Saturday, June 15, 2019

Childish Games? In Buenos Aires?

Recently, reviewing the English translations on a Chilean hotel website, I came upon the bewildering phrase “childish games” as one of the hotel's features, and I had to refer back to the Spanish original to find the term “juegos infantiles” to realize that what they meant was “playground for kids.” They'd apparently relied on translation software—thanks, Google!—to promote themselves to English-speaking audiences.

Recently, in the New York Times travel section, Danielle Pergament offered an account of seeing Buenos Aires through her children’s rudimentary Spanish. For Pergament, who proudly proclaims that neither she nor her husband speaks a word of Spanish, this was a potential interesting conceit, but one that failed in its execution—at least in my opinion and my Argentine wife’s.

So far as I can tell, Pergament ignored what should have been visible evidence regarding the status of children in Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular. I say that as someone who helped raise a half-Argentine daughter, with many Argentine nieces and nephews whom I’ve known since their early childhoods.

Somehow, Pergament concludes that children are peripheral to local life—she cites the example of an English-speaking waitress and a concierge who chose to address her rather her kids—but she mightn’t think that if, somehow, she had noticed that young children often accompany their parents to very late meals, often well after 9 p.m. In fact, dinner at home is often that late and even the youngest children are an integral part of the event, though if it’s a big family dinner the kids may have their own separate table.
Children watch a street performer at the Feria Plaza Francia.
She also missed a big opportunity by not having her kids—ages eight and ten—interact with their Argentine counterparts by paying more attention to parks and playgrounds. Easy walking distance from her lodgings at Recoleta’s Hotel Mío Buenos Aires, the Feria Plaza Francia (a sophisticated crafts fair that she dismisses as a “trinkets market”) often has street performers that appeal to children, and the Plaza Emilio Mitre has a fine playground.
Plaza Emilio Mitre is one of many where Porteño parents bring kids.

Freddo is a fading presence in the quality ice cream sector.
She does recognize one aspect of Buenos Aires that certainly appeals to kids, and that is ice cream. Sadly, her kids appear to have sampled only chains like the moribund Freddo (no longer the go-to choice it once was), Lucciano’s (very decent) and Rapa Nui (a chocolates specialist that originated in Bariloche but has branches here and in beach resorts). In fairness, these were conspicuous locales the Pergament and her family were likeliest to come across in their walks around the tourist-oriented northern neighborhoods, so more distinctive choices like Heladería Cadore were not on their itinerary.
Rapa Nui is primarily a chocolatier that got its start in Bariloche, in northern Argentine Patagonia.
At Palermo's Jardín Japonés, the colorfully carp-filled ponds appeal to kids.
Other child-friendly sights she suggests are the Abasto Shopping Center, the Centro Cultural Recoleta with its motto of ¡prohibido no tocar! (not touching prohibited!), Palermo’s Jardín Japonés and Planetario Galileo Galilei, and the often quirky Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA). All of these are worthwhile, especially the MALBA, but I can’t stop thinking of her own childish oversights.
A young Porteña stands alongside the late León Ferrari's dark-themed "Mushroom Cloud" at the MALBA.

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