Two Sundays ago, The New York Times travel section published a lengthy article on Buenos Aires that wasn't all bad, but its focus on European and North American expats stressed the "Paris-like elegance" that attracted creative foreigners to the city. In reality, the so-called "Paris of the South" is long gone, even if its mansard mansions survive as embassies, hotels and public offices. Whether that Buenos Aires ever even existed is doubtful--BA is, and always has been, a New World immigrant city.
It's remarkable that the Times' editors, even as they're preparing an article with references to "Palermo SoHo" and "Palermo Brooklyn," could fail to appreciate that it's really the "New York of the South" (though we might as easily refer to New York as the "Buenos Aires of the North"). In the 19th and early 20th centuries, both cities were forged by European immigration. The Hotel de Inmigrantes at Puerto Madero was BA's Ellis Island for European immigrants and refugees.
Though I haven't seen statistics, it's at least plausible that more Argentines have Italian than Spanish surnames (one difference is that New York's Italians had mostly Sicilian origins, while Argentina's came from northern Italy). In the Once neighborhood, BA has one of the largest Jewish communities outside Europe; the English-speaking community still has a daily newspaper, the Irish are a presence, and the Germans publish a weekly. The ostensibly traditional San Telmo neighborhood has both Danish and Swedish Lutheran churches. (The French are apparently invisible).
Like New York, with its large numbers of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, Buenos Aires also has ample immigrant communities from nearby or neighboring countries. Most tourists aren't even aware of the numbers of Bolivians, Paraguayans, and Peruvians who live and work in the city--many of them without documents. They have their own cultural heritage, but it's largely invisible to tourists except for the growing numbers of Peruvian restaurants--ranging from plain but often remarkably good to stylish and truly creative. One of the trendiest men's shops in Palermo SoHo bears the name "Bolivia" because the founder's wife comes from that country.
Likewise, Buenos Aires has its own Chinatown in the barrio of Belgrano, which has a small but vigorous Chinese New Year's celebration. Less visited by foreigners, some southern barrios have seen substantial Korean immigration.
It might be hard to find rodeo in New York but, despite its urban sophistication, that city has long had a country music and even rockabilly scene (Buenos Aires has rockabilly, for that matter, even if it's fringe). Argentina, of course, has its own rural heritage, and the music, dance and crafts at the weekly Feria de Mataderos reflect gaucho traditions. There are also folkloric peñas that embody provincial culture from throughout the country.
It's time to retire the paternalistic Francophile cliché. New York has its mansards, too, but nobody calls it the "Paris of the Eastern Seaboard." Perhaps the only category in which Buenos Aires truly competes with an over-the-hill European capital is the copious amounts of dog droppings on the sidewalks, but at least that's improving south of the Equator.