There are many things going on in Argentina this week, what with the aftermath of floods in the city and province of Buenos Aires, but I’d sooner take note of someone who left a lasting imprint on the urban landscape. The Italian-born architect Clorindo Testa, who died Thursday at the age of 89, was responsible for two landmark “brutalist” buildings in Buenos Aires: the downtown financial district’s Banco de Londres (pictured above, now under different ownership) and the Biblioteca Nacional (below), which uprooted the Palacio Unzué (the former presidential palace) under the military dictatorship of 1976-83.
Testa's buildings are not for everybody but, having lived most of my life in earthquake country, I'm impressed by someone who can design a structure like the Banco de Londres that, seemingly, defies gravity and seismicity (which, fortunately, is not a big concern in most of Argentina). Both, apparently, are unaffected by the floods.
Meanwhile, this is the first weekend of the annual Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema), which showcases independent movies from around the world at various locations throughout the city. Prices are low – some events are even free – with something to appeal to almost everybody’s tastes. The photograph above comes from the 2007 event, at the Mercado de Abasto, one of the festival's main sites.
I Am Not a Spy!
At the risk of paraphrasing Richard Nixon, I have responded to accusations by one Ernesto Benadet, published last week in the Buenos Aires Herald, that I am a CIA agent. You can read my reply in today’s Herald but, since that will disappear behind the paper’s paywall by tomorrow, I hereby publish it separately:
In more than two decades of travel throughout the Southern Cone countries, I have occasionally earned criticism for my judgments on destinations, hotels, restaurants and other services about which I have written. Never before, though, has anybody questioned my ability to review a book because I was, presumably, engaged in espionage.
That, however, appears to be the Ernesto Benadet’s conclusion after reading my review of Graham Bound’s Fortress Falklands. Interestingly, in asserting that my review tells him nothing he did not already know, Señor Benadet apparently disagrees with the Argentine Foreign Ministry’s conclusion that the Islanders are not a people.
Somehow, Señor Benadet assumes that I approved of – and perhaps contributed to - George W. Bush’s inept invasion of Iraq. In reality, the US invasion was as much in its national interest as the invasion of the Islands was in Argentina’s – that is to say, not at all. Both invasions were disastrous.
Señor Benadet claims to know who I really am. I’m not sure who he really is, but I can speculate that he might become Spinal Tap’s next drummer – they don’t turn it up to 11, but there is precedent for their expiring by spontaneous combustion. On the next tour, we may see him on stage in a flame-retardant jumpsuit.
Chilean Patagonia Podcast
Earlier this morning, I appeared on Rudy Maxa's World, a radio program dedicated to global travel, to talk about Chilean Patagonia and specifically the Carretera Austral. On Monday, the entire program will be available as a podcast at the link indicated here.