Argentina – It’s Complicated
Passion, Pendejos, and Politics
Story & Photos by Elena Levon
“It’s complicated”, that would be my online relationship status with Buenos Aires. This colorful city is full of lovers, one-of-a-kind artists and a couple of pendejos. I got to experience them all. Yes, when you actually live in a city for a month or more, you will be forced outside of your box, and your rose-colored glasses will be stripped off.
To really live and breathe a city, a traveler needs to actually rent his own place and walk into that old coffee shop around the corner, where the waitress will already know his or her “usual”. I chose to live in the oldest part of Buenos Aires, San Telmo. I rented my French apartment from Casa San Telmo, they are incredible and have a place for all possible budgets.
Even when a close friend visited me for a few days, he said “Wow, you’re not a traveler anymore. You really are a resident here. It feels like you lived here for a long time”. You could see my Argentinian flag proudly waving at you from the second floor of my stunning colonial building. The apartment didn’t cost me an arm and a leg either. If Antiques shops had heaven, it would be San Telmo. This neighborhood is a time machine, the architecture is simply breathtaking and the graffiti is boldly unique.
I have a love/hate relationship with Buenos Aires. Life here is different. It’s not easy. It’s chaotic and sticky. It fills you with all kinds of tastes, sounds and feelings. You can not simply love or hate it, if you do, you haven’t really lived here. I saw a lot of poverty and corruption. However, I did manage to tango my way through the “blue market”, and get myself a 12 Argentine pesos, per dollar, exchange rate. I would go to Florida street, passing all the annoying people yelling “change” from every corner and like a slick black cat, sneak into my trusted “cave” (an underground place where you can change dollars to pesos). Without a single word, I gave my cash to a familiar and friendly face, and took my pesos and with just a nod, sneaking right out.
The fact that dulce de leche is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without judgement, is one of the reasons why I’m really in love with Argentina. The fact that Buenos Aires is truly a city that doesn’t sleep, is yet another. Only in this crazy city, you’ll be able to find a ‘25 hour supermarket’. Yes, there is such thing as ‘25 hours’. Welcome to Buenos Aires…
I can honestly count on one hand, how many days I was sober in one month of my life here. Taking a nap at 8 pm, so I can last until 12pm the next day, became a norm on the weekend. Buenos Aires swallows you whole. Don’t resist it, ride the wave, going against it will make you crazy. Want coffee at 9 am? First, why the hell are you awake this early? You better have a coffee machine. Want to get your shoes back from a repair place at 3 pm? Have you gone insane, haven’t you heard of a 3 hour siesta? Oh, so you reserved your cab ride online two days prior? How very naive of you to count on them to be at your doorstep. You better have a “plan b” in case they don’t show up. It’s pouring rain and you need to catch a ferry to a different country?….
I would be lying if I said that Buenos Aires knows what customer service is. Maybe in the Four Seasons Hotel, and a small number of other upscale restaurants, they know what customer service is. Other than that, they have a lot to learn. Buenos Aires is a “she” to me, and like every female, she is full of contradictions and absurdities. You can’t hate her though, she’s one hell of a lover.
This city is full of lovers, you see it everywhere. Teenagers passionately kissing by the bus stop, an old couple dancing through life and tango, on the cobblestones of San Telmo. An awkward silence of that first date, right next to your table, at an old and rustic bar. You see it at a bar that is soaked with love stories, passion, perfumed lace of the ladies of the night, and even murders of unfaithful Argentine wives. Love has no color or gender. In Argentina, love will always win!
I always wanted to visit a swingers club. I thought Buenos Aires is a perfect city to explore that in, so I “swung by” Anchorena. I love visiting strip clubs in different countries, and Buenos Aires wasn’t an exception. I decided to go to ‘Black’ on Argentina’s Independence day.
Little did I know, that ‘Black’ is just a brothel. It’s interesting, in Argentina you’re not allowed to see tits, but more than welcome to spend a fortune on an overpriced hooker. The owner of the club told me that there used to be strip clubs, but now the country made new rules that forbid that. I left unsatisfied to say the least. I went on Saturday, when solo ladies go in for free. Participation is strictly optional. I didn’t want to participate, at least on my first visit, so I just watched. Let me tell you, it’s sexy as hell and the word “no” means “no”. Everyone is very respectful of your space and the phrase “no, thank you”. I walked between five floors of one big orgasm. It was intense. hey even had a dance floor, so when the song Purple Rain came on, of course I started rocking to it, but something was weird. No one was dancing, they were all turned towards the stage, where a stunning pair of guys and a gorgeous blonde woman were having a very hot threesome. My God, Purple Rain will never sound the same to me, ever.
I went home horny, but happy. Unfortunately, I’ll never get to work with director Stanley Kubrick. His film Eyes Wide Shut is my favorite film. So you see, kids, you can spend a ton of money in a brothel and not get to see even a nipple, or you can spend zero (if you’re a solo woman) and see everything! This is Buenos Aires. She is rough, smooth, slow and fast, all at the same time, but she is one hell of a lover!
Los Pendejos ~
I have read and heard enough negativity in the press, about Argentina’s reaction to the 2014 World Cup loss. Argentinians have an incredible soul and the ability to celebrate life, regardless of the brutal economy they are forced to live in. I am proud to say, that on July 13th, I was there with thousands of locals, shoulder to shoulder, dancing, singing and celebrating life, for many hours. Unfortunately, every country has a bunch of arrogant hoodlums, who manage to turn what was an incredibly fun celebration of Argentina and their soccer team, into chaos and devastation.
It’s very sad that a small group of angry and ungrateful people, spit into the soul of thousands, who gathered around Obelisco, to celebrate the Argentinian spirit, regardless of the loss. A few pendejos spoiled it for the people who were celebrating with their families and friends. Unfortunately, I saw a young girl almost die because of tear gas attacks. It was especially sad for me seeing people that I thought were my friends, who in reality were just pendejos. Those “friends” were lucky the cops and my sexy Buenos Aires lawyer, showed up. If not, I would have burned their dive bar to the ground.
You wanna joder with a Russian/Armenian/American? Are you high? Don’t do it! We’re crazy, we have no breaks, and don’t give a mierda. I’m nice to everyone, but if you try to hurt me or my loved ones, I suggest you pray and run, simultaneously. I wouldn’t think twice about going to jail. Been there, done that.
After an incredible photo shoot with a photographer, I decided to go for a walk. I felt so light and full of a creative high, because I got to work with an absolute genius. I sat on a bench on Plaza de Mayo. My eyes caught a girl running towards her friend, whom it seemed she hasn’t seen a very long time. Hot tears of joy ran down their cheeks. They embraced each other and tears turned into laughter. I haven’t heard such honest laughter in a long time. A child near me was feeding pigeons and sunset was kissing his face. A toothless, homeless man was joking with his friends on the grass.
I just sat on a bench and watched how these wild, free and unattainable souls, walked, zoomed, smiled, cried, and kissed, right by me. Then once again, I was in love with this city, and for a split moment, I think, it was in love with me too…
Photos © Elena Levon, Horacio Di Renzi and Jeronimo Cerimedo, LC.