(Pretend that I posted this on Sunday night, the 23rd, like I meant to…a more current post follows.😉 )
…Where to start?
Last Sunday evening one of our professors took a couple of us to La Manzana de las Luces to see a theatrical representation of some important parts in Buenos Aires’ history. First, a quick note on the name. Ninety-five percent of the time, the word “manzana” means “apple”, so I was very confused by the purpose of this strangely-named attraction—Apple of the Lights? What?—but the other five percent of the time, “manzana” means “block, zone, or square”. That leads to the much-less-bewildering translation of “zone of lights”; Wikipedia calls it the “Illuminated Block”, which points to the fact that the site has hosted various intellectual and cultural institutions. As I understand it, it was first a Jesuit property that then passed into the hands of the viceroyalty. The oldest church in Buenos Aires is there, as well as the building that was Buenos Aires’ first college; city legislators used to convene there, and there’s also a nifty network of underground tunnels. In 1821 the site was given the name that it bears today. I have to confess I don’t have a lot of patience for history, and I was always a step and a half behind the story—the actors were speaking incredibly fast, there was a lot of echo, and the events we were seeing weren’t always in chronological order—but it was definitely a good experience. Here’s a neat little virtual tour if you’re interested in seeing the site (link).
We spent most of our class time this week reviewing for our final written and oral exams, which were Thursday and Friday, respectively; they went very smoothly. On Monday we start in on our next class, which should include even nitpickier (is that a word?) points of grammar than the ones we just finished learning, like the impersonal “se” and the use of subjunctive in conciliatory statements. I’m still intrigued, but my initial excitement is starting to wear off. Three months of straight-up grammar is a lot, even for me.
On Thursday afternoon I went to the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) with a friend from my exchange program. MALBA is a fairly young museum; this year marks its tenth anniversary. Its focus is largely on modern art, and right now it’s hosting a huge exhibition of art by Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time. All very sharp, colorful, geometrical op art. There were lots of holograph-type works that changed designs and colors as we walked by them. Here’s one:
Needless to say, we spent lots of time walking back and forth in front of these at different distances with our heads tilted one way and then the other, bobbing up and down. We must have looked pretty funny. Cruz-Diez’s work also translates really well to moving light projections. Walking through a room with a similar setup to the one below, I almost lost my balance—not once, but twice. Guess I should stay away from raves…!
You can check out his website here if you’re interested in browsing more of his work. A few other things that caught my eye:
This Frida Kahlo self-portrait (I love Frida Kahlo)
This Diego Rivera work, which looks nothing like anything of his I’ve ever studied
A nifty collage by Antonio Berni (that lady in the top left corner looks a lot like Eva Perón, no?)
This work by Tarsila Do Amaral
Another Antonio Berni work
This work by David Alfaro Siquieros, which reminds me of Goya’s Desastres de la guerra—simple, dark, and grim
(Disclaimer: none of the above are my pictures. MALBA appears to have changed its photography policy recently, and photos were permitted only in one or two places.)
On Friday I got to wander around Palermo with my housemate Leah and her dad, who is in town for just over a week—very cool guy!—then went to the Botanical Gardens to sit and read Flash Gordon (and get eaten alive by mosquitoes, but whatever) for a little while before going to meet my program coordinator and a couple of girls from my program at the Museo Evita.
Eva Perón is, without a doubt, one of Argentina’s most well-known and most controversial figures. She was an illegitimate child, born in a small village in the province of Buenos Aires, and moved to the city at age 15 with dreams of becoming an actress. She did indeed work as a model and actress (radio and film) for several years. In 1944 her celebrity status, while still minor, was such that she was invited to a charity event at Luna Park to raise aid for victims of the earthquake that devastated the city of San Juan; there she met the event’s organizer, one Juan Domingo Perón, who was then working in the Department of Labor. Within a year, the two were married, and in 1946 Perón was elected president of Argentina. Eva was not exactly welcomed with open arms into the position of First Lady; the upper classes looked down on her humble beginnings and would later be infuriated by her methods of redistribution of wealth, i.e. seizing their mansions to turn them into orphanages. However, she was cherished by the working classes for her social and charity work; they affectionately called her Evita (“little Eva”) and she was a very strong link between Perón and the Argentine people. Unfortunately this adoration set up a kind of mother-child dynamic, one that my coordinator said she thinks Argentines still can’t quite shake, even today—always depending on someone else, waiting for them to come and save you. Evita was also a strong advocate for women’s rights; during Perón’s first presidency, Argentine women gained the right to vote.
Evita became seriously ill; she was forced to turn down a vice-presidential nomination because of her diminishing strength. Her last public appearance was in 1952, and she died later that year of cancer, at the age of 33. Her wake lasted fourteen days. In the coup that removed Perón from office, Evita’s body was seized; she was buried in Italy for several years under a false name before her body was returned to Argentina in the 1970s. In 1976 she was finally laid to rest in the Recoleta Cemetery, where she remains today. (You can see a picture of her grave marker in my post on my visit to the cemetery.)
That about wraps it up!