Friday, July 8, 2011

La Casa Rosada

If you think John Mellancamp's little pink houses are unique to America, you'd be wrong. Behold - the Argentine Casa Rosada! (Well, technically it's American too, but using "America" exclusively to describe the U.S. is a topic for another post).

I want to say this is the equivalent of the White House, except for the choice of color, but in reality it's not. La Presidenta, Cristina Fernández de Kirshner, works there when she's in the Capital Federal (Buenos Aires city); however, she doesn't make her bed there, like the Obamas do in the Casa Blanca. She has a 10x2 block, walled compound backing up to the Rio del Plata (the river) called La Quinta de Olivos where she resides. It must be nice not having to work from home, huh, Mr. President?

Flat Porteña accompanied my friend Gabi and I on the one-hour free tour last Saturday. Here are some of the *highlights*

 *It was free!* During the 20-minute wait for the start of the tour, Gabi gave me some Argentine/Latin American history tidbits which were provoked by the pictures of Latin American somebodies hung in the Gallery of the Bicenntenial Patriots. Featured faces that I knew a little bit about already included Che Guevara, Evita, and Pancho Villa. There were many more that I learned about who had given their time and sometimes their lives for the progress of their country or continent.

*There was a whole room dedicated to the women of Argentina* called, appropriately, Becentennial Argentine Women's Room, which highlighted the important females of the past 200 years. (Well, past 201 years. The bicentennial passed last year but is still a fashionable word, as you can tell by the names of all the rooms). Women have indeed played an important role since Argentina's independence. Eva Peron, or Evita, passed women's suffrage and increased worker's civil rights during her time as president in the later 1940s and early 1950s. Besides Evita, the Madres are probably the most recognized female presence of the nation, known for marching on a weekly basis in the Plaza de Mayo in remembrance of their children and grandchildren who were victims of the disappearances during The Dirty War three decades ago. The Madres are still a significant influence in Argentina, though the theme of their demonstrations has moved beyond protesting the Dirty War and encompasses a wide political agenda.

*Standing on the Balcony where past dignitaries have stood before to address the Argentine people,*
including both Perons (Juan Domingo and wife Eva), Pope John Paul II, and President Raul Alfonsin.

Flat Porteña was especially illusioned at *being in the president's office!* You can (kind of) see of photo of her (Presidenta Kirschner) in the background. Flat Porteña hasn't been to the oval office replica yet at the Clinton Library, but I promised I'd take her just as soon as we get home. Unfortunately, I didn't really get any good pictures of the whole office, but the desk that Cristina sits at during the day is to the right of Flat P and Gabi's arm.

Of course, any *mention of Spain* calls my attention. So even though this was one of the less spectacular spaces in the Casa, I'm going to highlight it anyway. This is the Presidential Elevator that was gifted to Argentina by La Infanta (infant) Isabel, of the Bourbon family, that ruled Spain for over two centuries. How do you gift an elevator, you ask? That was not among the many silly questions I put to the tour guide, unfortunately. 

Finally, *our tour guide* was spectacular! She spoke loudly and clearly (and slowly), which was great for my foreign ears. She also entertained those aforementioned silly questions that I had. She was really knowledgeable and obviously was passionate about Argentina's history and government. It made learning about the complicated and occasionally not-so-pleasant facts all the more interesting.

After the tour, we happened upon a marching band out in the plaza - the Regimiento de Granaderos - that played a little modern music for our enjoyment (and for some official reason still unbeknown to me). And that concluded last Saturday's tourist trip.

Agenda for this Saturday: Lunch and a self-guided tour at Museo Evita.


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