Now This Is Poor!

March 2, 2012

Every morning you see people sweeping their storefronts or apartment entryways, at least sweeping the dirt, leaves or rubbish into the street, but it’s a huge, bustling city and sadly pretty dirty. Also we’ve noticed a lot of dogs but only once have I ever witnessed a pet owner clean up after the dog (see No Doubt About It, You’re Gonna Step in Dog Poop). I jokingly suggested to Mick we may need to visit Singapore next to experience the other side of this coin. Needless to say, we don’t wear our comfortable Hawaii slippahs when we venture out!

But we we’re both taken aback the other day when we witnessed a young boy and what looked like his grandparents heartily tearing into these curbside dumpsters.
Apparently the trash pickers (Las Cartoneras ) have always been there, a part of any big city in a less developed country. But as a result of the 2001 Argentine sovereign debt crises when the peso was devalued by 50% or more, millions of the middle class were instantly thrown into poverty (Greece today, America tomorrow?) leaving people suddenly unemployed, homeless, dirt poor and having to fend for themselves on the street.

The following short YouTube video gives you a window to their world. Please watch it.

Now the government, recognizing the vital function the Cartonaras perform has more or less legitimized them, promising them protection and sanctioning the vital recycling job they perform. Specialized trains (which accommodate their carts) are provided to transport the pickers into the city every day as most Cartoneras live on the fringes coming out in the wee hours of early morning or late at night when the traffic and activity has subsided and every street corner is heaped with the refuse of the day. Once the city-provided dumpsters are filled to capacity, people then just toss the garbage in the vicinity of the dumpsters which by days end are over-flowing onto the sidewalk and street.

The Cartoneras specialize. Some pick only cardboard or metal or plastic. They get paid by the kilo and sell to brokers who then resell to other recyclers, and sadly many live off the food and other waste they pick through.

These Cartoneras and their way of life provides one an opportunity for comparison when we in developed countries talk about the poor along with all the hand-wringing from our politicians who continually seek the disadvantaged or disenfranchized, to use a more current label, who can’t seem to survive without the growing government give-aways.

Aloha, Mikie . . . . . . turned travel blog direct from Buenos Aires through early March.

She Was Both Loved and Hated

February 6, 2012

Eva Peron the ‘patron saint of Argentina’ that is, was hated by the wealthy, gentrified class and business owners because at the height of her power she had a huge following and tremendous clout. She could go to the rich factory owners for instance, and demand that they make big donations in support of this cause or that, basically shaking them down on the threat of bad press if they did not comply. (A lot like what Rev. Jessie Jackson used to get away with before his “Rainbow Coalition” sort of faded away and exactly what our unions do today). The flip side of course is that the poor and down-trodden idolized and loved Eva Peron.

She died at the young age of 33 of cancer and is interred at the Recoleta Cemetary, one of Buenos Aires’ most visited tourist attractions so naturally we had to check it out.


Main entry to Recoleta Cemetary


Iglesia de Nuestro Senona de Pilar

Unfortunately we picked a 100°+ day to do it! The local paper had the heat index (which takes in humidity, dew point, etc.) but a straight temp of 39.9°C by the lazy man’s converter of C° temperature to F° (double it, minus 10% and add 32) it was well over 100°! Lucky thing they were selling fresh-squeezed orange juice at several stands along the street outside.image

Recoleta Cemetary is unique, not just a cemetary with grave markers and headstones but full on mausoleums bought, paid for and maintained by the famiy or ancestors of the interred. We overheard one tour guide telling their group that a particularly ornate one had just been cleaned and refurbished with weeks of scrubbing, painting and touching up all at tremendous expense, but worth the cost and trouble because there were 141 people buried within it!

Aloha, Mikie . . . . . . turned into a travel blog direct from Buenos Aires in early Feb for about a month.

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