Spring Gets Buenos Aires Into Its Groove.

Spring Gets Buenos Aires into its Groove.

Imagine a 50-year-old taxi driver in a beat-up but recently washed taxi. He pulls over to the side of the road, and nods off under a dark grey sky, the hallmark of a Buenos Aires winter. He has abandoned his thermos and mate; little green yerba leaves and warm water spill onto the empty passengers’ seat. His body curled over with arms folded to protect him from the freezing air. His head rests against the cold window and condensation accumulates. He only wakes up to cough mightily and curses at the disturbance and his dampness.

All of the sudden a ray of sunlight pierces through the window and the taxi driver bats open his tired eyes. Without hesitation, like a bear awakening from hibernation, he squints, smiles and unfolds into a full-body stretch. He dusts off the dashboard, revs the engine, and starts the day with a renewed energy and refined sense of hope.

Spring has arrived in Buenos Aires.

The Buenos Aires winter may not be as frigid as in other countries, but the way the Porte’os (citizens of Buenos Aires) complain, one would think them trapped in the Arctic Circle. The “queja”, or the complaint, is another Buenos Aires hallmark and way of life. Luckily, for them and foreign visitors, the queja is relatively transparent and does not seem sour daily interactions. In winter, the queja is extreme, while the weather might not be – which introduces the queja’s best friend, exaggeration.

While Portenos are busy hibernating and freezing to the bone, deep inside they hold a beat-up yet shiny gem of hope for the fateful day when they can shake off the bitterness of winter and celebrate the holiday (and promise) of Spring. Yes, Argentineans celebrate the Day of Spring (sans gofer) on September 21. However, another important holiday arrives first, and kicks-off the initial recognition that spring is coming: Child’s Day, El Dia del Ni’o. This holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday of August, the responsibility falls on the godparent’s shoulders, and gifts are expected, if not demanded. Note: To increase the national spending, a popular tactic in Argentina is to promote obscure holidays and encourage las compras.

Fortunately, by Argentinean law, (one that is actually abided by) all employees must earn 13 months of salary a year, and the extra month of cash is given in two parts, one half at the end of July and the other in January. For many people this bonus is a sign of spring and our friendly taxi driver, with his new lease on life, is no exception. He jumps into his car to go buy his godson a new soccer ball and for his goddaughter, a relatively expensive (because it is imported) Barbie. Money is no cause for the queja, the sun has come out, he has his bi-annual bonus, and his wife is preparing a delicious celebratory meal for the entire family. Blue-collar workers who have sucked it up all winter can taste the day when they will retreat to their happy napping spots in the many sunny plazas of Buenos Aires.

For the college-aged crowd, whose age range is much wider than that of most other places, 20 – 35 years, the coming of spring is represented by a huge sigh of relief: Final exams are over. In August, indoor concerts move outside and students still living with their parents can get respite from a nagging mom in the warming spring air.

In Argentina, there is a cruel University system, that, apart from encouraging college careers that commonly stretch for over 10 years (for a bachelors degree), plants an entire month of studying and exams in the absolute coldest and most sweltering months of the year; December/ January and July/August. Old buddies Queja and Exaggeration get together and make passing an exam the most impossible feat known to mankind and the weather becomes worthy of a panic attack. The University exams have a surprisingly depressing effect on the general society and of course increasing the queja. Why? Firstly, the majority of the citizens can and do attend free Universities so more people are taking part in the month long ‘hell’, and because the student population is so large due to the fact that the average student graduates is 7 or 8 years, not 4, for a basic degree. (Some people would take this as a sign and imagine that Argentineans just do not want to grow up. I think that is probably true, but that is also what makes Buenos Aires and its inhabitants so youthful and uncompromising.)

One key social group that cannot go without mention during the “holiday” season is the wealthy upper class. While the rest of the Porte’os resent them, the rich families are important because they show us foreigners how to appreciate winter and celebrate Spring Day in style. The chetos or high-class, welcome spring by lowering the central heating in their mansion, pulling out their fancy cars, and moving their tennis matches to outdoor courts. This might not sound very exciting – why should it be? These families just got back from wonderful ski vacations surrounded by some of the Earth’s most beautiful landscapes.

Having the luxury to escape the gray winter in the city is one that very few citizens have. Those that do have that luxury will travel to Bariloche or Mendoza to go skiing and then warm-up in their in-suite Jacuzzi.

For the children of these families, Children’s Day represents the receiving of presents that can be enjoyed outside by their pool or tennis court.

For the rest of us- travelers, expats, and backpackers, we too relish the return of the hot Buenos Aires sun and revival of the ‘buena onda.’ This common phrase means good vibes and represents the true spirit of Buenos Aires. As spring approaches, cranky servers are more patient, days are longer, and tourists can take full advantage of the Buenos Aires’ wonderful alfresco society.

As different social classes and age groups are focused on their own daily regimen, they all lighten up with the anticipation of spring and look forward to September 21 when all Porte’os welcome the season with an energetic sense of progress and spirit. This is a national holiday- no school, no work. Families get together and celebrate with an asado, or BBQ. For the crowded University group, the plan is a little different.

Dia de la Primavera also happens to be Dia del Estudiante, or Student’s Day. It is the first national holiday of the school year and certainly enjoyed. All of the bubbling anticipation of spring erupts into one of Buenos Aires’ most reckless and hilarious parties of the year. Classmates spend this day partying hard in beautiful plazas, singing, getting drunk. Luckily, the ‘buena onda’ runs rampant and foreigners can join in on these festivities. Porte’os love to make new acquaintances and show foreigners how it is done.

For the taxi driver, the med student, the desperate housewife, and wide-eyed foreigners, spring has arrived, the queja takes a temporary pause, and this fantastic city is alive again after a freezing, painful, bone-chillingly exaggerated winter.

By Madi Lang – Customer & Concierge Services – BuenosAiresStay.com
Buenos Aires’ definitive guide to the best of Buenos Aires -Apartments, Hotels, Travel & Tours
Copyright: Mainline Security Ltd 2008

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