Monday, May 22, 2017

The Use (and Abuse?) of English in Argentina

The London City cafe is a landmark of Buenos Aires's downtown financial district.
According to a recent survey, Argentines are the most proficient English speakers in Latin America. That said, Argentines have an ambivalent attitude toward the English and their language that started, probably, with the British invasions of Buenos Aires in the early 19th century. After independence, the commercial influence of the British became pronounced—the Argentine capital’s financial district is called “La City”—recalling the City of London—and major infrastructure still bears a British stamp. Trains, such as the Subte (Underground) move on the left, and signs remind passengers to keep left (in Spanish, however).
Signs on the Buenos Aires subway remind passengers to keep left.
There are many landmarks associated with the British, most notably the Anglo-Argentine community’s Torre Monumental (renamed from the Torre de los Ingleses after the Falklands War of 1982). There are lesser commercial locales, such as San Telmo’s Gibraltar Pub and Retiro’s Tabaquería Inglesa, but today I’d like to focus on something different—the sometimes quirky English of Buenos Aires (and elsewhere in Argentina).
San Telmo's Gibraltar pub is bilingually Anglophile.
In California, where I live permanently (though I also own an apartment in Buenos Aires), we often see what I like to call “real estate Spanish,” residential complexes with Spanish names of dubious authenticity—despite the state’s Hispanic tradition. One of my favorites is the Berkeley Hills street name “Lomas Cantadas,” which I can only presume is a mutilated translation of lomas encantadas, which would mean “enchanted hills” (as written, the actual name would mean "sung hills," which obviously makes no sense).
The name of this Recoleta clothing store suggests the British origins on Argentine English.
In that context, I’d like to offer, anecdotally, some of the most amusing Anglicisms I’ve found in Buenos Aires. It’s worth adding that, though British English is the default option for students in Argentina, some of the more commercial phrases may correspond more closely to US English—perhaps acquired from Miami, where many prosperous Argentines take shopping trips.

Summer Sale!
In trendy Buenos Aires boroughs such as Palermo (where our apartment is), English apparently lends your business a certain cachet. At least the operators of this lingerie shop appear to think it’s better than ofertas de verano.
This Palermo lingerie outlet lets you know their wares are suitable for the season.
20% Off!
A hybrid sale sign in our Palermo neighborhood
In our own Palermo neighborhood, this household goods retailer forgoes descuento del 20 por ciento in favor of its English equivalent—a phrase that’s a common sight around town. Unusually, this particular shop provides discounts for credit card purchases, even though Argentina remains a cash economy, but apparently does not feel confident enough in its customers to provide that information in English.
Though no longer in Buenos Aires, Citibank was a US company.
If you prefer to pay in cash, though, you can still take advantage of 24-hour banking.

This Palermo grill will bring the barbecue to your house or hotel.
Many Buenos Aires restaurants, even some high-end places, will prepare your dinner and bring it to your home or hotel. There’s a perfectly good Spanish-language phrase for this, reparto a domicilio, but “delivery” is now almost universaleven in the provinces. Whether they’ll provide a cooler bag, though, is questionable.

Our Specials
This Palermo restaurant serves a diversity of lunchtime dishes.
Platos del día would be the Spanish equivalent but, considering that all the dishes here are in Spanish, the English phrase appears to be an affectation.

Purchase your parking permission at this streetside vending machine.

Spanglish seems less frequent in Argentina than in the US or Mexico, but this parking dispenser is an exception (a parking ticket, by the way, would be a multa).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chile Declares New Patagonian Parks Route

Long segments of the Carretera Austral still pass through wild areas with few or no services.
Imagine a highway through the wildest parts of Alaska’s Panhandle—where the terrain allows no continuous roads—and, if you look south, you’ll find the rough equivalent in Chile’s Carretera Austral. It passes through a thinly peopled region of sprawling steppes and craggy volcanic uplands, dense rainforests surrounding soaring summits, powerful whitewater rivers, and deep fjords and navigable channels with countless islands, marine mammals, and even glaciers that reach the sea. It makes a matchless road trip, with world-class adventure options for cycling, trekking, climbing, rafting, and kayaking, along a track that, relatively speaking, is still barely marked—much less beaten.
The Piedra del Gato viaduct bridges a section of the narrow Río Cisnes canyon.

In the early 1990s, the late environmental philanthropist Douglas Tompkins and his widow Kristine McDivitt envisioned a project to preserve Patagonia’s thinly populated Aisén region in an interconnected system of national parks. On a continent where skeptics have traditionally viewed large landholdings, especially those controlled by foreigners, with suspicion, they created the 1,117-square mile Parque Pumalín and the 1,015 square-mile Parque Patagonia—formerly a sheep ranch—with the intention of donating them to the Chilean state.
Kristine McDivitt (center) speaks to a group of potential donors at Parque Patagonia.
In some parts of the region, wire fences still keep sheep from becoming roadkill but, in others, the removal of sheep and fences has allowed native wildlife like guanacos to thrive, restoring a wildness that ranching had diminished but could not destroy. Now, after adding stylish infrastructure to mimic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Tompkins vision has finally gained approval from the Chilean government, which just announced creation of a Ruta de los Parques—“Route of the Parks”—that will promote a string of wildlands in the country’s southernmost region. Several existing reserves will be upgraded to national park status.
In the new Ruta del los Parques, access should improve to little-visited units like Parque Nacional  Corcovado.
Chile’s national parks will soon occupy a percentage of its territory comparable to that of Costa Rica, a much smaller country. In a Santiago memorial service, Socialist President Michelle Bachelet described Tompkins as a “world-class philanthropist.”
Highway improvements should reduce incidents like my encounter with a bus on a blind curve.
As pavement and other improvements proceed on a highway that’s still mainly gravel (and where I myself have wrecked two 4WD vehicles, with extenuating circumstances), 2018 will be a key year—the coming austral summer will be the first full season for the Ruta de los Parques. Even as the region’s appeal becomes better known and the infrastructure improves—long segments of the highway still have few or no services—the surrounding area should become an ever wilder attraction.
Parque Pumalín from the new trail to the crater of Volcán Chaitén

Friday, March 31, 2017

Argentina Opens Its Skies

One deterrent to travel in Argentina—the world’s eighth-largest country—has been the deplorable state of its air services. Throughout my lifetime, the state-run Aerolíneas Argentinas—occasionally under private ownership—has dominated a Buenos Aires-centric system that, with unavoidable stopovers, sometimes made flights as time-consuming as bus trips. The arrival of Chile’s LAN (now LATAM) improved the scenario, but political obstacles kept it from challenging Aerolíneas’s dominance.
State-run Aerolíneas Argentina now dominates the country air services.
At one level, there’s a logic to this pattern, as roughly a third of the country’s population lives in and around the capital, but it also re-enforces the city’s primacy. Traditionally, even important cities with upwards of a million inhabitants, such as Rosario, Córdoba and Mendoza, can only make connections to other provincial destinations via Buenos Aires. It works against the tourist industry as well, when flights between popular visitor destinations such as Mendoza and Bariloche require lengthy detours via the capital.
Many domestic flights require changing planes at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, the Buenos Aires city airport.
It’s about to change, though. Earlier this month, the administration of President Mauricio Macri approved 135 new routes by five new or expanded airlines, including the budget carrier AirBondi. Bondi will not begin operations until September, but Neuquén-based American Jet, Córdoba-based Alas del Sur, and the capital-based Andes Líneas Aéreas may begin immediately. Tucumán-based Avian, an affiliate of Colombia’s Avianca, should soon join them.

The idea, according to Macri, is to more than increase the number of flights and more than double the number of passengers by 2019. Given that distances are so great, that long-distance trains barely exist, and that bus services are time-consuming (although the quality is generally high), there’s potential for modernizing Argentina’s transportation system and the tourism sector in particular.
In a perfect world, AirBondi would live up its name by adopting the color scheme of this classic city bus.

Whenever Argentina announces great changes, it’s always advisable to retain a certain level of skepticism, but greater competition in the transportation sector should be a welcome development—even if part of that is a budget airline likely to charge for checked baggage and other “extras.” For what it’s worth, Bondi’s name derives not from the famous Australian beach, but rather from a lunfardo (slang) term for city buses in Buenos Aires.
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