Buenos Aires – I had reservations yesterday. Not the sort that garners me a table at some local dive, but of two very different sort. The first involved random happenstance, after leaving Güerrin, I continued my way down Corrientes headed for the Costanera Sur, or South Promenade. You may remember my brief dip in that direction when we wandered last week along the Calle de Canal. But before I got there, I came across the offices of the Sindicatura General de la Nación, some sort of bureaucratic hive that houses on its first floor a public art space called espaciomultiarte. Currently, the space, which is really just a large office building lobby with good track lighting, is showcasing an exhibit entitled Grabados, meaning engravings, in this case, two artists using the technique of woodcut engravings, or as known here, xilografia. The technique is where their similarity ends, giving both artists a very bold, solid line style, but with very different results. Enrique Pérsico, a 77 year old artist from north of the city, seems focused on the world of tango and couples. Virtually every work on display consisted of a man and a woman, the woman invariably in the nude, the man not necessarily so, many of them engaged in various tango or other dance steps. There was also a wall of female nudes off to one side. All of his work was in straightforward black and white. The second artist, Roberto Scadutto, a 70 year old native of Buenos Aires, seems enamored of the world of music. I think that every work, at least the ones on display, had a person playing some sort of musical instrument. None of them were nude. He uses both black and a very vivid blue to give an interesting depth to his work. Quality is clearly there. Do I like them? I have reservations. The exposition only goes through the 31st of January, after that, on to something new.
Continuing down to the end of Corrientes, crossing Puerto Madero, the locks, and Puerto Madero Este, leads back to the Calle de Canal. At either end of it, and roughly at either end of Puerto Madero itself, are the entrances to the Reserva Ecológica, a fairly large expanse of trees, grass, and, well, pretty much overgrown swamp between the Puerto and the River. As I understand it, large quantities of construction debris were dumped along the river banks in this area – large enough quantities to create hills and valleys, large enough quantities that the shoreline of the river is still a jumbled pile of broken concrete slabs, brick, cinder block, twisted metal, glass, and garbage. Despite that, many folks seemed to be wandering along the shoreline itself, many even barefoot, something I don’t think I’d recommend (this is also one of the few places in the city you can get an unobstructed view of the Rio de la Plata itself. Over time (the last 60 years or so), the piles of debris gradually sprouted weeds, flowers, grasses, and trees, and at some point the city government decided to turn it into an ecological preserve.
You could literally spend hours wandering – there is a large, lopsided, more or less figure eight of pathways, with various small offshoots. Despite numerous signs prohibiting leaving the path to descend to the lower ground levels (the paths are raised above the preserve itself and are graded dirt and gravel), and the dangers of the desmoronamientos (I love that word), literally meaning areas that are falling to pieces, there are numerous footpaths off to the sides, many of them a mere foot or so wide, others clearly created and covered in grass or gravel, and up to as much as 15 feet wide. In some of the areas that are marked as prohibited to enter there are picnic tables setup, with many people clearly enjoying themselves at them. There are some small playground areas, including a large concrete slab that was in use as a squash court with a large sign posted alongside prohibiting its use for any games involving balls. Such is the irony of local design. Possibly the most interesting thing, besides just the vast abundance of flowers and plants and the tranquility of wandering (despite bicycles zooming by at various intervals and the occasional buzzing and/or biting insect), is that this is probably the only place in the city where you can look back and see the main skyline, which, from a distance, is really quite impressive.
After a couple of hours of wandering, you’ll no doubt be tired and thirsty – I do recommend, especially in the heat of the summer, to bring along at least a half-liter bottle of water to drink as you wander, some sort of sun hat would be a good move as well. There are no waystations, there’s very little shade. At both entrances there are tourist information buildings, the more comprehensive location is at the far south end (I am, by the way, still trying to figure out why the promenade which runs along the eastern edge of the city is called the South promenade), where you can exit out into Parque Bastidas, a large expanse that includes an amphitheater, playgrounds, numerous food stands, and a prominent fountain surrounded, inexplicably, by glass walls. Okay, it’s not inexplicable, they don’t want people wading in it or climbing on the statues, but it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this here.