Dr. Eric Conway:
Day 8 of our tour began with a plane ride back to Buenos Aires, our arrival city. We departed from the hotel at 8AM for the Mendoza airport. We had a short 90 minute flight back to Buenos Aires, which would have taken 13 hours to return by bus. Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina and 2nd largest city in South America at thirteen million in population. The runway to the airport is next to the Rio de la Plata which gave a spectacular view upon landing.
Once again, all of our luggage made it back from Mendoza to Buenos Aires. Our guide is from Buenos Aires, so he was very enthusiastic about sharing the details of his hometown. Our first tourist attraction of the city was a graveyard called Cementerio de la Recoleta. This place is called the city of the Dead. At first the idea of visiting a graveyard did not sound too pleasing, however, once there, we all believed that it was one of the most fascinating places that one could visit. There were close to 4,700 grave sites at this cemetery. Every gravesite was a mausoleum, i.e. above ground. No two mausoleums were the same. This is the place where presidents, military generals, founding families of the city are buried. We even visited the gravesite of Eva Peron of "Evita" fame. These mausoleums featured small rooms where one's family could spend private time with their dearly departed. A typical mausoleum could store as many as thirty bodies. Families paid annual taxes on the real estate of their plot at this site. As you can imagine, it was very expensive to purchase and maintain these grave sites.
After the Cemeterio de la Recoleta, we went to a leather factory, where we all marveled at the vast selection of leather goods in the store. The prices were not bargain basement by any means, but were very reasonable for the quality. I did try on a leather vest and pair of pants, however, I do no believe I can legitimately wear a pair or leather pants!
After the visit to the leather factory, we visited the Metropolitan Cathedral which housed the tomb of the national hero José San Martin. We then checked into the hotel. We had a big evening planned in Buenos Aires, as we took in a Tango show after dinner. The dancing and singing were very good. See YouTube link to some video footage that I captured below! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xWVeoqodlM
On Day 9 we had our last concert at the Gran Rex Theatre with a seating capacity of 3,300. I was very concerned that our 1PM Thursday afternoon concert would not have much of an audience, given this did not seem like a regular concert time, however, this is a very well-known series that typically had large audiences. Our concert was sponsored by the Mozarteum, the top arts organization in all of Argentina. This series is a free concert series for the people of Argentina. The hall was very beautiful. Although it did not seem much larger than Murphy Find Arts Center at Morgan, it was clearly larger with balconies that were quite deep and high. Before the concert, the lines of persons waiting to see the concert wrapped around the building. This was a fitting venue for our last concert. Most attendees were either persons who were retired or persons who worked in the area to attend during their lunch/siesta break.
I was given orders from stage manager to begin 1:00 PM sharp! I was told the official attendance of our concert was over 900, which is not bad for a Thursday afternoon. Our concert was approximately one hour. Again, we had another appreciative audience, who despite our efforts to leave the stage, called us back for an encore. After the concert, much like all of the other concerts of this tour, many persons stayed behind to personally congratulate the choir for their efforts.
After the concert, Hernan our guide, took us to La Boca, which was the city's first port and an African slave colony before immigrants settled here in the 1880's. La Boca is one of the city's poorest neighborhoods and still where most if any of the Afro-Argentinians live. During our stay in Argentina we noticed very few persons of African descant. We were told by our guide that cholera and yellow fever epidemics virtually killed the entire African population in the 19th century. We are told from others, that at some point during the history of Argentina, many of the Blacks were exported from the country to retain an ethnically pure race. Does this sound familiar? Probably, both are true to some extant, and depends on who is telling the story for their perspective. At the end of the day, one noticed very few persons in Argentina from the African diaspora. That may be the reason why our HBCU choir and music is such a novelty in this country.
Tonight, we will enjoy a group dinner and overnight in Buenos Aires!
See some YouTube links to our San Luis concert:
A Boy and a Girl
Gracias a La Vida