Hi, Hola, Oi!

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La Recoleta Cemetery; Iguazú/Iguaçu Falls; Christ the Redeemer Statue

[Click photos to Enlarge]

It wouldn’t be Christmas without me and the Sweetie chasing down summer, right? This year, Argentina and Brazil—and the stunning Iguazú or Iguaçu Falls, depending on which side of the border you happen to find your feet. (For more photos, click on the name of the country.)

We had to look hard to find Christmas, boy. In Catholic countries yet. Buenos Aires, for example, had slim, slim festive pickings. There was an almost total absence of Christmas decorations—lights even—along showpiece boulevards or stores or parks. So, true, we did find Father Christmas in a mall, and a lone extravagant Christmas tree. But we saw not a single Santa line. Heard not one note of Christmas music. Saw not one red Salvation Army kettle in all the time we were in Argentina.

Christmas did pop up momentarily in Rio de Janeiro, though. Coca Cola sponsored an hour’s worth of a spectacular Feliz Natal Parade, which obliged that there was a lead pack of Coke trucks outlined in white lights. Like this:Coke in Lights

Human Christmas Tree

It’s Copacabana, and Cariocas have been to samba school for their Carnival—they’ve had years of practice putting on a scene. This time mostly for kids? Hundreds of folks paraded as characters from cartoons and children’s books dancing PG-sedately and synchronized to music from “My Fair Lady.”

It rained like the dickens, and the parade started three hours later than advertised. Nobody grumbled. Except for, well, maybe a few North American tourists. Wussies, we watched high and dry from the tenth floor.

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So, all right, to be fair, we also did glimpse Christmas at the Crystal Palace in rural Petropolis, a two-hour, gorgeous drive from Rio through mountains and valleys and lush forest vegetation. Again, no long lines for Santa. Only a handful of kids smiling for a parent’s camera, the kids getting one piece of candy from Papai Noel and a chance to deposit their little lists in a box. Pretty cool, pretty low-key.

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Still. Here I am again, looking for the Christmas of my fantasies. Of course, it ain’t anywhere. It’s never going to be anywhere.

And, yet, something absolutely special happened. We got to spend some time with my eldest brother and his family in South Beach, FL, and got a glimpse of how incredible it would be if we knew them better. And we surely did nyam up the groan of great Jamaican food they laid out for us. First taste of ackee, mashed green bananas, bammie—any Jamaican food for that matter—for Mr. Sweetie. Oink. Oink. Snort!

Camille

Cry For Me, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, as you might imagine, is a smart, cosmopolitan city. Walking about, there’s a nagging feeling of familiarity. Even mildly jetlagged, it’s easy to forget where in hell you are. For it looks like any European city—Paris, Milan, Madrid. New York, even. Except there are purple-flowering jacaranda trees, Banyan trees with their elephant-foot roots, and healthy, towering ficus. The same temperamental ficus benjamina that right now might well be shedding curled leaves in your very own living room.

We dodge homicidal Porteños drivers. Jesus, if you think crossing the streets in Athens and Rome is bad. It just sheer madness here. And don’t even think it’s possible to cross Avenida 9 de Julio(allegedly the widest avenue in the world at 400 feet wide and six lanes one way) in a single traffic light cycle. Look out or get squashed. No pedestrian right of way regulations here, dude.

Most striking to me, and not hard to miss, are the very passionate lovers. They kiss and kiss in the streets, in parks, in porticos; they give slow caresses to faces and hair, to backs; their eyes tango. Something else that’s immediately apparent is that there’s no cleaning up after any dog. And it’s hard to ignore the young mothers with filthy babies and small children begging at the entrance to subway. No exaggeration—only the women’s teats are clean from breast-feeding. Also, on two separate occasions, beautifully-dressed women have sidled up to me and told me not to wear “that watch” in Buenos Aires. They tell me about the thieves on motorcycles. My watch is a mongrel Seiko.

Instead they should’ve reminded me that you don’t wear your camera bandoleroed across your chest in the damn subway. I used to have a lovely Canon Sureshot until some fleet-fingered ládron picked it clean from the closed case. Ai. Lástima. Undeterred, we continue with the tourist things, although it took me a day or more to let go of that angry, ripped-off feeling. (All my photos! Gone.)

If you go, do not miss a trip to the ritzy La Recoleta Cemetery to visit the iconic Evita Peron’s grave. Follow up with trip to The Museo Eva Perón. Buy a snack at the small restaurant run by Madres de Plaza de Mayo and feel like you’ve contributed a little bit to support human rights. Kick back at an outdoor cafe and watch sidewalk tango dancers perform and sell sidewalk photo-ops to onlookers. Reach for your camera, if you’ve GOT one.

Here are a handful of photos I scavenged from my husband’s portfolio:

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