They say that people are like their country, and the porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) are no exception. Argentina’s past is speckled with turmoil and uncertainty, both economically and politically. The volatility that courses through the veins of the country is evidenced by the people’s reaction to change – they take it all in stride. In the last ten years, the country has seen a complete economic crash, when the value of the peso declined to 25% of its former value in 2001, inflation rates have increased by over 400% and continue to rise. The political scene has been turned upside down as recently as July 2009. With all of this, however, the porteños maintain their love of life, tango, parrilla, and malbec.
Buenos Aires is a constant juxtaposition between growth and decline. On May 25th, 1810, Buenos Aires claimed its independence from Spain, and the city is rapidly approaching its bicentennial. The entire city has been getting a facelift, with building facades being updated, historic buildings like the Teatro Colon being completely remodeled, and parks and barrios getting a general overhaul. The city sparkles with life and hopes as Argentina continues to crawl out of the national and global recession. In 1946 Juan Perón was elected as President, and with his young wife Evita they injected money into Argentina’s lower classes who had migrated to Buenos Aires during WWII through higher minimum wages and a welfare campaign. During this time the city grew to hold nearly a third of the country’s population, which is close to what it houses today. Peronistas, or the followers of the Perón political ideals (which were vague to begin with), are common and powerful today, with the current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner a loyal member of the Perónista party.
Argentina operates on the peso, denoted as AR$, and its current value equalizes at around AR$3.80 to US$1. Most large items, like real estate, cars, furniture are sold on the dollar value as it is more stable for these slower-moving items. Buenos Aires has the highest rate of living in all of Latin America, and because of this can be more expensive than other parts of even Argentina. Because of the favorable rate with the US dollar, the Pound, and the Euro, however, most foreigners enjoy a higher standard of living here. Note that inflation is constantly on the rise, and you will notice the cost of goods and food increase every few months.
With an increasing ex-pat population, porteños and the city at large are very welcoming to their growing foreign neighbors. There are more foreign residents now than ever, with a visiting annual population of 2.3 million to Buenos Aires alone. Take the time to learn some Castellano, appreciate the parrilla and wine, and you’ll fit right in!