Argentina: The Life Story of a Nation

Argentina: The Life Story of a Nation

Argentina: The Life Story of a Nation

Argentina: The Life Story of a Nation

Excerpt

My first sight of the great city of Buenos Aires was through a heavy rain from the rail of the ill-fated S. S. Vauban a long time ago. Little did I dream that I was to spend a whole adult lifetime there. As the two tugs ushered us up the shallow, muddy Rio de la Plata, there was nothing attractive or inviting about the low-lying, sprawled-out city without a skyline that lay shrouded in the rain and the mist ahead of us. Only two buildings in the whole city were tall enough to stand up above the rest--the Railway Exchange Building and the dome of the Congressional Palace. I was a rather young and probably insufferably conceited vice consul, excited and enthusiastic over having been promoted to this important post, and I was plying an "old- time" American with questions. One of the basic troubles in our relations with Argentina is that any American who has lived there as long as eight years is considered by the other Americans to be an "old-timer." This particular old-timer was filling me with a lot of misinformation which I had to get rid of soon after landing. I remember asking him the meaning of the letters "M.O.P." on the channel buoys. He said they were the initials of the Argentine national motto--Mañana ó pasado, tomorrow or the next day.

I lived in Argentina long enough to learn that the letters on the channel buoys stand for Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works) and that while Argentines probably never will abandon their exasperating tendency to do things mañano ó pasado, they manage to get a great deal of effective work done within the tempo set by that phrase. In the meantime, their professional and business men find time to live and to acquire a standard of culture considerably higher than that of Americans in the same income brackets. They always seem to be able to find time for at least part of a late afternoon concert, or to hear a lecture, or to drop in at one of the several art expositions along the Calle Florida. Consequently, at any social gathering any average Argentine can keep up his end of an interesting conversation without once mentioning the stock market or last Wednesday's golf score. The big, busy, modern, very beautiful and abominably noisy city of Buenos Aires stands as a monument to their ability to get things done efficiently in spite of taking time out to live.

On my last trip up the river to Buenos Aires, knowing that I was leaving it within a few days, I got up at sunrise to have a last look at it.

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