Buenos Aires people & culture

Buenos Aires people: Buenos Aires Stay tours, travel and city guide

Buenos Aires is Latin America's most European city. The population is made up largely of the descendants of immigrants from Spain and Italy who came to Argentina in the late 19th or early 20th century. There are also significant minorities of Germans, Slavs, British (me), Jews from central and Eastern Europe, and Middle Eastern peoples, who are known collectively as turcos. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion though more tolerant and moderate than ‘Rome’s Germanic Verses,’ with other Christian schisms, Judaism and Islam all flourishing without the many problems found in the so-called first world.  

Since the 1930s, most of the immigrants to the city have come from the north of Argentina, where the population is predominantly mestizo (mixed Indian and European). Today, the mestizos make up one-third of the population in the metropolitan area. It is mostly the mestizos who live in the poorest sections of the city, in the villas miserias and the distant suburbs. The area's black and mulatto populations are negligible in size.  The people of Buenos Aires are collectively known as portenos (people of the port).

While there are no ethnic neighbourhoods, many of the smaller minorities tend to settle close to one another in tightly knit communities. Villa Crespo, for example, is known as a Jewish neighbourhood (there is a great historical tour of Jewish Buenos Aires and its synagogues); the Avenida de Mayo is a centre for Spaniards; and Flores is the home of many turcos. The assimilation of these groups is less than complete, but Argentine identity is flexible enough to allow ethnocentric mutual-aid societies and social clubs to emerge and visitors can find lots of societies, meetings and social groups throughout Buenos Aires if you become home sick during your Buenos Aires Stay.

I vowed to ensure that I give a clear picture of Buenos Aires ‘warts and all.’ ‘Please or offend,’ and that is what I intend to do. Where to put this information, I considered at length, should I include this information, I also considered at length.  This is a website for tourist, written by a tourist.  To give you only sweet smelling pros would be both unfair and short-sighted.

However, before you read my warning, I must add that my bad experiences in Buenos Aires are few for the time I have spent here over the years. I would also like to add that London requires much more ‘tourist savvy’ to avoid you being eaten for breakfast, lunch and tea. The difference is - London is a long and well established tourist destination with over 26 million visitors each year, Buenos Aires has some way to go.    

Our clients tell me too frequently that they have felt cheated in Buenos Aires; they feel a short-term ‘box-moving’ psyche prevails.   The problem is $100 Pesos taken unfairly today, is at the expense of Buenos Aires’ popularity as one of the worlds leading tourist destinations and it may prove to be an expensive (excuse the pun) attitude should it prevail. I want to see this modern city grow and hit the dizzy heights of double figure tourism in the millions.

My Buenos Aires Stay advisors tell me that there is an attitude that is a part of Argentine culture described by two words Vivo meaning ‘sharp’ and piola also meaning ‘sharp but honest’ that are well used in school yards to describe those best able to gain advantage over their peers, sometimes unfairly. The perpetrators are quite often celebrated; it is nothing personal, just business?

My advice: Always ask the price of everything you intend to buy; if you buy flowers get the price per stem, fruit, the price per kilo and other goods, make sure you are clear on price.  If you do not understand, do not get out your money for the seller to happily point. I often see this happen and cringe, although it is one of those red faces you get when you are guilty of the same. Ask the seller to write down a price before you show the will to buy and before they start wrapping. Buying is a business; it is up to you to be a good buyer!

If you want to complain:


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Andrew Rae McCance



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