I have been on record a few times contemplating moving to Argentina.
Despite its utterly ridiculous political history, the country is magnificent. Subtropical jungle, pampas, high altitude desert, the Andes, Patagonian steppe and Tierra del Fuego – the Land of Fire!
45 million people spread over a massive territory, with a delicious (albeit carnivorous) culinary environment. Every sporting activity one can imagine and a lovely fusion of national and regional identities.
Buenos Aires remains one of the world’s great cities. Mendoza is among the world’s great wine regions and offers access to the Andes and Aconcagua – the highest peak in the Americas.
The resort city of Bariloche is wedged between the Patagonian Andes and the dry southern steppe.
Cordoba – the second city – has beautiful, French-inspired architecture, and just up the road is Rosario, where a certain Ernesto (Che) Rafael Guevara de la Serna was born. A divisive character indeed, the concept of ‘Che’ elicits as much conflict and alternate views as the country itself.
In the far south, Ushuaia is the largest city south of 50 degrees and is regularly the launching point for trips to Antartica.
Off the southern coast are a few islands that continue to show up on all maps in Argentina and anytime populism rears its ugly head. The Islanders themselves do not accept the name ‘Malvinas’ – rather they remain staunchly British Falkland Islanders.
It is easy to go on and on (and on and on) about the diversity and beauty of Argentina. The country has been lacking from this website – so it is about time I venture in with an introduction.
While I have been fortunate to visit nearly all parts of Argentina (I am still missing the central and southern Atlantic Coast), I had not returned since starting Twomeytravel.com. Recently I returned to Mendoza, Buenos Aires and Iguazu – certainly my favourite waterfall region I have every visited.
The trick to visiting Argentina it to time travel according to the most recent economic crisis. The country ebbs from incredibly expensive to ridiculously cheap after the inflationary crescendo results in the predictable currency collapse.
I first began travelling through Argentina after the 2001 debt default – the biggest in history. (And yes, I was very young ;)).
I was working in Chile at the time and it was so interesting to see the rebirth of tourism in a country that had become too expensive. From a currency pegged 1-1 to the USD, the Argentine Peso fell to 6-1, but prices had not adjusted. People still do not trust the banks and many people literally keep their money in mattresses or safes.
This boom-bust is endemic to Argentine history. The country is relatively young and has a jaded history of colonization, massive wealth, immigration and racism.
When refrigerated ships began crossing the Atlantic after WWI, Argentina became the ‘meat-basket’ of the world – exporting beef. The elite in BA lived between Argentina and Paris. Millions of Italians migrated and Argentina boomed.
Whereas a progressive left advocating for income distribution and social investment rose in many stable democracies, Argentines turned to the populist anti-colonial (particularly anti-British) rhetoric of Juan Peron and his iconic wife Evita.
These were the same gang who invited the Nazis over for a comfortable retirement scheme.
Since that time, Argentine politics have lurched between noisy populism and hard-right military. What a mess. Argentines are particularly astute at studying sociology. They can describe the many epochs in their history, yet when addressing public accounts, the math dries up.
Thus the magnificent country walks a line of continuous crisis, endemic inflation, nationalism and calls for limiting freedoms (much like Brazil’s ‘order and progress’ flag).
Caught in the mix are regular Argentines. Proud, fit, attractive and fun. Porteños (Buenos Aires people) have a style. Tango, food and flair. But so many work hours and hours in a sliding economy, while the wealthy can earn up to 60% passive income in failing banks.
I told you it is complicated! Buenos Aires is located firmly in South America, yet pretends to be European … and a Europe of a different era.
Argentines are all guilty of disliking their neighbours (an unfortunate byproduct of contrived nationalism throughout the continent). Yet one on one, I enjoy Argentines as much as I enjoy everyone. Their swagger belies a real quality of life in a beautiful place.
Despite so many self-imposed challenges, Argentina deserves to be one of the world’s great destinations. I am always excited to return and there is so much to see, do and eat. Perhaps Argentina will find stability and prosper yet again. If not, the ride will always be eventful.