Ohh, I am so glad I travelled back in the day! Before travel became an industry and every place became so touristic. Those were the days... when you travelled for the sake of travel, for discovering the world and people, for experiencing something new and different, for expanding your knowledge, even for getting away from it all. Unlike these days where most people travel to show-off, posting their photos on social media to get likes, or for a race towards vanity and stupidity.
My beloved Buenos Aires... It was so exciting and on the other so bittersweet to see it after 17 years. As we entered the famous seven-lane Avenida 9 de Julio (which gets its name from Argentina's Independence Day) in the taxi at night I could see all the bus stops lit up with yellow fluorescent lights. I suppose that's a part of our modern city life. The next morning came more heartbreaking surprises...
Oh how they ruined the solemn beauty of the Obelisk, the icon of the city. It has been enclosed, I suppose due to vandalism, to prevent it. In front, there is a huge BA written out of a shrub. I guess it is supposed to be nice. It has become a photo opportunity, for which you need to get in line!
Same for Cafe Tortoni. There is a line outside. We used go and sit anytime any day. What's more, now they have commercialized the place, turned it into a product marketing Cafe Tortoni coffee cups, mugs etc. “Take part of the cafe with you, forever” it says on its website. It's a brand now, rather than a historic coffeeshop taking you on a travel in time. In the 19th century, the elite of the Parissiense society gathered at the Tortoni café located on Boulevard des Italiens. Inaugurated in 1858, the French immigrant Touan named his cafe in BA after the Parisian cafe of the same name. Frequented by writers like Borges, tango dancers and opera singers, with a library and billiard tables, Cafe Tortoni was a special gathering place. It's still a nice place, they have preserved it, but it has lost its charm... The elegance that draw you to it is gone. You don't feel the nostalgia but the modernity of our era.
Teatro Colón... Rivaling with La Scala in Milan and the Metropolitan Opera House in NY, it is considered to be amongst the best performance venues in the world acoustically, in the top five. Pavarotti endorsed the same opinion. Verdi's Aida was performed on its opening night on 25th of May, Día de la Patria – Day of the Homeland in 1908. It has gone through renovations from 2006 to 2010. That's a good thing but once again, you see the effects of tourism on a landmark of the city. Toll booths to visit, crowds outside the patisserie, people with cell phones in their hands taking photos at every corner.
What do I say of Plaza de Mayo? As someone who has lived through the protests in 2001 and witnessed it first-hand, I again understand that it has been enclosed. However, it is worse here. As Casa Rosada, the Pink House, which is the Government House is located here, it is the center of frequent protests and demonstrations, even bombings, the scene of the most momentous events in Argentina's history. It is also the gathering place of mothers whose children have disappeared because of military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. There are even the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo- Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Those are the mothers who lost their pregnant daughters or daughter-in-laws to the regime, thus, they lost their grandchildren too. The pregnant captives generally were killed after they gave birth, the children were given for adoption. These grandmothers are still in search of their grandchildren. So much pain, so much hurt, so much history concentrated in one place.
The wonderful La Boca has been turned into such an awful place, full of touristic bars and made in China souvenir, or rather trinket shops. In the article on La Boca, Wikipedia says “tango-related memorabilia is sold.” What tango-related memorabilia? There is all kinds of knick-knacks of Mafalda to Maradona to the Pope. It was just so awful. Sure, you find the artistic stalls too here and there, but they are losing.
Tango artists perform in bars, sure. All for money. I understand, people need to make a living. But when the exchange is done this way, it loses all the enjoyment (naturally on the side of the dancers -as tourists seem to enjoy it, they wouldn't do it if they did not) and any authentic interaction between people. Authentic interaction... That's what's lacking, or rather hard to find today.
Tourists only visit a few blocks (which has been actively built for them!), walk around the area dedicated to them, have a look at some stalls, buy some bric-a-brac as presents or as mementos, then sit in a bar and feel they experience an authentic Argentine culture. That's what travel is today. People try to distinguish tourism from travel, but the more time passes the more they become synonymous. Or should I say travel is becoming synonymous with tourism thanks to “travel influencers”.
Arsenic and lead pollutes the river passing through La Boca, threatening the health of the citizens; tourists pollute the souls/characters of locals but at least leave money, right?
What to say about my dear San Telmo? Oh my dear San Telmo! The plaza now full of chairs and umbrellas with ads of beers, coke and other giants whose names I do not wish to mention.
Do you feel like me too? Tired of masses and the commercial effects they bring?
I'd be an anti-travel advocate if I was to be anything related to travel. I understand that times move on and things change, but I see it as degeneration. And it's bad. Bad bad bad...
Do I sound like an old auntie? :)) Perhaps I am ;)
In short, I'll be quite happy to just hang my hat and live in my quiet corner of the world after being to every country. If I can get there...