Rostros / Faces
Sitting in a cafe at the corner of Montevideo (a street in Buenos Aires, not the city) and Alvear, idly scanning the faces of people in post-lunch lounge mode, it occurred to me that just from that information alone I would know what city I was in. There's something about Buenos Aires faces, a little like what you see in New York faces but with a different accent. It's a little like the way you can always tell a Parisian from the way he holds his mouth (or she hers, but I think this is more typical of men), that tight pursing downward of the corners of the lips. I think it's supposed to convey the message, "I am a serious person whom you must treat with respect."

The face I'm talking about, the Buenos Aires face, communicates a different message -- that "I'm listening, but don't assume that I believe you." It doesn't appear all the time, maybe, but there is usually this air of canny intelligence, evaluating and weighing a politician's speech, a street performer's joke, or a friend's chatter. But it is not the more aggressive kind of mistrust that New York faces often convey, with message, "Geddoudaheah!" No, this is a face that also conveys that, even if the other party is not to be totally trusted, "Go on talking; I too know how to play this game." I love it.

Funny. I never saw that face on people in Montevideo (the city, not the street). That may be why porteños (people from Buenos Aires) feel so much more relaxed in Uruguay. They can take a rest from playing the game. Soon, though, they miss it.

And a lot of Argentines have been watching Kirchner very closely, cannily, and so far are surprised to see that he doesn't seem to be playing a game at all. His government dealings are open, and he is amazingly, un-porteño frank. Maybe that's because he's not from Buenos Aires, but from Santa Cruz. Those southerners are almost like Uruguayans.

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