Lynch

‘Lynch is an Argentine name,’ said the young server at the sushi take-away, on Calle French, as he correctly scribbled my surname.

‘No, Lynch is Irish. I`m Irish,’ I pointed out.

‘De verdad?’ Really? he answered.

I don’t blame the guy, the nearby medical surgery is run by  Lynch Pueyrredon.

Usually in non-English speaking countries, I must spell my name but not in Argentina.

Lynch is well recognised here.

At school, there is a family of Lynch’s and I often chat with Facundo and Ignacio Lynch since we are, I tell them, long-lost cousins. Their grandfather has researched their history back to Galway where the Lynches were one of the original fourteen tribes.

My South American relations had always associated the surname with hangings and were relieved to learn that the Gaelic ‘Loing sigh’ means ship builder.

Che Guevera one of the iconic Argentinians is another Lynch of Irish heritage. He was the first child of Ernesto Guevara Lynch and was very close to his grandmother, Ana Isabel Lynch, with whom Che’s family lived for years.
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One of his relations, Benito Lynch was a famous Argentine novelist and short-story writer.

Both apparently are descended from Patrick Lynch, a Galway emigrant who became a wealthy and powerful landowner in Argentina in the mid-1700s.

We Lynches made our way also to neighbouring Paraguay where the extraordinary Eliza Lynch was first lady during the bloody war with Brazil.

Our Lynch name is so popular that some even adopt it.

Popular singer and actress María Cristina Lancelotti took the stage-name Valeria Lynch and went on to have a successful worldwide career spanning five decades.

Anyway, the sushi was nice. I bought it on Calle French named after Domingo French, born 241 years ago today .French was of Irish heritage and was one of the great heroes of the Argentine War of Independence from Spain.Of course, the Ffrenches were another tribe of Galway. Irish names are part of everyday life here.

 

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Darragh’s BA Likes ‘n Dislikes

 LIKES

5. Playing football in Parque Las Heras with my Dad

.4. Visiting  classmates’ houses on Fridays.

3. Eating delicious school meals.

2. Drawing for the blog.

1 .Reading lots and lots of books.

26 November 2015 104246 GMT+1100

DISLIKES

 5.  People in Florida street asking for “CAMBIO” all  the time.

4. Dogs constantly barking.

3. Sirens wailing 24/7.

2.Dog poo everywhere.

1.Cigar smokers.

By the Illustrator

26 November 2015 105232 GMT+1100

Endgame in Buenos Aires

We’ve been in the thick of this fiercely-fought Argentine election, following its soap-opera twists and turns. Now, it was endgame and our Christian Brother school was buzzing with the possibility of a past-pupil president.

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Sunday´s election was a long day in the city; a strange day with many places closed. Lots of staff, parents and students were busy with a massive election-monitoring initiative, determined to ensure a fair vote.

We whiled away our afternoon in the touristic part of the city near Recoleta cemetery; lazy hours sipping café cortados, outside La Biela, in the sunshine. Three of us at a table under those magnificent Recoleta trees, with branches so big, they`re propped up by steel poles. So peaceful. So relaxing.

An arriving coach-load, of wealthy Scandavian tourists, was disappointed there was no beer. During elections, alcohol sales are banned in the city for twenty-four hours. Opting for freshly squeezed orange juice, they soon moved on to their next landmark, oblivious to the on-going vote in nearby schools.

Later I sat in our Recoleta apartment, glued to TV, as numbers were crunched and votes counted. The reaction from party bunkers said it all; sad Peronist faces in Plaza de Mayo contrasted with jubilant dancing at Macri`s Palermo bunker.

As I viewed history unfold, I yearned to be part of the occasion. By eight pm, I couldn`t resist anymore, both party headquarters were within easy reach so I headed out.

The cafe-bars on Avenida Coronel Diaz were unusually quiet except for an odd soul staring at a TV screen. Nothing was happening outside but I knew where to go. I’d seen enough Argentinian football celebrations to know where Porteños go to celebrate. At Santa Fe. I jumped aboard bus 152 and headed downtown to the iconic Obelisco.

The bus zipped along a surprisingly quiet Santa Fe and tore across Av. 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world. There was very little traffic.

It was a beautiful, balmy November night as I walked south on Pellegrini; the obelisco radiated like Borges’ Aleph drawing me to it.

The centre, all roads lead here. All points radiate out.

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I soon saw the colourful celebrations. Cambiemos supporters wildly celebrating their victory, gazed up at big screens where Macri was finally introduced to thousands as the new Presidente.

Welcoming Argentinians beckoned and invited me among their ranks as they cheered, draped in Argentinian flags, and chanted Macri’s name. The huge crowd smiled and danced, moving like a wave of the sea.

Sky blue balloons bobbed about and loud firecrackers exploded as Macri pamphlets fell like confetti from the sky. The papers dropped and dipped in the wind around us, raining like tickertape.

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TV crews and press photographers, caught up in the dancing party jostled to capture the magnificent moment.

Soon car-loads of die-hard Macri supporters arrived from the Palermo bunker. The party was just starting but it was time for me to go and let them celebrate.

Traffic was heavy for the return journey. Drivers happily honked horns as jubilant dancers tangoed between traffic.

Throngs of people gathered at junctions singing and waving flags at our bus as we slowly made our way home through the cacophony of blaring horns, Argentinian anthems and football chants.

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It was a privilege to witness and I hope Argentina and its wonderful people benefit from the change.

It’s endgame for us, we leave BA at Christmas so won’t be present to see how our Irish Christian Brother-educated president performs. We will follow closely from afar.

A change is gonna come!

Argentina is on the threshold of historic change.

On Sunday, the country votes for the third time since our August arrival. This time it will be decisive, with a final choice between two candidates with distinct political philosophies.

The whole country is gripped by an unexpectedly close contest between these  colourful candidates. Every conversation around us is punctuated by two words, Macri and Scioli.

Cambiemos candidate Mauricio Macri, a past pupil of our school, Colegio Cardenal Newman, is the former mayor of Buenos Aires City and a previous president of Boca Juniors football club.

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FPV`s  Daniel Scioli is the Peronist Government`s candidate and former Governor of Buenos Aires Province . He is the chosen successor of Cristina Kirchner who has been president for eight years, following her husband`s four year reign. Scioli is a former world powerboat champion who lost his arm in a boating accident.

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Scioli`s surprise failure to win the last round convincingly has forced a ballotage or head-to-head vote

Both speak of change, Macri promises instant change and a move to market-orientated policies while Scioli speaks of a more gradual move away from the Government`s protectionist policies.

Argentina has big problems.

While government statistics claim that Argentina has one of the world`s lowest poverty rates, there is obvious abject poverty all around us.

There is a huge social divide with shanty towns ‘villas’ right outside wealthy gated-communities.

The public education system is creaking and needs a major overhaul. Argentina once had a highly regarded  education system but in the PISA 2012 education rankings, Argentina came 59th of 65 nations  and sixth out of the eight tested Latin American countries.

The economy is in big trouble so the government operates a range of measures to stem the flow of capital from the country.  But many people tell us how corruption is strangling any economic growth.

We shop for  Argentinian made products as imported goods are prohibitively expensive. Items which Argentina doesn’t produce can’t be bought for a realistic price or are unavailable for purchase.

Argentina has cash-flow problems and low reserves but is still virtually excluded from international bond markets since its  debt default in 2001.

Polls predict a Macri victory, ending twelve years of Peronist power.

Both candidates speak of change but whoever wins it`s going to be a difficult road ahead.

 

Monumental

Argentina play Brazil tonight at home in the Monumental Stadium. It’s their first competitive meeting for six years and we`d love tickets!

We drive past the imposing Monumental twice daily on our school run along the Pan Americano Highway.  It’s the national stadium, home of River Plate and iconic venue of the 1978 world cup.

You must remember the famous 1978 tickertape final!

I remember watching the grainy scenes, beamed from Bueno Aires where Kempes scoring the extra-time winner. Those final-whistle pictures of Argentinian players collapsed onto their knees are seared into my memory.

It was Argentina’s first win and meant so much to the huge crowds who ecstatically poured onto Buenos Aires streets that night.

It was a very long time ago but it left a huge impression on this young boy and I`ve been fascinated by Argentina and football ever since.
The Monumental always provokes a reaction as we pass by. I was childlike in my enthusiasm when we first passed it, but not everyone has that reaction.

Many friends, teachers and parents have driven us along the Pan Americana and there is always a bit of drama as we pass.

Some roll up windows, blaming the terrible smell, others do the opposite and stick their heads out to breathe in the beautiful Monumental air. Some passionately honk the horn but nobody  ignores it and says nothing.

Some talk about 1978 and what a terrible time politically it was for the country.

While the eyes of the world were on the Monumental, nearby at the Navy Mechanical School (Esma), innocent people were illegally detained and tortured during Argentina’s military junta. During this Dirty War, hundreds of newborn babies were taken from mothers and ‘disappeared’.

Today the building is home to Museo Malvinas, the Falkland’s Museum.

Our drivers’ reactions of course are down to club allegiance and futbol is a religion here. There is deadly rivalry between the two main teams, Boca Juniors and River Plate.

The day we arrived River won the Copa de Libertadores, the South American Champions League and fans celebrated wildly downtown by the obelisk. Since then , Boca have won the league and cup with Carlitos Tevez in devastating form.

Tevez is building a new house a couple of blocks from our school. Darragh was so excited and immediatley googled if he had a son.  He hoped to spot Tevez calling to the school to collect the boys. But he  has two daughters so won’t be turning up at our all boys school for a while.

Messi is arguably today’s most famous Argentinian although Pope Francisco is definitely more loved. They give Messi a hard time here, the boys at school say that he walked his way through the World Cup and Copa de America Finals which La Albiceleste lost. Poor Messi! Argentinians are not good losers.

We haven`t been to any match here. It’s not straightforward. Due to ongoing violence, away fans are banned from all stadiums.

Boca fans say that River only won the Copa de Libertadores because Boca was disqualified when its fans pepper-sprayed River players in Boca’s Bombonera (Sweet box) stadium last May.

Since Argentinians are so nocturnal, matches begin late. Kick off tonight is 9pm which makes getting there and home more complicated, especially when matches are on school nights.

Football is on television everywhere. Little TV sets blare out matches in cafes and local fruit and veg shops so you`re never going to miss out.  There are endless football matches so enthusiastic commentaries are part of the daily background noise.

When the Boca-River Superclasico is on, the whole city is involved with the streets responding to every goal. Whenever a team scores, Porteños rush out onto to their balconies to scream  GOOOOOOOOOOOOL to the city skyline. It`s great fun to listen to.

Darragh plays his first Argentinian league match tomorrow and is really excited. He loves football and when his Irish friends and team mates heard that he was going to South America they told him that he would be amazing when he came back.

Just by stepping onto Argentine soil, he would soak up the footballing brilliance. Futbol Osmosis.

He is quite proud of himself this week because he scored a powerful right-foot volley( his words) to level the match during this week’s PE. It doesn’t get much better than that especially for a ciotog.

Darragh’s friends thought we would be meeting famous footballers here too and of course we have had our brushes with fame!

1        I have met the daughter-in-law of one of Maradona`s former psychiatrists!

2        I also taught a student whose father made a TV commercial with Messi.

3        Finally and best of all, I nearly met Argentinian superstar Gabriel Batistuta, scorer of fifty-six international goals.

A visiting Irish professor, who was based in Buenos Aires while researching a book on Irish Argentine relations, arranged to meet the three of us for coffee. He and his wife were wonderful company and afterwards invited us to join them later for pizza in the famous El Cuardito restaurant. We declined as it was too late on a school night.

When the professor arrived, he was seated beside Batistuta. They had a chat and their photo taken while the whole restaurant chanted ‘BatiGol. We were so so jealous and sorry we didn’t go.

We’ve visited various schools, some in poorer barrios where football can be gang related. Everyone asks which team I support but to be honest I`m uncommitted.

When cajoled, I plump for San Lorenzo, the Pope’s team. They’re good, came second in the Primera A and gave Boca a good run for their money. No doubt, the Pope was cheering them on and will be supporting Argentina tonight.

I’m so close to tonight’s match in the Monumental, that it hurts. Anyone got tickets?

 

Travel will teach you!

‘Last week, I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed’

WC Field’s famous quip came to mind during our recent visit to Montevideo, Uruguay. It was ‘Dia de los Difuntos’ All Soul’s Day so most shops and businesses were closed for the weekend. It was really, really quiet.

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It was a forced break from Buenos Aires as we had to leave Argentina to renew our three-month tourist visa. It was also a chance to withdraw dollars from the ATM and use our credit card to buy goods. Surely, I’ve explained about financial transactions in Argentina?

It’s very complicated but suffice to say that with the election looming, it’s very difficult to know how much things will cost, either now or after the election. There are two rates for the dollar and they`re both very volatile right now, especially the  ‘blue` dollar which fell seven times consecutively this week. Leaving us a little poorer every time.

There is media speculation about the scrapping of the blue rate and a devaluation of the peso. No one will know till the election on the 22nd of November, so people wait anxiously.

The Buquebus boat trip from Colonia, Uruguay takes only an hour, but Buenos Aires is another world and we soon realised we were back. Outside the terminal, the three of us waited patiently for the flashing white man to appear at the crossing.

Midway across the zebra crossing, a car sped through the middle of us. We shouldn’t have been surprised; we were back in Argentina. In Uruguay, motorists stop for pedestrians, flash their headlights even, but in Argentina a pedestrian crossing is just an invitation to compete.

There’s a madness to Buenos Aires but we love it. We strolled through busy streets, now so familiar, to San Martin subway station. Passing cafes overflowing with merienda munching multitudes.

The Subte station was hot and sticky, heaving with workers eager to get home.

We have family rules now about underground travel. They’re easy to remember.

  1. No one uses mobile phones.
  2. Everyone stays together.
  3. No one boards alone.

One morning on the Subte, Darragh passed first through the barrier just as the train doors started to close. He instinctively stuck his head out and lunged forward through the closing doors like a sprinter at the finishing line. I was behind him so jammed my foot in the door, wedging my leg in the gap.

Well, we still have Darragh and my leg is fine but we have learned our lesson. I should have known anyway, because years ago it happened to my brother and me as children on the tube in London.

I remember the doors closing and my hysterical parents shouting at us from the platform. Luckily, nice people on the tube looked after us and told us to get off and wait at the next stop.

But I suppose as Michael, a retired Canadian school inspector,with whom we  lunched  in Montevideo told us,`that’s travel! travel will teach you!’ Although, he did mutter this over a meal of assorted animal parts heaped on a plate!

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Travel does teach you and so at San Juan Station, we were more careful as each train pulled up, packed past capacity with perspiring Porteños. Any comparisons with sardines would not do justice to the claustrophobia.

No matter how packed the subway is, Argentinian commuters always seem to think there is room for one more and will push themselves aboard.

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The fourth train to arrive seemed less packed so the throng moved forward in one unified step into the carriage where we stood with our arms pinned to our sides and our bodies meshed into those around us. A sticky mass.

We travelled like that all the way home, Darragh sweating  and laughing. It was incredibly packed and chaotic. Busy and full on, just like Buenos Aires.

Postscript for Maimeo, Daideo, Granny and Grandad

NO GRANDCHILD WAS HURT DURING ANY OF THESE ADVENTURES

Copado!

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Copado is Argentine slang for cool. Buenos Aires Spanish is full of slang that only locals understand, but fortunately Nan and I met wonderful students today, in Instituto Parroquial San Pedro Claver, who taught us lots of new words.

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We had such a fantastic visit, a wonderful exchange. It was like educational ping pong because everytime we told them about Ireland, they taught us something new about Argentina.

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We chatted to all the students and talked about rugby so they showed us one   girl who had gone to London to be the official mascot for the Pumas – All Blacks match. Wow!!

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They told us all about football and showed us their impressive hand-made models of the big football stadiums. We learned about Boca Juniors, River Plate, Tigre and the Pope`s favourite team San Lorenzo.

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We told them all about hurling and showed the students this great video by Eamonn.

They thought hurling looked pretty tough but not as difficult as pato, which looks like basketball on horseback.

They gave us such a wonderfully warm welcome and performed traditional dances for us.

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The students and teachers sang cumbia and rock songs.

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We showed them clips from River Dance and the Kilfenora Ceili Band.

They had cooked and baked typical Argentinian foods that morning before school and fed us all day. Their food was so tasty!

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The whole experience was cool… I mean copado!!!

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