Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Feminismo Side of Buenos Aires

When I personify Buenos Aires in my head, something akin to a sweaty, show-off man flexing his bulging biceps pops into my head. This is because of a few reasons...Before arriving in Buenos Aires, I always wondered at the photographs of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner--why was the President wearing so much mascara?? Coming from a country with the down-to-business demeanor of female politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, it was shocking to see the President of this country so heavily, even distractingly, made up. But now after having been here for two months, and having experienced how men catcall without reservation or hesitation, having heard how many Argentines first comment on a woman's appearance and then comment on her credentials, it is now clear that Cristina has little choice in her self-presentation.

It is not that the city is incredibly sexist or dangerous. No, it is rather just a touch of the old-fashioned machismo, the verbal judgment that comes flying at you from every corner as you walk down the street. It is a bit shocking and startling to be commented on in broad-daylight with such brazenenss, and is perhaps a part of the city I may never be able to get used to.

Perhaps that is why I feel so refreshed when I escape the usual noisy buzz when crossing the bridge into Puerto Madero, a barrio sitting quietly and snugly against the river. Its avenues are wide and calm; its park benches overlooking the water are romantic and peaceful. The yellow and red cranes that loom on the riverbanks are proof of the sweat and tears that made this barrio, an endeavor world-renown for its renovative feats, for this barrio laid as a wasteland of urban development deposit for 100 years. It wasn't until 20 years ago that the city began to clear away the mess and build anew, and now it literally shines as one of the trendiest and cleanest neighborhoods in the city.

Not only is Puerto Madero a model of progress in remodeling, but it also stands as a model of progress to feminism. The bridge that foot travellers take into the neighborhood is called the Bridge of Woman, and this beautiful structure designed by Santiago Calatrava overlooks the river while proudly standing as a monument to the Amazonian side of Argentina. The Bridge of Woman takes you from the Avenidas of Simon Bolivar and Vincente Lopez to the Avenidas of Julieta Lanterri and Olga Cossettini, linking the heroes and the heroines of this many-layered place.

Wandering through Puerto Madero is always an inspiring reminder of potential progress. On a sunny day, to walk across the Bridge of Woman and to sit on a park bench, eating a picnic while staring at the muddy-but-sparkling water, and to imagine the histories of these femme-fatales fuertes that are serenaded in the street names is indeed a day in which one feels close to Argentina, close to its problems, its progress, its complexities; close to its beautiful reality.

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