Today’s entry will be a potpourri about Argentina and sports. It ranges from the serious (the effect of Argentina’s Dirty War on my wife’s family) to the utilitarian (money and exchange rates) to the whimsical (my own tenuous link between baseball and Patagonia).
|Maru Sanllorenti's hometown of Tandil|
As I prepare to head to Buenos Aires, early next month, my wife María Laura Massolo and our daughter Clío are already there (but will return to California before I leave). Their trip is partly vacation but also a family mission, as the remains of my brother-in-law’s first wife—a victim of Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship—have been transferred from her hometown of Tandil to a new Panteón de la Memoria (Pantheon of Memory) in the Cementerio de La Loma in the coastal resort city of Mar del Plata.
|My brother-in-law's first wife disappeared shortly after giving birth in 1976.|
|Maru's mother Eva and son Manuel at Mar del Plata's Panteón de la Memoria (photo by María Laura Massolo)|
Abducted on the street in the Buenos Aires Province capital of La Plata in 1976, Maru Sanllorenti is survived by family members that include her mother Eva (now aged 94) and her son (my nephew) Manuel (now 43), who was an infant when she disappeared. My wife accompanied her brother Carlos (Manuel’s father) to Mardel for the ceremony there, then returned almost immediately to Buenos Aires, where Clío arrived on Friday. Yesterday, both of them attended a talk that Manuel regularly gives to visiting tour groups at the city’s Parque de la Memoria, which includes a commemorative plaque with his mother’s name.
|Manuel Massolo (right) recounts his mother's story to visiting US tourists at the Parque de la Memoria.|
I haven’t been to Argentina since last year and, consequently, my recent information on exchange rates, prices, and transactions has been mostly second-hand. Since last month’s elections, though, exchange rates have remained relatively stable, and my wife informs me that a fine Peruvian dinner for three at downtown’s Chan Chan cost about US$10 per person, including three entrees plus a beer per person. It’s not an elite restaurant by Buenos Aires standards, but that’s still excellent value.
|Our neighborhood cueva, on Palermo's Cabello street, was closed on the weekend.|
Changing money, though, always requires reorientation. Bank lines are long, exchange houses are mostly downtown, and there’s still a difference between formal and blue (informal) rates. The difference isn’t huge, though, and the informal exchange houses known as cuevas are fewer than they once were. My wife has used the one near our apartment in Palermo, which remains open, but Dan Perlman of Casa Saltshaker informs me that street changers have taken over the business near his apartment (including the weekend’s Plaza Francia crafts fair outside the Cementerio de la Recoleta). Street-changing, of course, holds potential risk for the inexperienced—not the least of which is counterfeit currency.
It’s possible to change at ATMs, but that has its own issues—on the weekend, when our neighborhood cueva was closed, my wife paid a bank charge of US$10 to withdraw approximately US$50 from the machine. I’m not sure what the maximum withdrawal is at the moment, but it’s almost certainly low by international standards. In Chile, I regularly withdraw the equivalent of US$300 per transaction, but Argentina has been roughly half that—making the service charge a true burden.
Baseball and Patagonia
I love baseball and, for decades now, I’ve enjoyed saying that I leave for South America after the World Series and return in time for Opening Day. This year, I’m still stateside, through two weeks without baseball, but I’m looking forward to being back in Buenos Aires (where I’ve played the game myself) in another fortnight.
Actually, the month of October was a big disappointment, as my own Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the mild card (sic) Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series, and I didn’t pay a lot of attention the subsequent rounds or the World Series itself. The Dodgers were clearly the NL’s best but, as they say, anything can happen in a short series. Of all major sports, baseball is probably the likeliest for a lesser team to prevail—there’s really no such thing as an upset.
|The top three finishers in the National League's Most Valuable Player voting|
Last week, though, the post-season individual awards drew my attention because of a friendly rivalry with my Wisconsin-born but Chile-based friend Todd Temkin, who’s a diehard Milwaukee Brewers fan (his Cerveceros lost to Washington in a one-game playoff for the right to meet the Dodgers). Todd (who splits his time between Valparaíso/Viña del Mar and a farm in Futaleufú) and I disagree on who’s the NL’s best player; his choice is Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich, while mine is LA’s versatile outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger.
|Dinner will probably take place at Futaleufú's Martín Pescador.|
|Hand-written menu at Martín Pescador|
On one level, that’s a subjective judgement, as they’re both elite players, but Todd suggested that we place a bet on the Most Valuable Player award, “given to a player in each league who has contributed the most to the success of a player’s team,” according to the Baseball Writers Association of America. Depending on which player scored most highly in that poll, the loser would treat the winner to dinner—probably at Futaleufú’s Martín Pescador, with its frequently changing menu.
|On my last visit, I enjoyed gnocchi with morels...|
|and a cheesecake for dessert.|
As it happened, Bellinger edged out Yelich for the award, while Anthony Rendón of the champion Nationals came in a respectable third (the vote takes place at the end of the regular season, so the Nationals' playoff success was not a factor here). I’m looking forward to that meal, probably in March, when I’ll be updating Moon Handbooks Patagonia there. If Todd’s not around at that time, though, it could happen in Valparaíso or nearby Viña.