by Dirk Baumgartl
Buenos Aires has every reason to celebrate. When Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed the law introducing gay marriage on July 22nd, 2010, the city was in a cheerful mood. The signing ceremony took place during an international conference on gay tourism in South America organised by the marketing company “Gnetwork360”, which attracted a lot of attention with the presence of the Argentinean Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Culture of Buenos Aires. Even before this historic event, Buenos Aires was considered one of the most homophile cities in South America, with a significant increase in gay visitors expected in the coming years. The opening of the first South American information centre for gay and lesbian tourists at the beginning of September, the Pink Point in Lavalle, is a logical step. Buenos Aires – this is above all a contrast to the otherwise often chaotic, sometimes exhausting Latin America, where punctuality, cleanliness and a functioning infrastructure are not always taken very seriously. Anyone who has ever travelled to Brazil, Peru or some Central American countries will be surprised by Buenos Aires. Probably no other city on this part of the continent comes closer in architecture, structure and flair to a European metropolis than the Argentinean capital.
Buenos Aires is often compared to Paris or Madrid and such comparisons are not surprising, indeed. With a world-renowned opera house – the Teatro Colón, recently reopened after a long period of renovation works – a lively theater district with cinemas, musical stages and countless restaurants, the pedestrian zone called Calle Florida, as well as the most diverse neighborhoods such as San Telmo, La Boca or Palermo, the three-million city is the cultural and political center of a nation interested not only in football but also in gay rights.
The fastest and most comfortable way to get an overview of the city is by a trip in one of the yellow tourist buses that call at all important sights of the city on a round trip of approximately four hours. As it is hop-on, hop-off you can visit the old harbour district La Bocca, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano (MALBA) or the modern architecture of Puerto Madero, the exclusive new district on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. One of the absolute highlights is a visit to the old cemetery in Recoleta: next to former presidents, industrial magnates and intellectuals is the tomb of Argentina’s most famous citizen. Eva Duarte is buried here, wife of President Juan Perón and better known as Evita, beloved by the people and hated by politicians of her time. Separate from her husband, the bones of the heroine Eva lie in the family tomb of her parents, numerous commemorative plaques and fresh bouquets of flowers adorn the otherwise rather inconspicuous tomb. The rush in front of it make it impossible to pause and rest for a moment. But there are numerous lonely and quite romantic places in other corners of the cemetery, which invite you to escape the hectic of the big city for a few minutes. With a “Don’t cry for me Argentina” coming to mind, it is now time to head towards Plaza de Mayo.
Next to the square with the large obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio, Plaza de Mayo is the most important meeting place for demonstrations or celebrations. Every Thursday the “Mothers of May Revolution Square” still demonstrate here in memory of their husbands, sons and daughters who were abducted during the military dictatorship in the 1970s. Here you can also find the so-called Pink House (Casa Rosada), a reference to the White House in Washington. The Casa Rosada is the official seat of the Argentinean president and does not owe its conspicuous colouring to Mrs. Kirchner’s special love for gays and lesbians – even if she signed the law on gay marriage there. The pink is a mixture of the colours red and white, each colour once represented an opposite political side at the end of the 19th century. As a sign of unity, President Sarmiento painted his palace pink. What a beautiful story. Almost as pleasing is – at least from a gay perspective – a story about the origin of the Tango. For lack of enough women, the sailors and dock workers of Buenos Aires invented a dance that men could dance together without one completely dominating the other. Still today the variant man with man can be seen in several tango shows at least for a short moment.
If you feel like dancing a tango argentino yourself, go to Tango Queer on Tuesdays or Sundays. There are classes for beginners and gay tourists, further gay milonga evenings are organised by “La Marshall” on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Whether you want to dance a bit of tango yourself or watch one of the shows – whoever wants to get to know the gay nightlife of Buenos Aires has plenty of time. Since you don’t have dinner in Buenos Aires before 9 p.m., rather around 10 pm, it’s best not to start your excursion to the gay scene before 1 a.m. Unless you have reserved a table at Inside. Along a three-course menu, there are performances by young, well-trained strippers who get into their act for dessert from around 11 p.m. onwards.
When you plan a visit to Buenos Aires make sure you include a weekend. Most gay events take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the bars are crowded and the atmosphere abundant. The clubs and bars here are considered the best in South America apart from those in São Paulo, Brazil. In addition to the disco classics America and Glam, the “Human Club” with its spectacular show on Saturdays and the gay dance held once a month in the Palacio Alsina are particularly trendy. Whoever enters Palacio Alsina near Avenida 9 de Julio for the first time will be overwhelmed by the theatrical architecture of the former office building. Perfect sound, show acts and the prettiest guys in town make the time fly by until dawn.
Offiial homepage of the Buenos Aires tourism board containing information for foreign visitors as well as hotel and restaurant tips.
Excellent gay guide containing all addresses of gay bars, clubs, restaurants and saunas.
Pink Point (Lavalle 669) South America’s first gay-and-lesbian touris information has opened its first office near calle Florida, no website at present.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lufthansa offers daily flights from Frankfurt nonstop to Buenos Aires, the flight time is about 14 hours. If you book early, a return ticket in Economy class is available from 1079 Euros. Keep your eyes peeled for South America special on the airlines homepage, www.lufthansa.com
Taxis take you from the international airport Ezeiza to downtown Buenos Aires (ca. 20 Euros). You pay for your ride at counters in the baggage claim area. Buenos Aires offers good public transport with buses (colectivos) and a Metro (Subte). Most of the sights are within walking distance. Taxi rides are extremely cheap, the best option is to choose taxis that carry a “Radio Taxi” sign.
Hotel Axel (Venezuela 649) Apart from Barcelona and Berlin, also Buenos Aires has a branch of the Axel hotel chain that calls itself ‘hetero-friendly’. The outsided pool is a popular meeting place on weekends. The hotel has also an indoor poor, gym and a sauna on its roof terrace, www.axelhotels.com
Esplendor (San Martín 780) Chic 4-star boutique hotel featuring a lot of modern art, www.fenhoteles.com
Faena Hotel (Martha Salotti 455) One of the Leading Hotels of the World design hotel by Philipp Starck is a mix of fairy palace and boutique hotel, www.faenahotelanduniverse.com
Friendly Apartments (Av. Callao 1234) Apartment rental agency for gays and lesbiansl Probably the most inexpensive way to stay in Buenos Aires, www.friendlyapartments.com
El Querandi (Perú 302) Traditional good restaurant also offering a very authentic and impressive tango show, www.querandi.com.ar
Inside (Bartolomé Mitre 1571) Very popular gay restaurant with strippers doing a show at ca. 23h00, www.insiderestobar.com
Bach Bar (Cabrera 4390) Karaoke and show bar, www.bach-bar.com.ar
Flux (Marcelo T. Alvear 980) The very popular and cool gay bar is the only one already opening at 19h00 and therefore busy even before midnight, www.fluxbarbuenosaires.blogspot.com
Kim Y Novak (Guemes 4900) One of the best bar in town at present, equally popular with straight as with gay people, www.kimynovak.blogspot.com
Sitges (Av. Cordoba 4119) The classig amongst gay bars. This is the place to have your first drink at 1 a.m. before youmove on to a club, www.sitgesonline.com.ar
Amerika (Gascón 1040) Big dance club, especially popular with a young crowd, www.ameri-k.com.ar
Glam (Cabrera 3046) Popular venue on Thursdays and Saturdays, www.glambsas.com.ar
Human Club (Costanera Norte y Sarmiento) The most trendy club on Saturdays offering unique shows, www.humanclub.com.ar
Palacio Alsina (Alsina 940) The biggest gay party in town takes place here once a month, www.alsinabuenosaires.com.ar
All relevant addresses and information can be found in Spartacus International Gay Guide or iPhone-App
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