Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mothers, gypsies, bokstores

In the 20th century, Argentina saw many disappearances. The moms of those who disappeared demanded that the Argentine government answer for all those disappearances by demonstrating in the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday afternoon. The government said it was illegal to stand there too long, so now demonstrating groups walk around in circles.

We went to see the madres de la Plaza de Mayo last Thursday. A crowd was gathered around one of the moms giving an important speech of some sort, but I could neither see nor hear her because of the crowd and because so many gypsies were pestering us to buy stuff, or worse, begging for alms. I bought a small pack of Kleenexes from one woman out of guilt. And I needed one at the moment. They´re serving me well.

Then a little girl came begging for money. We´ve been told not to give to children because what happens is that their parents exploit them to support their own drug habits, so the kids never see that money. So I asked the girl where her mother was. She stepped on my toes.

After more discourse that I couldn´t hear from the mouth of someone I couldn´t see, and because I was scared for my possessions, Brenda and I decided to go somewhere warmer and nicer, like the Librería Ateneo on the Avenida Santa Fe. I always frequent the one on Juramento, but it has nothing on the Santa Fe one. The latter used to be a grand theatre and got converted into a bookstore. It´s the second most beautiful bookstore in the world, and now I really want to visit the most beautiful one, whatever that might be. The Ateneo on Santa Fe has four floors and a proper juvenile section. It´s obvious that it used to be a magnificent theatre, there´s murals on the ceilings. Its cafe is as expensive as it is elegant. And that´s why we went somewhere else for tea and snacks, like Havanna.

Havanna is something of a cross between Starbucks and Lindt - you can have coffe or tea there, or to go, and I´m a big fan of who they´ll give it in a mug unless you specifically say it´s to go. The company also makes this cone-shaped alfajor, which it calls the Havannet. I bought a box.

That night The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or El jorobado de Notre Dame, was on the Disney channel. That film is, in my opinion, the most underrated Disney film ever. (I also like to fancy myself as Esmeralda because when I let my hair down and tease it, it looks a lot like hers.) It deals with some rather heavy themes and pushes boundaries, and somehow still stays rated G. I also love that the villain, Frollo, is the epitome of evil even though he´s obsessed with moral probity. Disney actually had a Bible-thumper for a villain.

When I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a kid and in high school, I got a very rosy picture of the gypsies. Whenever school got tough, I fantastized that a handsome gypsy boy would fall in love with me and we´d live happily ever after somewhere in Prague and I´d never have to deal with integrals or full body diagrams or Joseph Conrad again. It killed me that I was watching the very film that gave me this romanticized and mistaken view of gypsies right after I´d gotten a reality check.

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