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The Eternauta

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His grim visage is all over Buenos Aires. The Eternauta is the hero of one of the most influential science fiction comics ever published, and certainly the most important comic in Argentina’s history. He’s also the most often employed graffiti motif in the city.

Eternauto Comic

I bought The Eternauta soon after we arrived in Buenos Aires. Originally published between 1957 and 1959 as a serial in the magazine Hora Cero Semanal, The Eternauta is a gripping 350-page account of humanity’s hopeless struggle against a superior invading alien force. Packed with action, drama, and rich in metaphor, it’s nearly impossible to put down. I read the whole thing in a matter of days.

The action unfolds in Buenos Aires as a strange snowfall suddenly descends upon the city. Juan Salvo, along with his friends and family, doesn’t need long to realize that something is horribly amiss. The snow flakes kill on contact, and the protagonists watch through the window in horror as the world dies: humans, animals, plants. Everything that comes in contact with even the smallest wisp of snow perishes.

Eternauta Cover

It’s the opening attack of an unstoppable alien invasion. Once Juan and his friends develop hermetically-sealed suits that protect them from the snow and give them the appearance of astronauts, the story builds into an ever-crescendoing spiral of danger and despair, until finally reaching its incredible conclusion. Throughout it all, against an omnipotent opponent and impossible odds, Juan and his fellows never lose their courage or determination. Better to die like a man, fighting to the bitter end.

That powerful message was co-opted by former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, when he implored his countrymen to “be like the Eternauta” in the face of their struggles. Before long, graffiti of Kirchner’s face in the Eternauta’s suit began appearing on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Eternauta Manos

The Eternauta is a work rich in subtext and metaphore. The “Manos” are part of the invading force, who literally have their hands on the controls, tele-directing murderous robots. Their weakness is a deadly reaction to fear; when frightened, a gland bursts in their brains. But though they’re at work subjugating humanity, they’re only doing it because they’re afraid of their masters, the real villians of the book. The “Ellos” (“them”) stay hidden throughout the story, manipulating others into doing their dastardly bidding.

The political metaphors in these characters are rather pronounced. The “Ellos” were clearly the unseen military junta and the “Manos” were those in government and media who provided political cover, out of fear. Indeed, the meaning wasn’t lost on the real-life “Ellos” who ran Argentina in the 1970s. The author of The Eternauta, Héctor Germán Oesterheld, was among the many artists disappeared and murdered during the Dirty War.

The history is compelling, the plot is engaging, and the drawings by Francisco Solano López are gorgeous. Among the many reasons to pick up the Eternauta, the best is that it’s simply a fantastic comic.

Buy the Eternauta here

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May 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm Comments (3)

Yrurtia’s Canto al Trabajo

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Oviedo Blog

I’ll remember Roger Yrurtia for two things. One: for having a last name so ridiculously intimidating that I won’t even try to pronounce it. And, two: for his gorgeous sculpture called Canto al Trabajo (“Song to Work”).

Canto Al Trabajo

This statue, in the middle of a little tree-filled park between the lanes of Paseo Colón, is a stirring tribute to the spirit of industry. Commissioned in 1905, it shows a diverse swath of people pulling a massive stone along the ground — children, women, men; Argentina.

Argentina has had a troubled history, and the bulk of its problems came after this sculpture was created. In his homage to the working class, Yrurtia seems to have foreseen the spirit of cooperation and perseverance that normal Argentines would soon need to exhibit.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Hostel Hotel Map Buenos Aires

Canto Al Trabajo Buenos Aires
Yrurtia
Mafalda San Telmo
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April 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm Comment (1)

A Tour of Buenos Aires’ Best Graffiti

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Nuevo Mundo: Latin American Street Art

Like all great metropolises, Buenos Aires has a thriving street art scene. We took a tour of some of the best graffiti the city has to offer.

Graffiti Tour Buenos Aires

The three-hour tour is organized by Graffiti Mundo, and on a Saturday afternoon we joined a sizable group in Palermo. Our guide was a friendly Australian girl who’s been a peripheral part of the scene for years. She personally knew a lot of the artists whose work we would be introduced to, and was full of colorful stories from the volatile underground world.

Part of what makes Buenos Aires’ scene so special is its relatively high level of social acceptance, permitting artists to work during the daytime on large, complicated pieces. Huge fish creatures splayed across empty walls, wrestling tigers, cutesy anime girls and unique combinations of stenciling, spray and painted art. We learned the names and styles of certain artists, and saw what happens when goodwill between groups dissolves: usually, the best revenge is had by painting over each other’s works. Disappointment once briefly darkened our guide’s cheery demeanor, after she discovered that one of her favorite pieces had vanished. This constant threat of disappearance is frustrating, but also part of what makes street art so compelling.

The tour was both on foot and via bus, and took us to some corners of the city we’d have never otherwise seen. We went into the warehouse studio of an artist named Ever, to check out some of his upcoming work, and ended up at the Post Street Bar: a cool joint whose interior decoration was provided by street artists.

At the end of three hours, we were exhausted, but had a decent understanding of Porteño graffiti. The tour cost $90 apiece, and takes off every Saturday. Reservations essential.

Graffiti Mundo’s Website
Tel: +54 9113 683 3219
Location of Post Street Bar
Street Art we liked in Valencia, Spain

Graffiti Tour
Cute Graffiti
Urban Monster
Gualicho Graffiti
Urban Art Animals
Palermo Architecture
Monster Tower
Gabaio Zoo
Graffiti Monkey
Urban Art Buenos Aires
Stencil Graffiti
Gabaio Stencil
Tagged
Madres de Mayo
Mill Buenos Aires
Art Buenos Aires
3 in 1 Face
Art Buenos Aires
Bat Art
Blark
Bock Frau
Boy Stensil
Bush Mikey Mouse Ears
Colabo Art
Elk Art
Gay Carlos Gardel
Graffiti Palermo
Graffiti Fight
Graffiti Photography
Jaz Art
Pig Art
Tegui Restaurant
Jungle Men
LOLz
Rhino Art
Zumi Art
Rodez Art
Self Tag
Street Rats
Stencil Portrait
Tur Bo
Wolfy
Ever Artist
Graffiti Eye
Graffiti Tools
Graffiti Guide Buenos Aires
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April 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm Comments (5)

Floralis Genérica

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Stylish Business Cards

I can count on exactly one finger the number of times I’ve stood before a flower sculpture and thought to myself, “Now that is really fucking cool”.

Floralis Generica Buenos Aires

The Floralis Genérica was a 2002 gift to the Argentine people from Eduardo Catalano, an architect best known for his audacious home in Raleigh, NC: one of the few modern structures to earn the praise of Frank Lloyd Wright. Catalano’s 28-meter steel and aluminum flower, planted in Recoleta’s Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, opens its petals every morning at 8am, and closes again at dusk.

Meant to represent all the flowers of earth, thus the name Genérica, the daily opening also symbolizes the eternal rebirth of hope; especially poignant considering that the statue was unveiled just one year after Argentina’s devastating economic crisis. It’s stunningly beautiful. Placed in the middle of a small pond, the light shimmers and reflects from the water onto the steel. Hills and paths lead around the flower, offering views from various angles.

I would be willing to bet ten grand that nobody with a functioning camera has ever visited the Floralis Genérica and walked away without taking a picture. Considered it, but then thought to themselves, “Nah”. That seems impossible.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Best Prices for Hostels in Buenos Aires

Floralis-Generica
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April 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm Comments (0)

Chancha via Circuito

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Buy your Travel insurance here!

Before moving to Buenos Aires, we conducted a little research into the city’s music scene and stumbled upon an artist by the name of Chancha via Circuito. We were instantly hooked, and his music became our constant soundtrack for our final weeks in Savannah. Fresh and modern, but firmly rooted in tradition, it sounded exactly how we imagined Buenos Aires would be like. It made us anxious to arrive.

Rio Arriba Chancha

Given that we’d been listening to his music non-stop for a couple months, we were thrilled to be able to meet Chancha at ZZK Records’ studios. Pedro Canale is his real name, by the way. The alias pays respect to his daily 2-hour commute: the Chancha, or “the pig”, is the train which brings him into Buenos Aires, while the Circuito (the circular) takes him back home. Even while his new album Rio Arriba is being bandied about as one of the year’s best releases, Chancha still endures that crazy commute, which serves to underscore his refreshing modesty. He was genuinely surprised and excited that Jürgen and I listened to his music, and eager to explain the ideas that went into making it.

Pedro Canale

Rio Arriba, described by NPR as “pure genius“, has been an instant hit and is Chancha’s second album after 2008’s Rodante. Listening to his songs is an experience; a journey through the sounds of South America, from Argentina to the Andes and beyond. The lead track off Rio Arriba is a remix of Quimey Neuquen by the Patagonian artist Jose Larralde, which brings a hypnotic vibe to a style of music I’d never heard before. A lot of the album is like that: trancey beats on top of traditional drums, flutes and chants. It’s utterly unique, and works flawlessly.

When Chancha mentioned his April 1st show at Le Bar, a cool club in the middle of the microcenter, we immediately confirmed that we’d be there. The performance was awesome, and Chancha was entertaining to watch, hopping up and down behind his DJ setup, exhorting the crowd to dance and occasionally shouting out a wild “WHOO!” Paula Duró, a visual artist, was working alongside him, throwing paintings and gorgeous patterns onto the backdrop. The crowd was big, and everyone seemed to love the show. Occasionally, he’ll tour both Europe and the states, so if you find yourself with a chance to see him live, don’t pass it up!

Chancha Via Circuito’s Official Site
His music is available here: Amazon US, Amazon UK, iTunes

Chancha Via Circuito Concert
Chancha Cicruito
Underground Music Buenos Aires

Fri 4/8 @ Unsound Festival @ NYC, NY
Sat 4/9 @ Tormenta Tropical @ SF, CA
Sun 4/10 @ Atwater Crossing Courtyard, LA, CA
Fri 4/15 @ Peligrosa, Austin, TX
Sun 4/17 @ Communikey Festival, Boulder, CO
Tue 4/19 @ Team Tuesdays, Santa Fe, NM
Fri 4/22 @ Mundial de Musica (MdM) Festival, Chicago, IL
Sat 4/30 @ Round Corner Cantina, Pittsburgh, PA

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April 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm Comments (5)

Find Your Inner Artist at Casa Globo

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Everything you need to plan your trip to Buenos Aires

At the end of an afternoon spent exploring Belgrano “R”, one of the most posh neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, a huge turtle peering out of a window on Calle Mendoza grabbed our attention. Made completely out of recycled plastic bottles, it was just one piece in what looked like an incredible gallery. We tried the door, but it was closed. Curses.

Casa Globo

Rounding the corner onto Zapiola, we learned that the gallery was attached to a much larger artistic complex called Casa Globo. A hip little café called “La Inspiración” occupies most of the first floor, with three floors of free art galleries above it. The art was a lot better than at certain museums I’ve paid entrance to, and we had a great time wandering the large house. In the basement, we stumbled upon the workshop where the artist responsible for the recycled-bottle-turtle was laboring over another sculpture. I mean, I assume it was the same artist; there surely aren’t many who use plastic bottles as their primary material.

Casa Globo was the brainchild of Solange Guez, who developed the multi-use facility to foster the appreciation of contemporary art, as well as active participation. It hosts workshops for children and adults, and is meant to be an open meeting space for anyone interested in furthering their artistic abilities. There isn’t a shred of creative talent in my body, so I was content to just admire the work of others and relax with a cup of coffee on the patio. If you’re in the area, definitely check out Casa Globo: a unique and interesting initiative.

Solange Guez’s Webpage
Zapiola 2196
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Art Factory Hostel

Art Architecture
Face Buenos Aires
Recycle Turtle
Solange Guez
Cafe Globo
Modern Café
April 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm Comment (1)

Fileteado Porteño with Alfredo Genovese

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Filete Porteño Books

Swirling, symmetrical lines and bright colors are the primary elements of fileteado, the most porteño of all arts. The decorative style can be seen everywhere in the capital, from store fronts to city buses, and is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. We met one of Buenos Aires’ most famous filete artists, Alfredo Genovese, at his studio in the barrio of Paternal.

Alfredo Genovese

Alfredo has been painting fileteado for 25 years, perfecting his skill. He’s also dedicated himself to learning about the history of the style, even writing a couple books on the subject. Fileteado first began to appear in the capital’s streets in the 19th century as simple decoration for horse carts. Designs became ever more intricate and, soon enough, every cart in the city was pimped out, usually with the vendor’s name written in Parisian lettering in the center.

Filete spread from horse carts to store fronts, street signs and city buses, but was never truly appreciated as “art” among porteño society. As Buenos Aires became more cosmopolitan and less focused on romanticizing the past, the style was on the verge of being forgotten forever. Luckily, that trend has been reversed. Thanks to the tireless work of artists like Alfredo, it has established a strong foothold in the Argentine conscience.

Alfredo’s studio itself was a thing of beauty, blanketed in samples of his work. When we showed up, he took a break from painting a greeting sign for a family home in Tigre, in order to show us some of his favorite pieces. One was a skateboard design painted for an Argentinian athlete living in LA, which proved so popular, it was mass-produced. Another, and possibly the most well-known example of filete outside of Argentina, is Alfredo’s cover to Mike Doughty’s album Haughty Melodic.

Filete Dragon

We also got a crash course in the basic concepts of filete… Alfredo pointed out the floral designs, and three-dimensional illusion, as well as some of the symbols that often appear. The sun, usually the one in the Argentine flag, represents prosperity. Both real and mythical creatures appear, such as a dragon, which usually signifies corruption. And almost always, a phrase or a portrait can be found in the center — 85% of the time it seems to be Carlos Gardel.

Alfredo is most interested in pushing the boundaries of the art style. He works a lot with body painting, and has introduced some non-traditional elements into his pieces. For those interested in learning about the style, he offers courses in his studio. We had a lot of fun meeting him and learning more about the style, which is so ubiquitous in Buenos Aires, and completely unknown everywhere else.

Alfredo Genovese’s Website
Hotels in Buenos Aires

Filete Porteño Studio
Filete Porteño Classes
Filete Art
Filete San Telmo
Filete Porteño Sneakers
Yerba Mate Filete
Horse Carriage Filete
Filete Body Art
Filete Porteño Coche
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March 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm Comments (4)

The Face of Argentina

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Music from Buenos Aires

The Face of Argentina

Allow me to introduce Juan Carlos Balvidares, the “Caminante Argentino”, who’s been around the world, sharing his music beyond the borders of his native land. We met him in front of the Recoleta Cemetery, where he was performing. Finding out that I’m from Germany, he told me that he’s been there and also walked across the rest of the world, making money by playing his original songs on the streets. Usually, you can find him in front of the cemetery, but on Sundays you might run into him at the Antique Market in San Telmo. Visit his site to hear some of his music. And if you run into him on the streets, strike up a conversation! He’s more than happy to share his stories.

And here are some more random Buenos Aires pictures:

Buenos Aires Tower
Alley Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Street Art
Face of Buenos Aires
Che
Court Yard Jungle
San Telmo Secret
Wind Buenos Aires
Parking Buenos Aires
Old Timer
Old Timer Buenos Aires
Not Trusting
Drink And Drive
Twin Workers
Prison Store
San Telmo
Happy Cloud
Indian Restaurant Buenos Aires
Tiles Buenos Aires
Weird Art Buenos Aires
Bar San Telmo
Flower Power
Fresh Juice
Kiosk Boy
Woman For Sale
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March 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm Comments (0)

The Museum of Modern Art

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Learn about Modern Art

Occupying an old tobacco factory on Avendia San Juan, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA) is an awesome museum with a bright future ahead of it.

Modern Art Museum Buenos Aires

The museum moved to the Piccardo Cigarette Factory in 1986, but has spent the last five years closed for renovations. In late 2010, it partially re-opened to the public, with a couple rooms full of exhibitions. When fully completed, the MAMBA will have over 7000 works and be the largest modern art museum in Latin America. But if you get there early, no bother: even in its reduced state, the MAMBA is worth seeing, especially considering the entry price of $1.

We’re always skeptical of modern art, often finding it pretentious and boring. Upon seeing be-scarved dandies nodding thoughtfully in front of a red square on the wall, I’m known to fly into a violent rage. Thankfully, the works on display in the MAMBA aren’t like that. Though they had just a couple rooms to work with, the museums curators have done a great job of selecting works that are interesting and aesthetically appealing.

The building itself is definitely worth the one-peso entry fee. Inside, a lovely steel staircase dominates the foyer, and the red brick factory truly stands out in the otherwise quaint, historic streets of San Telmo. In the building’s facade, the number 43 is mysteriously repeated over and over again. A little googling revealed that “43” was the name of the cigarette brand produced in the factory.

MAMBA’s Official Website
350 San Juan Ave
Location on our BA Map

Great Hostels in Argentina

Mamba
43 Cigars
Rollercoaster Stairs
San Telmo Art
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February 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm Comment (1)

Welcome to La Boca

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Boca Juniors Souvenirs

With its brightly painted houses and open air art, the southern immigrant neighborhood of La Boca is both enchanting and irritating. How much you enjoy yourself depends on when you go, and how allergic you are to kitsch.

Caminito

La Boca was settled by Italian immigrants, mainly from Genoa, and became a tourist draw in the 20th century when local artist Benito Quinquela Martin decided to bring life into his stagnating neighborhood by creating El Caminito: a tiny street which exhibits the best of La Boca: tango, brightly colored buildings and quirky art. Today, El Caminito is one of the most heavily visited places in Buenos Aires.

Good Times Buenos Aires

We went on a Sunday afternoon, which proved to be a mistake. Thousands of tourists were stepping out from hundreds of buses shielding their eyes against the bright sun, crushing our feet, stumbling into our pictures, smacking us with their fanny packs, and crushing our souls. Their flashing cameras and mindless mirth brings out the worst in La Boca’s locals. Every couple meters someone tried to hustle us into a store, sell us some piece of junk, or wrangle us into a picture.

Museo de Cera

To escape the crowds, we ducked into the Wax Museum. We didn’t expect much, but were pleasantly surprised. Very small and cheap, and the exhibits did a decent job of introducing Argentine history and culture. Besides, one can never see enough wax anaconda dummies.

Republica de la Boca

In 1882, residents of the neighborhood seceded from Argentina and declared the República de la Boca; it was a short-lived rebellion, but the spirit of independence remains. La Boca associates itself heavily with Boca Juniors, the working man’s football team, whose blue & gold color scheme dominates the streets.

BaSAres

The main tourists sights in Boca center on the Vuelta de Rocha, where the Riachuelo river curves briefly inland. It’s an interesting geographical phenomenon, but the lack of movement in the water and the heavy industry all around lead to an often unpleasant smell. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, a walk along the river promenade can either be charming or nauseating.

Panaderia Boca

Once you get away from the Vuelta, La Boca shows its less friendly side. In the barrio’s east, painted houses more authentic than those of the Caminito abound, but crime is frequent. Poverty is widespread and, if you must pass through at night, you’ll want to get a taxi. Four different concerned locals warned Juergen to keep his camera hidden, during the hours we spent there.

La Boca is an interesting place, home to utter destitution and crass touristic exploitation, but also possessing a unique, working-class spirit which makes it one of the must-see areas of BA.

La Boca on our Buenos Aires Map
Hotels Around La Bombonera Stadium

Boca Angel
La Boca
Boca Aires
La Boca Archtitecture
Boca Art
Boca Flores
Boca House
Boca Fashion
Boca Market
Teatro Ribera
Viva La Boca
Tango Boca
Founder of Buenos Aires
Boca Soccer
Fussball Buenos Aires
Ronaldino
Maradona
La Boca Buenos Aires
Welcome To Buenos Aires
Tourist Trap Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires 2011
Buenos Airs Photographer
Boca Che
Buenos Aires Whore
Casa Rosada La Boca
color Houses Buenos Aires
La Boca
Buenos Aires Blanco Rojo
Boca Children
Filete Painter
Filete Coca Cola
Boca Buenos Aires
Costumbres Buenos Aires
Boca Perros
Wax Face
Fine Art Buenos Aires
Boca Map
Parilla Buenos Aires
Parilla La Boca
Pizzaria La Boca
Boca Torre
Eye of Buenos Aires
Puerto Viejo
Buenos Aires Workers
Fisthermen Buenos Aires
Boca Bridge
Boca Junior
Porto Viejo
Boca Kiosco
Boca Mafia
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February 16, 2011 at 12:32 am Comments (13)
The Eternauta
For 91 Days