Buenos Aires Without Porteños
I realized something important among the pot smoke, dreadlocks, jugglers, mate sippers, and all the people in Parque Centenario shouting “por aja”, “por la caje”, “vos” and “sos.”
My life in Buenos Aires included few locals – few porteños. I looked at all the circles of friends in the park knowing I understood little about their lives, thoughts or culture. A disappointment, really, and the first of its kind in this long trip through Latin America where mixing with locals has always been the most memorable part of the experience.
Sure, I’ve been enjoying good company from Chileans, Peruvians, Colombians and about half the French expat community that has recently swarmed into the city, but my lack of contact with the people of Buenos Aires made me a bad traveler, a bad integrator.
The next day, I took these thoughts with me as I headed to Villa Crespo to see a German friend that lived with group of porteños. I walked into her house and found two housemates drinking wine on the terrace so I said hello, introduced myself and sat down. This action was followed by complete silence.
The two guys, both with big beards and Peruvian hippie pants, looked around the terrace for about two minutes, awkwardly sipping their wine and nodding there heads between thoughts.
I figured they were waiting for me to say something so I tried to start a conversation.
“¿Cómo va la vida? ¿Cómo va el fin de semana?” I said. “How’s life? How’s your weekend going?”
One guy didn’t move, unresponsive, and the other looked at the tile flooring for while before sipping his wine and shifting his gaze towards me.
“La vida, no lo sé … y el fin de semana, no me acuerdo,” he responded slowly. “Life, I don’t know … and the weekend, I don’t remember.”
I laughed a little just to be friendly, and was then confronted with complete silence once again. I sat there for another minute looking at the two men in front of me. Their faces showed the lack of discourse was forced, unnatural, and I wanted to get out of this situation, but my friend was getting ready in the bathroom.
With few options, I tried again, and again and again. I asked questions to fill the void and they were all responded in the same manner. It was either philosophical phrases without any true meaning or nothing at all. Intellectual masturbation or the uncomfortable, cool silence of a seemingly deep concentration.
My friend eventually came out of the bathroom and was ready to go. I got up, said “Hasta luego” to the guys and walked into the street reminded of the reason I have few porteño friends here in Buenos Aires – a city of 15 million people where somehow, someway, I keep having the same non-conversation.
“I must be meeting the wrong people. I must keep trying. I must not lose faith,” I tell myself, but the faith was lost a long time ago.
Caballito, Buenos Aires - © Diego Cupolo 2012