Imaginary Argentina

2014.Oct.01 Wednesday · 0 comments

in Life

I often forget that before coming down to Buenos Aires the first time a decade ago, I really had no idea what the country, nor the city, were like. These days, I often find myself amused when I hear from people headed down this way, with visions of what they’re going to find that are so far off of reality. But it’s not their fault, any more than that I constantly find myself talking to locals who think that everyone in New York lives in an apartment like the gang on Friends or that the entire US is pretty much identical to New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Miami. It’s what we see in the media – primarily television and the movies.

So here I am catching up on season 9 of Bones, and an episode opens up with an aerial pass-by a gorgeous, resort type beach community… and then the caption fades in…


We don’t have a beach in BA – in fact, we’re about 4½ hours from the ocean. (Do take a read through my “geography lesson“, I promise, it’s worthwhile.) We don’t have palm trees. Virtually everyone speaks English – in the show, not in reality. And they’ve all got a hard-on for Americans, who they’re aspiring to be. Not. Oh, and the Argentine national drink is apparently la cola del diablo, “the devil’s tail”, a shot of something or other. Mmm… no, try, Fernet and Coke.


That’s the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, in the background. The street that the view is hovering over is Avenida de Mayo. It doesn’t have street food (except on the occasional weekend when there’s a cultural fair put on by the Ministry of Culture), nor are there cafes lining both sides of the avenue.


I really have no idea. It actually looks a bit like the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru, though not exactly. It may be that there’s a church or monastery here in town with a plaza and fountain in front of it like that, but it doesn’t ring a bell.


Again, we don’t really have palm trees. Oh, there are a few here and there, I can think of a small stand of them over around Plaza Sicilia off Avenida Libertador. There are likely some houses like this up in the northern suburbs, along the river. Maybe. But it really looks more like southern California. In fact, most of the building scenes look like adobe haciendas from some Mexican backwater town.


They spend a bit of time in Ciudad Evita, which is portrayed as an extremely dangerous place, where the police never go, the buildings are falling apart adobe structures from a hundred years ago, the music is Caribbean, as are the denizens, low riders are cruising the streets, crime is rampant, prostitution on the streets is rampant. While there are undoubtedly some seedy parts of Ciudad Evita, most of it is working and middle class homes, apartment buildings, townhouses, and shop lined streets, most of them built in 1960s and 1970s. Oh, and a large portion of Ciudad Evita is officers’ housing for the nearby Air Force base.

But then, fascinating a show as Bones is, it has never relied all that much on reality, either in the settings, technologies, or abilities of the characters. After all, the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington DC, where most of the show takes place, is actually the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. It’s entertainment. Weird, icky entertainment, but still.

Then again, how many shows do rely on reality in their settings? I regularly used to see shows filmed in and around my neighborhood in New York purporting to be somewhere else entirely, or vice versa.


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