The centrepiece of a blazing hot weekend before I headed back to England for two weeks, Saturday was an open book. A quick glance on the Buenos Aires Ciudad state-run website revealed that there was a joint Irish/Scottish celebration on Avenida de Mayo. Enticed by this dry run of home(ish) comforts, I jumped on a bus after brunch and headed towards the Gaelic street party.
Credit where it’s due to the government, it makes a real effort to celebrate different traditions out in the open – last weekend it was the turn of India, for example – and always encourages its citizens to get involved. This was my first time to one of these things here. Many a curious local clearly felt it was obligatory to wear green, as Irish jigs were performed on stage, whilst a procession of tartan-clad bagpipers took ownership of the airwaves. Under the watchful eye of the Casa Rosada, this hyper-cliched interpretation of the dual cultures, although twee, almost felt a bit Orwellian.
Briefly pursuing this tangent, I discovered, when eating out at a recommended pizzeria, on Friday night that all radio stations here are obliged to play the national anthem at midnight every night as one day slips into the next. This is a country whose schoolchildren must swear on the flag each morning before classes too. Believe it or not, there is an image very powerfully projected here that Argentinians love their country.
Continuing the theme of selective education, there were smatterings of history with noticeable gaps represented by a handful of tents near the front stage. The real education was in the tasting however, with Highland shortbreads and mini lamb stews presented almost as cupcakes on offer. Accompanying a local, my amiga, who was savouring some of these trademark delights for the first time, this was certainly a welcome refresher course in appreciation for me.
Shortly thereafter ensued a wild goose chase for a draft pint of Guinness. Good things don’t always come to those who wait, it turns out. No, having consulted an army of expats via the Facebook group on this very matter (from my carefully-guarded iPhone, amidst the melee), I was assured that Guinness have long since withdrawn from the Latin American market. The reason behind the sale of my company too, this is quite an annoying recurring theme.
Upon hearing one final traditional folk piece, we later carved an exit through the flurry of alternated mini flags and obligatory leprechaun tat that had reinforced the theme. Retreating to the riverside shade of a Puerto Madero bar on foot, the two-person committee concluded that the event had been a success.
Moreover, this cultural Segway proved invaluable in opening my eyes to something that I not only don’t have, but can’t have here in Argentina: Guinness. How regrettable this is too. Many things here confuse me at the best of times, a bit of black and white perspective would go a long way. About to start packing for my trip to London tomorrow, but first taking a moment to admire the typically breathtaking sunset from a ninth-floor apartment building in Recoleta, there’s only one thing on my mind. Pour me.