[Este artículo se publicó en la revista online de la disquera Circle Into Square, de Portland, Oregon para acompañar un ensayo fotográfico sobre Buenos Aires]
I know I can’t define this city. I could talk about it for four days, describe it from many perspectives, and I still wouldn’t be saying all there is to say about it. But I guess that’s just how it goes with cities like that. Cities that big, that diverse. Cities like that. Perhaps that’s the way to go. Maybe comparing it to other cities I may be able to outline just what makes Buenos Aires the city it is.
There is Mexico City, for instance. Mexico City is a monster with a thousand heads, and one minute it seems to take you in, to make you feel at home, and the next it seems like it’s trying to kill you. Buenos Aires isn’t like that. Buenos Aires doesn’t care about you, it’s just there, take it or leave it. You’ll never feel attached to it, and it will never be rude enough to tell you to go, even if it wants you to.
Unlike New York City, for instance, Buenos Aires doesn’t challenge you. If you live here for months, or for years, after you leave you won’t feel transformed beyond what those months or years would have transformed you anyway. Buenos Aires won’t teach you, and it won’t learn from you. This city and its citizens expect you to enjoy your stay, and to leave them alone as much as you can. Do your thing, then go away.
Then there’s cities like Caracas. No matter how much you read about Caracas, what you find when you actually go there will be nothing like what you read. Perhaps it’s because it changes so fast, that it’s just impossible to define it. You have to experience it for yourself. Not Buenos Aires. When you arrive you’ll find all the things you heard and read about. It does look like a European city. It is cheap to be here. It’s safe. There’s tango, and wine. Fabulous steaks. There are all those street corners with old, old shops that give it that dated charm that it’s so easy to capture on film. Those famous aspects of Buenos Aires are all true, and they are so well known, that it could be difficult for a person who spends only short time here to feel surprised by the city.
But there are a few things that might surprise you. No one ever told you about the Chinese people. The Peruvians. The Bolivians. All those Asians. No one told you about all the brown skinned people all around, that the people from Buenos Aires would rather not talk about or include in the description of the city. Being so busy comparing Buenos Aires to Italian cities, they forget to realize that no matter how much the buildings resemble some buildings in Paris, in London, this isn’t Europe. And that’s just another thing that the citizens expect you not to do: please, don’t remind them that Buenos Aires is in Latin America. Don’t tell them that there are more first-generation Asians than Europeans. Do your thing, then go away. Thank you for coming, thank you for leaving. Please come back. Please go away.