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From: Tan Wee Cheng <>
Tea time in Rio Gallegoes, Uruguay in One Day, & Hostage Drama in Buenos Aires
Fri 03-Mar-2000 15:36

Dear All,

I am now in Buenos Aires (Bs.As.).  This morning I visited Recoleta Cemetery, where anyone who was anybody in Argentina was buried in monumental mausoleums and mini-temples, with all the statues and glory.  I hunted around for the tomb of Evita Peron, snapped some photos, and like all good superstitious Chinese, uttered some prayers for trespassing the resting place of the dead, and possibly hoping to get a good bonus, winning the lottery, more travels and all the good things in life.  Tonight, I will go for a tango performance and tomorrow, to the brightly coloured slums of La Boca.

I arrived in Bs.As. after one long boring day in Rio Gallegoes (which Bruce Chatwin described as a "boring town" - things haven't changed since but thank goodness they do have an internet cafe).  I spent some time sharing mate (pronounced "ma-tay") with the hotel owner, her daughter and grandchildren.  Mate is the national drink of Argentina, Uruguay and
Paraguay. It's a herbal mixture (like green tea) in boiling water, and drank from a gourd with a strange looking metal straw.  Drinking mate is a social event, to be passed around to all present, with the same gourd and straw.  The first time I saw it I thought people were passing around opium to be snuffed.  Hmm... I was told that Paraguayans and Bolivians do add some
flavour with bits of coca leaves...

After arriving at Carlos's place on Wednesday night, I went on a day trip to Uruguay on Thursday.  I took the first morning ferry to Montevideo, the capital, and returned to Bs.As. on the last ferry from Colonia del Sacramento, an old colonial town 150 km west of Montevideo.  To be cynical (and perhaps unfairly, as I was merely a day visitor), Uruguay as a nation
has no unique characteristics.  Like Argentines, they drink mate (even more of it), they derived great pride in their gaucho (cowboy) traditions, they love beef, and they are a delightful mixture of Italian and Spanish stranded in Latin America trying to convince themselves and others that they are actually Europeans.

Carlos's wife, Sandra, said that I should try chivitos, the Uruguayan national dish.  I discovered that it is an oversized version of Big Mac, something I wouldn't have tried under normal circumstances because: 1) I wouldn't try anything vaguely yanqui or norteamericano (all Latin Americans call themselves Americans too - and they refer to citizens of USA as norteamericanos, or North Americans), 2) I had an overdose of hamburgers during my gullible younger days, 3) Gastronomically, I am an Asian chauvinist and hegemonist, and 4) I have enough of English cuisine (whatever you gather from this...) and wouldn't want to try something equivalent halfway round the world.  OK fine, I am going to receive flaming mail from the Uruguayans, Americans and English...

I returned to Bs.As. at night for an exciting treat to live drama on Argentine TV.  Two robbers have taken three people hostage and all Argentine channels interrupted a prime football match to show the hostage drama, to Carlos's great distress, for it was his favourite team that was playing. The robbers were surrounded by police, chased around the suburbs of Bs.As., walked out onto the streets with pistols in the hostages' mouth, and finally killed by the police in a barrage of gun fire.  All these were shown on TV live - like movies.  Simply incredible !

OK, I will be leaving Bs.As. tomorrow, reaching London on Sunday 5pm.  To start work on Monday morning. To write again some time.


Wee Cheng

A view of the Obelisk... and Bs.As.' eternal traffic congestion.
Bs. As. is a city of statues... every hero, politician, dignitry, etc, has his/her statue or monument...  perhaps even more than countries which are larger and have longer history...
Strange murals... S&M on the streets ?.

Bs. As.' mini Chinatown. We often forget there are also many Chinese in South America.
Banknote... union & freedom...
Tango performance 
Gates of the Recoleta, Bs. As.' monumental cemetry complex. Outside Recoleta: Beautiful skies... The glories of Recoleta: Imagine the cost of building these monumental tombs... how many hospitals and orphanages would have been built... but human artistic and creative heritage might not have been as rich... trade-offs ?
One can easily get lost in this labryinth of tombs. Evita Peron - her followers wanted the Pope to cannonise her... her enemies see her as a whore, an over-rated wife of a fascist-president. More palacial tombs.
Tomb of Evita Peron, or rather the Duarte family mausoleum, where Evita's mummified body is rested...  Evita's tomb closed up. Propagada posters of the Peron presidency.

General Belgrano, one of Argentina's national heroes.