The Land of Maradona

The first time I ever heard of Argentina was in 1986 during the Football World Cup, and I fell in love with Argentina right away, thanks to the great Diego Armando Maradona. It was always a dream to be in the land of Maradona, and that dream came true in April 2007 when an opportunity came my way to make a business trip to the capital city of Buenos Aires. I, subsequently, visited Argentina a few times, with the last being in 2014. Though Maradona left the field long time back and that the latest sensation Messi was dribbling all along, Maradona still continued to be the god of football in Argentina. He is held in such awe and admiration in Argentina! The Argentinians and the Brazilians still do not agree on who the greatest footballer of all times is: Pele or Maradona?

Bienvenidos Ala Argentina meaning Welcome to Argentina was what I saw as I entered Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, the international airport in Buenos Aires, after the disembarkation.

I still remember the euphoria that overwhelmed me when I set foot in the airport. I flew from Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires and was the only Asian — a rare, inexplicable feeling that I got used to in the subsequent years — in the flight! The immigration procedure was easy, and I got out of the airport without facing any problem. The Buenos Aires airport is one of the few airports in South America, where sniffer dogs are used to check baggage for explosives. The taxi driver, who tried to pick up a conversation in Spanish, with me not being able to understand anything except that he was trying to say he was happy to meet an Indian. He continued his welcoming conversation till he dropped me at the hotel at Avenida Corrientes, the main thoroughfare in the heart of Buenos Aires.

Avenida Corrientes:

I always stayed at Avenida Corrientes, which had easy access to all the available transport modes, including metro trains. I recommend this area for putting up if you happen to visit Buenos Aires.

A lane to Avenida Corrientes:

At the intersection of Avenida Corrientes and 9 de Julio is the Plaza de la República, where stands tall the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, the national, historic monument of Argentina. The iconic monument standing 221 feet tall was constructed in 1936 to commemorate the 400 years of the foundation of Buenos Aires City.

The red lines are the dedicated bus lanes. Many Latin American countries like Peru, Chile, Mexico etc. have dedicated bus tracks with the bus stops built at the center of the road. One African country where I saw similar dedicated bus tracks was Tanzania. The city is adorned by many other monuments, and I captured a few of them.

The city also has many public parks, and the following are from one such park.

The Presidential Office is located near to one park. The beech colored office’s beauty gets amplified in the fading lights of the evening sun.

Argentina saw a coup d’état in March 1976 when the democratically elected President Isabel Peron was overthrown by military junta, and the military dictatorship continued till December 1983 when democracy returned to the nation. During the military reign, many activists were picked up by the military only to be never returned — they were made to disappear from the face of the earth by the brutal regime. There is one place under a bridge, where the pictures and names of those victims are exhibited.

A few buildings from Corinates Avenue.

A write-up about Argentina without mentioning Tango is like having a discussion on Indian cuisines without saying anything about spiciness. Tango is the spice of Argentina. Tango is the traditional dance of Argentina, evolved in 1880s along the Rio de la Plata, the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Tango, initially developed among the African slaves, is a mix of three dance-and-music fusions: African Candombe, Spanish-Cuban Habanera and Argentinian Milonga. It is a partner dance, with the partners making synchronized moves of tapping their legs on the ground and producing rhythmic sounds. You will come across both exclusive Tango theaters as well as roadside Tango performers in the busy streets of Buenos Aires.

From the streets of Buenos Aires:

If you happen to be in Argentina, do not leave the place without having ‘Mate,’ the national drink of the country. Mate is prepared by filling a container with powdery mixture of dried and ground leaves of Yerba, a herbal plant containing caffeine and xanthine alkaloids, and pouring hot water — not boiling water — over the mixture and drinking with a straw, the Bombilla. The container of Mate is unique, and I bought it as a souvenir.

Mate is also consumed in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and parts of Chile and Brazil.

I had an opportunity to visit La Bombonera Statdium owned by Boca Juniors, one of the Argentinean football clubs. It was learnt that both Maradona and Messi used to play for this club. They also played at this association football stadium. Pictures and portraits of the Argentinean god of football were all around the stadium walls and the premises. The shop that sells souvenirs at the place had more of them of Maradona than any other footballer. Every Argentinian that I met had praise and awe for Maradona in his/her words, and that was why I titled this blog the way I did. Pele is mesmerizing, but Maradona is my most preferred for the best footballer of all times.

I went for a sightseeing bus-ride that took me to the city outskirts that looked like a village. The following images were captured from there, them possibly portraying the Argentina’s heroes, culture, history, colonial past, way of life and so on.

The environs of the outskirts, with the last picture below being a traditional Argentinian house.

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