San Telmo the Tango-mecca
We loved being placed in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires called San Telmo, that is home to Buenos Aires tango culture. Tango is Argentina’s sultry dance, thought to have started in Buenos Aires’ bordellos in the 1880’s. The tango didn’t get popular in Argentina until 1913, after it had been filtered through Europe. In San Telmo street tango is popular, especially on Sundays.
In Argentinian the dance-halls are called “Milongas”, so on a Wednesday night we went there for a beginners class, to learn the very basic moves of the Argentinian tango. For our point of view tango is difficult, but mostly for the man. The man has to lead the woman in every phase of the dance, so most of the women were dancing with their eyes closed. The great thing about tango is that the dance has so many levels, even beginners like us were allowed on the floor (in the small inner circle), while the more experienced dancers were dancing in the surround bigger circle.
After the class a 10 man orchestra played the spellbinding rhythm of the tango – we love the tango music
San Telmo is also known for its art, because of its historically low rents was attracting artists. Until the 1870’s the neighborhood was a fashionable place, but a series of epidemics drove the rich elite northwards. Many of the houses were subdivided into smaller apartments. The apartment we rented had two bedrooms with their own bathroom, a living room with kitchen and a roof terrace. We liked everything from the steep and narrow staircase to the art painted on the wall.
BBQ on the roof terrace
The street art of San Telmo
The left picture “the talking men” and in the right “the poor family with the crabby car”
While walking around the streets of San Telmo we started noticing painted white scarfs on sidewalks. Were they a symbol or memorial? We had to find out…
The white painted scarfs is a symbol of the Argentine mothers whose children “disappeared” during the state terrorism of the military dictatorship from 1976-1983. They organized a weekly march in 1977 at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, trying to learn what happened to their children. They found strength in each other by marching in public, and even attracted some press. This march brought the attention of the world to Argentina.
It was called “the Dirty War”, where up to 30,000 people died or “disappeared”. In the late 1960’s a highly organized, left-wing, Peronist guerrilla group called the Montoneros was formed. The group bombed foreign businesses, kidnapped executives for ransom and robbed banks to finance their armed struggle and spread their social messages. From roughly 1974 the right-wing military dictatorship of Argentina started a period of of state terrorism in Argentina. On March 24, 1976 a military coup led by General Jorge Videla took control of the Argentine government. The Process of National Reorganization (aka El Proceso) began, when this movement started a period of state-sponsored violence and anarchy. The Montoneros became their prime target. The theme was zero tolerance, so targets were students, militants, trade unionists, writers, journalists, artists and anyone suspected to be a left-wing activist. To “disappear” meant to be detained, tortured and probably killed without legal process by the death squads in the form of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance.
The Guardian wrote this in an article (28th of Aril 2017): “In December 1977, three of the group’s leaders from the mothers – along with two French nuns and seven young helpers – were abducted in a series of coordinated raids. All 12 were drugged and loaded on to an aircraft – then thrown unconscious but still alive into the freezing water of the South Atlantic”. In the early 1978 unidentified bodies began to wash up on the beach south of Buenos Aires. The posters are missing people from the Dirty War (the right upper picture).
What a terrible news story
What else is Argentina famous for – it is time to explore the famous Argentinian food!