Jorge Luis Borges (1899 -1986)

Borges in 1976.

Argentine poet and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th century world literature.

El amenazado

Es el amor. Tendré que ocultarme o que huir.

Crecen los muros de su cárcel, como en un sueño atroz.
La hermosa máscara ha cambiado, pero como siempre es la única.
¿De qué me servirán los talismanes: el ejercicio de las letras, la vaga erudición,
el aprendizaje de las palabras que usó el áspero Norte
para cantar sus mares y sus espadas,
la serena amistad, las galerías de la Biblioteca,
las cosas comunes, los hábitos,
el joven amor de mi madre,
la sombra militar de mis muertos,
la noche intemporal, el sabor del sueño?

Estar contigo o no estar contigo, es la medida de mi tiempo.

Ya el cántaro se quiebra sobre la fuente, ya el hombre se levanta a la voz del ave,
ya se han oscurecido los que miran por la ventana, pero la sombra no ha traído paz.

Es, ya lo sé, el amor: la ansiedad y el alivio de oir tu voz, la espera y la memoria,
el horror de vivir en lo sucesivo.
Es el amor con sus mitologías, con sus pequeñas magias inútiles.
Hay una esquina por la que no me atrevo a pasar.
Ya los ejércitos me cercan, las hordas.
(Esta habitación es irreal; ella no la ha visto)
El nombre de una mujer me delata.
Me duele una mujer en todo el cuerpo.

Literal translation (fragment)

The threatened one

It's love. I'll have to hide or escape.
Being with you or not being with you is the measure of my time.

The jar already breaks at the fountain,
man rises at the voice of birds,
those who look out of windows have already darkened,
but the shadows have brought no peace.

It's, I know, love:
the anxiety and the relief of hearing your voice,
the waiting and the memory, the horror of living from now on.
It's love with its mythologies,
its small useless spells.
There's a corner I don't dare go past.
Already the armies, the hordes surround me.
(This room is unreal; she hasn't seen it.)
The name of a woman betrays me.
A woman hurts in my whole body.


Italian style

San Telmo is a small barrio once dwelt by rich landowners, traders, fishermen, stevedores and African slaves. Nineteenth-century mansions testify to the elegance of the old days.

Pasaje de la Defensa.
1179 Defensa St.

The Pasaje de la Defensa, built in1880, is a typical casa chorizo or sausage house - so called because of its long, narrow structure.
The Roman-style patios, the last of which was used by the servants, now house antique and curio shops.
(Photos: Soledad Ianni


The names of money


Although dinero is the regular word for money, it is less used than the more familiar plata (silver). These are the words you are likely to hear in the street:
* plata (money)
* guita (money)
* vento (money, tango slang)
* un mango (a buck)
* un sope (reversed Peso)
* una luca : $ 1,000

In context:
Necesito plata.
Ana tiene mucha guita.
No tengo un mango / un sope.
Gasté dos lucas en una guitarra.


Magellanic Penguins in Punta Tombo, Peninsula Valdés

Marine fauna in Patagonia

Until late November we will be able to enjoy the presence of the Right Whales which come to Península Valdés every year (in early June) in order to mate and nurse their babies. About sixty newly born whales will make their way back to the Southern Seas, along with their mothers, when the weather begins to get too hot. The deep waters of the Golfo Nuevo provide a priviledged place to give birth and nurse the baby whales - which have to be pushed to the surface as soon as they're born so that they begin to breathe.

Most penguin colonies in the peninsula and the continent live in permanent settlements, though some penguins come from the coast of Brazil before the summer starts. Both sea lions (or fur seals) and elephant seals stay throughout the year.

Ballena franca in Puerto Madryn


The fight for homosexual rights

Another victory of a minority group to be recognised the rights of the majority. After sharing their lives for 34 years, Ernesto Larresse and Alejandro Vanelli are now legally married. They are the first homosexual couple to be married in Buenos Aires after the law of Matrimonio Igualitario was passed last July. Larresse said: "Don't be afraid. This change means more love and more freedom".


Dulce de leche

For those of you who have fallen in love with dulce de leche, here's an easy way to keep indulging in your sweet tooth without almost any effort.

Get a can of condensed milk and put it in a pot of boiling water, without opening it (believe me, it doesn't explode). Let it boil for about two hours and then open it and find the glossy surface of the dulce de leche, full of promising delights


Táctica y estrategia

Mi táctica es
aprender como sos
quererte como sos

mi táctica es
y escucharte
construir con palabras
un puente indestructible

mi táctica es
quedarme en tu recuerdo
no sé cómo ni sé
con qué pretexto
pero quedarme en vos

mi táctica es
ser franco
y saber que sos franca
y que no nos vendamos
para que entre los dos
no haya telón
ni abismos

mi estrategia es
en cambio
más profunda y más

mi estrategia es
que un día cualquiera
no sé cómo ni sé
con qué pretexto
por fin me necesites.

Mario Benedetti (Uruguayan poet, 1920 - 2009)

Below is a scene from the Argentine movie El lado oscuro del corázon (the dark side of the heart) where you can listen to Benedetti's poem.

Literal translation

My tactics is
looking at you
learning how you are
loving you as you are

my tactics is
talking to you
and listening to you
building with words
an indestructible bridge

my tactics is
staying in your memory
I don't know how nor
with what pretext
but staying in you

my tactics is
being frank
and knowing that you're frank
and that we won't sell
each other lies
so that between the two

there will be no curtain
no abysses

my strategy
on the other hand
is deeper and
my strategy is
that some day
I don't know how nor
with what pretext
you will finally need me.


Onda coloquial

The waves of the sea are called olas; the other waves, those which vibrate in and around us, are known as ondas. Some popular expressions with ondas are:

De onda (out of good will)
Buena / mala onda. (good / bad vibes)
¿Qué onda? (what's up? what about ...?)
Onda intelectual. (intellectual style)

How to use them:

Lo hago de onda.
Me gusta la gente con buena onda.
¡Qué mala onda!
a. Encontré un trabajo.
b.¿Sí? ¿Qué onda?


Excuse my French

In Spanish, when you want to refer to something like a wind travelling in your belly, you say pedo. This ungracious little word is seldom used alone but it has become part of a series of phrases that occur with incredible frequency.
For example:
* estar en pedo: be drunk / crazy
* estar al pedo: be useless
* de pedo: by sheer chance
* ni en pedo: no way

How to use them:
* Marcos está en pedo.
* Estuve al pedo toda la tarde. (doing nothing)
* Tuve un accidente y me salvé de pedo.
* - ¿Vas a ir a la fiesta esta noche?
- Ni en pedo.

Advice: if you're trying to sound refined, don't use them.



In his quest for happiness, the French writerJules Renard, found these simple practices to be of value:
Eat well, sleep well, go wherever you wish, stay where it pleases you, never complain and, above all, avoid the main city monuments like the pest.


The richness of street art

Gualicho. Jorge Newbery and Zapiola

Run-down walls, abandoned buildings, degraded public areas. Where most see only dirt and decay, urban artists find a perfect canvas. In Buenos Aires street art started in the 90s under the influence of some visiting foreign artists. They worked side by side with Argentines and Chileans who had learned the art of graffiti in Europe or the States. The areas mostly intervened by streets artists are Saavedra, Belgrano, Palermo, Colegiales, Barracas and San Telmo. At the beginning paintings were done in a rush and at night. But in 2004 arrived The London Police, a group of British artists who encouraged local graffiteros to take the streets more seriously. Buenos Aires street artists sign as Caru, Crayfish, Parbo, Gualicho, Teko, Pum-Pum and Jaz, to name a few. Jaz is one of the leading local figures.

Parbo and The London Police. Matienzo and Zapiola

In 2006 Federico Minuchin, from Run Don't Walk, along with BA Stencils and Malatesta, founded the only art gallery which shows street art, Hollywood in Cambodia, housed in a bar at 1800 Thames St. in Palermo. But graffiti is not an indoors experience. In Jaz's words: Graffiti belongs to the streets and to the streets alone. That's where it was born and that's where it should stay.

Filete porteño. Zelaya St.

Buenos Aires new urban art shows the influence of the filete porteño, a local style of graffiti first developed by Italian immigrants. Much of Jaz's graffiti is rooted in Buenos Aires filete style.
Graffiti Argentina - Libro de Graffiti Argentino
Jaz. Front cover of Graffiti Argentina by Maximiliano Ruiz

Until 1975, when an absurd law forbade it, city buses were profusely decorated with filete patterns.

Filete porteño: Photo from http://www.taringa.net/posts/arte/2463440/Fileteado-porteño:-historia,-técnicas,-descargas-y- videos

Like the traditional filete, graffiti chooses clean lines, geometrical figures and bright colours; it also uses other surfaces apart from walls. Graffiteros have left ingenious expressions of their art on train and metro carriages. Below is a masterly piece by Zekis, one of the first Chilean street artists, now painting as Cekis in NYC. The figure of a recumbernt woman was sprayed one night between 3am and 5am, in Buenos Aires, in 2002.

Zekis. Photo from Rodney Palmer's review of Graffiti Argentina

You can't walk around San Telmo or Barracas without running into one of Grolou's paintings. Grolou is Louis Danjou, a young French artist who lives part-time in San Telmo.

Grolou. 1000 Chacabuco St.

We are different groups - Danjou explains to La Vereda magazine, # 8 - each paints strange things, with no style. We have nothing in common with the current graffiti of, let's say, the USA or other movements. In Europe graffiti belongs to the Hip Hop movement; it's more compact and they use mostly letters.

Graffiteros sometimes work alone and sometimes in a group. Each painter does as he pleases, there are no rules. The materials for graffiti include white latex, colours to mix and Montana Color, a spray especially made for graffiti in Catalonia. Most paint for fun but for some it's also a way of making a living as paint manufacturers often sponsor artists.
Local graffiti has been criticized as having no message. The question is whether an original work, beautifully executed can ever be devoid of meaning. What is undeniable is that street art breaks the rules of the art market. It cannot be bought. It's there for everyone to see, free of charge.

Join the graffiti gallery by sending photos of your favourite graffiti (local or foreign) to argentinechronicles@gmail.com.

Interesting pages on Graffiti:
Graffiti y stencils
Book on Argentine graffiti
Argentine graffiti facebook
Lucas Lasnier aka Parbo
Louis Danjou aka Grolou

Recommended books

* Graffiti Argentina, by Maximiliano Ruiz
A compilation of graffiti photos and highlights from interviews with Argentine and foreign graffiteros who tell the story of Buenos Aires graffiti from the early '90s, when the scene started to develop.

* The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell
Naturalist and writer Gerald Durrell describes his journey to the vast, bleak plateau of Patagonia, where the wind whispers incessantly. His perceptive observations of both animals and the human species, plus his sensitivity and sense of humour, make the reading of this book a memorable experience.

Sea lions. Photo: Wikipedia.

About sea lions Durrell wrote: They were heavenly creatures, and I decided that, should I ever have the chance of being an animal in this world, I would choose to be a sea lion so that I might enjoy having such a wonderful wife.

*The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux
In the 1970s, American writer P. Theroux made a journey from Boston to Argentina by train. The book is an account of the end of his journey in Argentine Patagonia where he travelled to the foot of the Andes on a narrow gauge railway (la Trochita), pulled by a steam locomotive.

La Trochita today. Photo: Wikipedia

* Bad Airs in Buenos Aires, by Miranda France
Freelance British journalist M. France focuses on some turbulent years in Argentine history and analyses the average Argentine's character -unhappy and arrogant, she concludes. The information she supplies is accurate even if her angle of perception seems to be invariably negative.

Can you recommend any other good book about Argentina?



For the newcomer making head or tail of local terms is not an easy task. Here are a few tips to help you understand some Argentine slang:

un boliche: un night club (a disco)
una birra: una cerveza ( a beer)
un bondi: un colectivo (a bus)
un faso, un pucho: un cigarrillo (a cigarette)
un mango: un peso (a peso)
una mina: una chica ( a girl)
un flaco, un tipo: un muchacho (a guy)
un kilombo: un lío (a mess, a fuss)

These words are only used in informal communication. None of them is offensive.


The mystery of beef cuts

Anywhere in the world a steak is a steak. Not in Argentina. A steak or bife can be different things:

Bife de lomo is sirloin.
Bife de chorizo is a steak cut off the rib.
Bife de costilla is a T-bone steak.

After the bife de chorizo, the most popular cut in a parrilla (steakhouse) is the tira de asado, a thin strip of rib, usually grilled. A proper parrillada starts with chorizo, a thick, rather fat, tasty sausage and morcilla, a blood sausage which is a delicate morsel despite its looks. Vacío is another must in a parrillada, it's flavorsome and juicy though not always tender.
If you like your beef rare, ask for it jugoso; if medium, ask for it a punto and if you like it well-done, say bien cocido.

The names of coffee

Photo: Soledad Ianni

The news that caffein is bad for the health doesn't seem to have reached Argentina so decaf is not always available in public places (a good excuse to enjoy the flavour and aroma of the real thing). When ordering a coffee you have these basic options:

un café................. black coffee
un cortado ............ coffee with a dash of milk
una lágrima ........... milk with a few drops or
tears (lágrimas) of coffee.
un café con leche .... a big cup of coffee and milk

café liviano ........... light coffee (more watery)
café fuerte ........... strong coffee

chico .................. small cup (photo)
en jarrito ............. twice that size

Eating on a budget

When looking for a tasty, inexpensive meal in San Telmo, you may end up in one of these places:

Oleiros: Piedras 850. Typical bodegón (like the dining-room of an ordinary house, but much bigger). Spanish food, good fish. The quality of the mashed potatoes depends on the cook's mood. Service anything but quick. See: El refugio de Oleiros

Caracol: Bolivar and Hº Primo. Fresh, almost home-made food.

Molière: Balcarce and Chile. A three-course meal, wine included, for A$ 31,00. Only for lunch and on weekdays.


* If you're in the mood for a takeaway beef or chorizo sandwich (choripan), your place is the mini-grill at
471 Carlos Calvo St.

Suggestions to combine good eating with frugal spending welcomed.

Local food

Empanadas are a traditional Argentine snack. Each region has its own variety: hot and juicy in Mendoza; rather sweet, with raisins, in Córdoba and with bits of potato in the North. Empanadas are very easy to make. Here's a basic recipe for the beef variety:

* Fry 750 g. of chopped onions until they are transparent. Add 500 g. of minced beef and the spices: salt, pepper, oregano and a little cumin. Mix, cover and let cook over a medium flame for about 7 minutes (mix from time to time). Then add two hard-boiled eggs, chopped, and 100 g. of green olives.

* Get two dozen empanada discs (tapas para empanadas) preferably from a pasta shop. Wet the edges of the disc and scoop a fat tbsp. of the mixture onto it. Fold and press both sides with your fingers or a fork. Bake at 400 F until the empanadas are golden. Good luck!