Likely the biggest news to come out of our next stop on the Small World tour is that it is the home city of the newest Pope, Pope Francis. This past March, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen to follow Pope Benedict XVI when he stepped down for health reasons, making him the first to do so since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 A.D. Many credit Francis with being a forward-thinking leader of the Catholic Church, citing his openness to change common conservative doctrine to fit the times. It was also recently disclosed that he was a bouncer back in his hometown of Buenos Aires, which really lends to the fact that he is a man of the people. Cheers!
And while the new Pope is big news from Argentina, the country is no stranger to international figures. One of the most internationally recognized athletes hails from there as well, Diego Maradona. He played in four World Cups, leading them to the title in 1986, and finishing as runners-up in 1990. In 2000 he was nominated as the FIFA player of the century; however another international soccer (or football) star, Pelé, was included in the final consideration making it a draw. Maradona is the only footballer to set world record contract fees twice, and may be the impetus for the astronomical contracts we see in American sports today. He made news again when it was announced that he would become the Iraq national team’s coach in December 2012. And more recently he was in the headlines over a tax dispute with a former club in Italy.
But Buenos Aires and Argentina have more than just famous people! There is also a wide expanse of vibrant culture that draws in tourists and keeps locals satisfied. One of the cultural traditions that have eclipsed the borders is the dance form simply called tango. Records indicate that tango originated in and around Buenos Aires in the mid-19th Century, and the music was played by the “Guardia Vieja,” or Old Guard. Because of Spanish influence in the region that came via Cuba, tango is actually believed to have originated elsewhere, but it wasn’t until its development in Argentina that it became formalized and popularized, and eventually an international sensation. The golden age of tango was believed to have taken place between the 1930s and 1950s, and as things go, has since then evolved into more modern forms, such as ‘Neotango.’ Buenos Aires is also known for its decorative art. One of the more recent installations is the artist-run space called APPETITE, opened in 2005. Its focus was to provide a collective where artists could pursue their passions and talents, and received rave reviews from culture critics like Rolling Stone magazine. It eventually spread to New York, London and Beijing, but its once seminal doors have been shut in Buenos Aires, leaving room for future artistic minds to create the next big thing.
And of course, as all great cities commonly do, Buenos Aires has beautiful architecture. Due to its Parisian and Spanish influences, the cityscape is decorated with numerous styles of architecture, such as art deco, art noveau and neo-gothic. One of the more prominent structural sites is derived from the Greco-Roman style, the Argentine National Congress Palace, or Palacio del Congresio de la Nacion. Its construction was completed in 1906 and is home to the Lower House of representatives and Senate. Out front of the building sits a casting of Rodin’s The Thinker, which was originally constructed based on The Divine Comedy of Dante. Posed to sit at ‘the gates of hell,’ more accurately the statue, in Buenos Aires, it reminds you to appreciate the beauty that surrounds.