Tuesday, January 28, 2014

People of the Port

The Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci arrived in the region that would later become Argentina in 1502. When the first small settlement was establish in the Buenos Aires, most of Argentina’s 1 million square miles were unpopulated.  

The name Argentina was derived from the Latin word ‘argentum,’ or silver. Vespucci and his explorers had come to investigate rumors of mountains made of silver. They may never have found the fabled mountains, but they did achieve a degree of immortality in history. Ever wondered why we called the New World “The Americas?” America is a feminized version of Amerigo.

Amerigo's voyages
The Spanish nobleman Pedro de Mendoza was the first to settle in the area of Buenos Aires (San Telmo district). In the shaky first years of the colony the settlers relied heavily on the natives in the area for food. The settlers began taking advantage of the natives, causing them to move. Famine reduced the hopeful colonists to mice eaters and cannibals. Mendoza, angered by this move, sent his brother to lead a force against the natives. The slaughter of natives cost the settlers heavily in the end. Groups of native peoples created a coalition against the settlers of Buenos Aires and attacked the city countless times, “many times leaving the city almost completely burned to the ground.” Throughout it's long history the city has transformed from ashes to a smuggler's den, and finally into a bustling port.

Mendoza, screwing everything up

Today, Buenos Aires is the second largest city in South America and the capital of the largest Spanish speaking country. The city enjoys 3rd place for best quality of life of the South American cities. Residents refer to themselves as “porteños,” or “people of the port.” Shout out to the famous porteño Pope Francis. It is a city with an enormous wealth of culture. It is home to world class orchestras, museums, and art galleries. It also has the largest concentration of active theaters, and soccer teams of any city in the world.You name it and Buenos Aires has it (in high quality and quantity).

"Fair Winds"

The city of Buenos Aires will also be my home for the next couple of months. I will be living in Belgrano, a barrio in the northern part of the city. The city is divided into 48 barrios or neighborhoods. Belgrano is also home to a small Chinatown, which will be celebrating Chinese New Year on January 31st. Having a Chinatown only a couple blocks from my apartment will be good motivation to keep up my Chinese language skills. More importantly, I will be motivated to keep up my Chinese food consumption skills.

I wrote this post about the city to put out before I leave. The next post will be from 5,766 miles away in 80 degree weather.

Stay warm, Wisconsin.

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