Subject: Day 4 February 22, Thoughts on Buenos Aires
A little on education in Buenos Aires: There is public and private schools like we have but most children attend public. On a tour, we walked past a very upscale public elementary school but they bus children to it from the ghetto. We saw ghetto dwellings earlier in the day. All kids wear uniforms so the ghetto children blend right in, so they say. I don’t think that is exactly right because the ghetto children live in unbelievable squalor. Regina, our main guide, told us how poor the education was in public schools, but our day guide said that Buenos Aires had produced three Nobel Prize winners in science, so it speaks highly of public education. Of course, he went on to say that most families are so poor that children must start working around the age of twelve. So on the whole Argentina is a very poorly educated country. The main universities are also public with no fees, no entrance exams and anyone can attend, foreigners, elderly, anyone who wants to sit in. Young people stay home until about age 26 when they finish their education. It sounded like if one could afford it private school that was they way to go until the university time, but the universities remain excellent.
We learned what an important harbor Buenos Aires has always been from the time of the early Spanish exploration. At one time Argentina was the fourth richest country in the world because of farm exports. Now there is such a high export tax placed on the farmers that it is not worth it. The more you have, the more export tax, so it actually pays to not work. Now the biggest crop is soy beans and China is the main purchaser. Speaking of the Spanish, they brought cattle with them to Argentina and when they left turned the cows loose. The cattle found their way to the pampas which is miles and miles of flat grass land protected by the Andes Mountains, so the reason for the famous Argentina beef that we have enjoyed so much of here. Everyone in our group is hoping for fish tonight.
We were told by one lecturer that no one pays income tax here even though it is the law, so things are paid for by a flat 21% sales tax. Which, of course, means that rich and poor alike pay the same thing for bread. Regina made certain that we knew, she did pay income taxes.
We haven’t walked on one sidewalk yet that is not all torn up, but Regina told us that the government would tell us that they are working hard to keep things up and the poor sidewalk conditions were a figment of our imagination. Of course the highways are beautiful because they are privately owned. Interesting!
Every person in Argentina has a book, which is the story of their life. Every time you vote which is mandatory, they stamp your book. Every address is there, actually everything you have ever done is in this book and you must carry it with you where ever you go. Talk about Big Brother watching you.
Yesterday we went to an estancia (ranch) which was very interesting. The horses had to be among the ugliest I have ever seen. So typical of stable horses. One wouldn’t leave the saddle area even being led. A little black pony was the smartest because it would immediately walk off with the person believing they were going to have a great ride. The pony would then stop and start eating. Finally the person riding would get off and lead the pony back just to have another person continue the process. We had a buggy ride which was pretty scenery because the ranch was right next to a lake. We went in for another beef barbeque and folkloric gaucho show. There was a tour group from Spain also there and they really knew how to party. Besides the unlimited beer and wine provided, the Spanish group brought their own Rum and Champagne to mix with the wine. They were sing, dancing and drinking and even got us to join their Congo line. Extremely friendly and knew how to have a good time and extremely drunk by the end of the night. They were a bad influence causing us to take a bottle of wine with us to consume in the van on the trip home. We are now known as “Regina and the Magnificent Nine”. Time to pack up and catch a flight to Ushuaia. Pictures below.
More to follow,
Tom & Holly