(Pictured Above: The main hallway of the beautiful Palacio Ferreyra, a photo of myself and the church youth group that I played soccer with, a photo of the Belgrano flag that the fans unraveled after they scored the winning goal, and lastly a rather funny photo of Profe “Gilligan” Mosquera wearing a Belgrano hat)
Being that my Nana (my Greek Grandmother) is an artist, I have grown up with a lot of exposure to the arts. Despite her efforts to instill a desire for the arts in me, it is typically difficult for me to enjoy art museums and, to some degree, art in general. But the Museo Superior de Artes Bellas Evita (Evita Fine Arts Museum in English) had a few pieces that did in fact take my breath away.
The museum is located in the center of the city just across from Sarmiento Park in New Cordoba. It was originally property of a doctor who built the mansion (formerly known as and sometimes still referred to as Palacio Ferreyra), but it was purchased by the state in the early 2000s and was later transformed into a museum in 2007. The building has a very exquisite French design and is an architectural treasure that is definitely worthy of the beautiful art works it contains.
While the tour in the museum (like a few of the other tours on our trip) had begun to try our patience, due to the fact that there was no AC and we do not have an unlimited attention span for Spanish, some of the jaw dropping pieces we saw made all of the mental exhaustion seem worthwhile. There were some great pieces of Cordobes aristocrats, but my favorite work was a painting that was modeled after a photo taken in the early 20th Century of the city. The resemblance was remarkable, as they are framed right next to one another, and it was interesting to see that practically every detail was recreated in the painting. Another lasting image from the visit would be the Carlos Alonso Room, an artist whose entire collection centers around the kidnappings and tortures that took place during the military government in Argentina from 1976-1983 (also known as the dirty war). The room was very disturbing to many of us because it contained many images of childhood abductions and a plethora of paintings of women being tortured/assaulted. Although I must applaud the artist’s desire to be extremely critical of travesties that occurred during the darkest years of Argentina’s history, which many people refused to acknowledge or where ignorant to, for many of us we can only look at paintings of torture for so long without feeling uncomfortable. All in all, the museum was a nice place to visit and a pleasant way to spend the holiday (even if we were only allowed to take pictures in the lobby).
Moving from one art form to another, I finally had an opportunity to play the beautiful game last Wednesday night when a friend from Cordoba invited me to play pickup soccer. After we all chipped in 12 pesos each (about $2.40 US) we were able to play on one of the dirt fields in this complex nearby the school. The dirt fields are something that many people from the US will not understand, but it is very common in foreign countries that the field quality is not that well maintained, due to the cost that is needed to maintain them and the fact that people play so frequently that the grass never has a chance to grow back after all the wear and tear it takes. Being that it was a dirt field, it was extremely difficult to both start running and stop/change direction (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall down a few times because I lost my footing). And the soccer quality, as you could probably tell from the images of the various guys wearing jeans or chuck taylors, was not quite the best because this was a church youth group pickup game. My team sadly never won a game, in my defense there were only 3 players out of the 10 us who were “competent” soccer players, but it was still nice to be able to go back out there and play. It was also an interesting “out of your comfort zone” experience as I knew only one of the players there and had to try and socialize with many people that I had never met before who also spoke Spanish at speed that was much faster than I usually hear. This was a challenging but very rewarding cultural experience as I realized that we all share a strong passion for soccer.
There is only one comparison that is fitting to describe Argentina’s passion for soccer, and that would be that the game is a religion for these people. People feel heartache and triumph with their team week in and week out, which is something we all witnessed when we went to a Belgrano game in the famous Mario Kempes Stadium (only about 2/3 full but capable of housing 70,000 people). We arrived to the stadium around 4 (2 hours before kickoff) to enjoy ourselves some choripan, a sausage sandwich which Cordoba is known well for, and to buy ourselves some Belgrano gear. About an hour before the game we started to head into the stadium. Around the exterior of the stadium, there were several members of the Argentine national guard with riot shields and all to keep any violence from breaking out. Fans truly live and die with their team in countries like Argentina, and with that a lot of times people will choose to fight after the game as a reaction to any insulting chants (because people to personally relate to their team as it typically corresponds to their neighborhood).
As a soccer junkie and avid Arsenal fan myself, I loved every minute of the match. From the fact that the seating is not very clearly assigned (very different from the US in that regard) to all the fans singing throughout the match, the experience gave me goosebumps. The game lacked some finishing and was a little dirty at times, but for the majority of us it was a phenomenal experience (Belgrano was actually able to pull out the win in the last 5 minutes of the game). They had a massive flag that spanned the entire section when it was completely unfolded and all the fans would wave it back and forth in cadence with their songs. Add in the shredded newspaper that fans would throw like confetti, and I would say that the experience became truly surreal. If I would have to pick two favorite moments of my trip, so far at least, it would definitely be this game and the paragliding experience in Mendoza (both of which still feel like they were too good to be true or dreamlike if you will).
I am not sure when I will blog next because we are told that we won’t have a whole lot of wifi access when we go on our journey to Salta and the Northern Argentine states this weekend. I am certain I will have a lot of great experiences and adventures to mention about Salta, as I have heard it is a beautiful, picturesque city. For all my friends back home, hope the cold is starting to wind down (I almost forget what snow looks like at this point).