Argentinians express their angst, their love, their poetry visibly throught the ancient art of scrawling on walls. It's not enough to simply deface a poster or scratch with chalk on the pavement. Old brick buildings become soapboxes for their political rantings, lucid poet meanderings and bombastic blasts of momentary fury ("Bush Muerte!"). No structure is too sacred for the paint can - from banks to churches, statues to plazas, private homes and vehicles.
In fact, the greater the importance on a public structure, the more likely it seems to be a target for graffiti. Could be the authority they see in a statue of San Martin or the oppressive doors of the grand old national bank (especially since 2001) that makes it easier to rail against the machinery.
If a spraycan can be used for vulgar displays of passion, so can it too be used for beautiful expressions of art. But hidden within these painted puzzles are cryptic messages of non-conformity, subversive mutations on recognizable icons, and just plain funny little eyecatchers.
Within the major cities of Argentina that we visited, the creativity and style that these illegal bursts of colour provide greatly added to the character of the city and the voices of those who need to be heard.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
It seems that everyone in Argentina works. Kids, moms, dads, grannies, and teenagers. With a little bit of inventiveness, one can be in business for oneself within an afternoon. On a hot, dusty day pick up an armful of brooms and take to the streets hawking your wares along the way. If it's raining, get in on the umbrella trade. A full busload of folk heading off on an eight-hour trip? Better take your thermos of coffee and cooler of sandwiches onto the bus and work that aisle for sales before it pulls out, taking 40 potential customers with it. And better yet, if you have a more artisitic streak, it is very easy to join up with one of the dozens of Feria Artesanals happening every night, in every neighbourhood in every town. These aren't your typical craft fairs either. Everyone pours their heart and soul into creating something "coming from me" and the diversity in jewelry, carvings, clothing, food and wine, music to name a few is astounding. It's not just shopping for trinkets here, it's more like storytelling - you get to know the artist and the whole history of why and how this particular item came to be before it lands in your hands.
No water this morning? No problem. It'll be back by this afternoon, tonight...manana latest. In the meantime, do you want a cerveza or cafe? Relax. It's not going to hurt you to have your dinner an hour or two after you've met up with someone. Or hit the nightspots after dinner, after coffee and after a stop at the desert shop. Why get impatient waiting for your bill when you can just keep the conversation flowing, albeit without a refill on your drink. It's a different pace here - the pressure and need to get everything done now, on time, exactly when you want vanishes after a few weeks. And it feels very good.