefit at all if some serious rethinking and then acting upon those conclusions is not done.

 

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Construction and Buildings Everywhere in Buenos Aires: A Penny Saved…

So apparently there is a global economic recession. Argentina, as usual, is slow on the uptake of this news. Massive amounts of construction abound. I just got an email from a developer who is selling apartments on a golf/wine/ranch estate for over 4000 u$s per square meter. This is way way over the luxury price in Palermo of 3000 and supremely, monstrously and ridiculously over an average price of less than 2000 per meter.

From my balcony I can see 4 new buildings going up. When I walk around I see hundreds. Who is buying all of this stuff? Is it all Argentines who have savings who then rent the apartments out?

I don’t think that the population is growing so fast as to warrant this much new construction. I wonder how long it is going to go on like this. It has been like this since I have been here in 2004. That is about when the beginning of the construction boom began, as it was far enough after the economic crisis of 2001-2002 that Argentina was considered moderately safe again.

But truly I wonder what is the deal with these millions of buildings going up.

There is certainly something to be said for having a cash economy and no credit available. I believe that the “be careful what you wish for you might just get it” saying applies here. In the US it was all about access and increased property values and leveraging. In Argentina it was about saving. Actually, it is about saving still.

Everybody in Argentina buys real estate because prices truly never go down here. Yes there was a blip in 2001-2002 but since then, if you held your property for that amount of time, prices went up dollar for dollar.

Almost nobody leverages here because there has never been and there is not any credit being given out (in comparison to the US). The few who do borrow against their property have steady, provable income and only borrow about 50% (at the most!) of the value of the property, pay astronomically high interest rates (15 to 20 percent, easily) and have very short term mortgages (5 years is long!!).

Could you imagine if the USA worked the same way where we actually paid for what we bought?

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