Sophie Morris: Thousands who come in search of a hero

Buenos Aires Notebook: If there's anything the Argentinians love more than their morning maté tea, it might be a massive public gathering

Share
Related Topics

There's nothing unusual about tailbacks and traffic jams around the Argentinian capital on the first weekend of the new year. Instead of rushing to the January sales,
porteños, as people from the city are known, pack up their cars and head for the country to relax with Granny and Grandpa, or seek a patch of breezy coastline to take the sting out of the city's oppressive heat: it's the holiday season and no one wants to spend it cooped up in a megalopolis of 13 million people.

There was another reason for the gridlock this weekend: the start of the Dakar Rally, a 9,000km, two-week car race around Argentina and Chile, which was relocated from Africa to South America last year because of fears of terrorist attacks en route through the Mauritanian desert.

Terrorism aside, the Dakar remains one of the world's most dangerous adventures. More than 50 competitors have perished undertaking the Herculean challenge, and that's not counting the supporters. One young Argentinian fan, who had jumped the safety barriers to get closer to the action, has already died this year.

If there's anything the Argentinians love more than their morning maté tea, it might be a massive public gathering. Whether it's to complain about agricultural taxes or yet another botched investigation into the perpetrators of last century's grim Dirty War, they vote with their feet. Enthusiasm for the Dakar is so great that 800,000 supporters lined the streets of Buenos Aires on Saturday morning to wave off the 361 competitors.

Another theory is that the Argentinians love a hero. They have so many to commemorate that consecutive parts of the same street are often named after different military and revolutionary bigshots. The Dakar Rally produces bona fide swashbuckling heroes, of the intrepid, indomitable mould that football and tango struggle to provide with equal ardour these days.

Smarter than the average pest

Those of us left in the city have vicious mosquitos to deal with. The porteño mosquito is quite unlike any variety I've come across before: so tiny I haven't caught even one in flagrante delicto; so stealthy that they pounce without that tell-tale high-pitched warning whine. Paranoia over dengue fever is running high in the city after an unexpected outbreak last summer. I'm not surprised: these beasts are smarter than anything you'll find in Avatar.

No party without Cristina

With the dawn of 2010 comes Argentina's bicentenary. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose approval rating is at a shamefully low 15 per cent in the capital, returns to work after her Christmas break today. That should get the party started.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn