I’m heading to Argentina with my camera to solve Argentina’s problems.
Well, OK, maybe I won’t solve anything, but at least I can point the lens on many things that are happening in Argentina and help a small portion of America get educated about this neighbor-to-the-south.
Americans are ignorant of the politics, arts and humanities that are occurring in Argentina even as we set at our corner café and swallow our java.
With internet, it is disappointing that so many Americans are ignorant and apathetic to the history – past and present – which is Argentina.
While much blame can be given to a population that knows more about the Kardashian sisters than Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, an equal amount of blame can be laid at the feet of American mainstream media that is more interested in capturing corporate dollars than they are in providing any real service.
If someone stood on the horizon in November 1912 and looked at Argentina and the United States, they would’ve had trouble guessing which country had a more promising future. Both had plenty of unsettled land; the Argentine pampas rivaled the American Midwest; each possessed a long coastline ideal for exporting plenty of products.
And while immigrants were flooding in to both countries, Argentina enjoyed one benefit denied to the U.S. Argentina never had to rely on slave labor for agriculture. Without this chapter of history, Argentina has never had to endure a civil war and it wasn’t destined for the racial strife and inequality that would eradicate much of America’s greatness in the twentieth century.
What has happened over the last 100 years to bring Argentina where it is today and where might Argentina going in the future? Most importantly, where is Argentina now in terms of politics, social justice, the arts, human welfare and many other issues.
In July the Argentine government made a formal announcement that citizens won’t be able to convert their savings from pesos to dollars. Many Argentines swap dollars like this as a guard against inflation and devaluation of the peso.
In the pro-government newspaper, Pagina, Mercedes Marco del Pont, Argentine central bank president, when asked about real estate buyers who come under the same restrictions stated, “People doing these transactions will have to make the payments in pesos.”
With US dollars flooding out of Argentina’s central bank, there have been a series of currency restrictions which started just after last year’s presidential election.
When you consider that Argentina does not have access to the global bond market and its inflation is hovering around 25% what consequences should people expect?
Some in Argentina are convinced that the country is becoming the new Cuba. If an Argentinean wants to buy dollars to fly abroad, they need to state where they are going and for what purpose In addition to telling authorities when you are returning. Individuals who are allowed to leave the country cannot buy dollars for travel more than twice a year.
One Argentinean ex-pat living in Ireland and blogging under the pseudonym ‘Crypto’ says, “If Kirchner is not stopped in the near future, we are going to become a Communist country very soon.” Crypto goes on to say, “No other government except Kirchner’s is going to be able to cope with these people. Moreover, Cristina has created an extreme-left group called “Campora” which is, in my opinion; capable of employing extreme violence if the circumstances demand it (right now they don’t need to do it because they are the ones who rule the country). In other words, we are screwed.”
Politically a person can hardly keep up with all that’s going on in Argentina. Each sunrise brings more government dictates, rules and initiatives.
Lorimer Wilson, Editor in Chief of the online financial magazine munKNEE.com writes, “Argentina is a country with vast potential, but it will never reach of what it is capable. Why? Selfishness, a kind of shared national value, ensures corruption and shortsighted policy making. Not a bright future for this nation, especially one which has the natural endowments and potential to become a world leader at generating wealth for the nation and its citizens.”
None of the political potpourri should discourage anyone from visiting Argentina however. The peso’s loss is the dollar-holding-tourist’s gain. And besides, I watched “Evita” and I know that Argentina is a great piece of real estate with practically every type of topography to satisfy even the pickiest tourist.
The Spanish and Italian immigrants who settled in the early 1900s left a festive culture. Dinner is served at 10:30, young adults head to the tango clubs after 1 in the morning and the work day typically starts at 11.
The immigrants from Wales who were brought in to settle the plains in the 1800s left their own mark in numerous ways.
The capital, Buenos Aires, is complicated by its German speakers, many of who are descended from Nazis who left Europe in the late 1940s. Also present in Buenos Aires is South America’s largest Jewish community who are mainly descended from Jews who had fled the Nazis in the 1930s.
This melting pot has woven a rich tapestry of neighborhoods and a fascinating culture. The city’s architecture, its balconies, its avenues, parks and promenades are all gorgeous.
Many stereotypes about South American warmth are true; young Argentines are uninhibited about making out in the numerous public parks while elderly Argentines are uninhibited about dancing the samba in the well-preserved barrio of San Telmo.
Dancing late at night, coffee shops, arts, history, and corrupt politics. Argentina has it all and it’s my goal to enlighten as many Americans as I can about this wonderful, alive and dynamic country.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. With regular submissions to USAToday, CNN, UpSurge, Huffington Post and others, he will be in Argentina for several months exploring the people, places and things that make “República Argentina” great and special. He will also be submitting regularly to The Buenos Aires Herald, Conde Nast, NatGeo Traveler and Wanderlust and others.