Visit To The Land of Maradona
title may be misleading. This essay is not about football!
But to most football lovers in Bangladesh, Argentina is
synonymous with Maradona, who is perhaps the greatest
footballer of the last century. I visited Argentina several
times during the late nineties and early 2001. My last
visit to the country took place at a time when Argentina
was going through a serious economic crisis and saw several
changes in the Presidency. Even in those bad days, I was
amazed to see that high class and expensive restaurants
were always full. That shows the typical trauma of the
developing countries where the rich always seem to remain
rich and only the poor and the lower middle class suffer
when the going is bad for the economy.
was located in Brasilia by virtue of my official assignment.
But Brasilia was like a village in comparison to Buenos
Aires, which is built as a beautiful European city. Some
years ago, Argentina was also made famous by the musical
Evita. To the lovers of Tagore literature, Buenos Aires
has a special meaning too. Rabindranath had dedicated
a whole book of poems, Bijaya, to Victoria Ocampo, the
great socialite and writer of Buenos Aires of that time.
Gurudev very cleverly translated Victoria as Bijaya and
wrote a number of verses dedicated to the Argentine lady.
Brasilia, the Argentine capital has an aura of culture.
The people take great pride in that and despise their
less sophisticated Portuguese-speaking big brother. Once
a proud nation and one of the richest countries in the
early last century, Argentina was caught up in deep economic
quagmire and large-scale unemployment. During the heyday
of Argentina, some decades ago, the international donor
agencies pumped more money into the Argentine economy
than it could absorb. Consequently, the huge borrowed
funds became deadweight and the economy virtually collapsed.
For long, the government steadfastly pegged Peso to US
Dollar at one to one. But finally it all crumbled. So
Argentina, once a rich country, encountered the emergence
of poor and hungry people. Before the economic crisis,
Argentina had also enjoyed considerably higher per capita
income than Brazil. The Argentine Peso depreciated considerably
once it was left to the forces of the free market. Of
course, the tourists are happy. They can now eat the finest
steak in the world at a relatively affordable price. Argentine
beef, to my mind, is unbeatable.
is a large country, covering over 2.7 million square kilometers.
That makes it just less than one-third of Brazil. In terms
of natural beauty, from the north to the south, it has
some of the most magnificent places on earth. One of the
areas of awesome beauty is the vast tract of land in the
southern part of Argentina, known as Patagonia. In winter,
the landscape gives the impression of an endless desert
covered with snow. No human soul could be seen on either
side of the single highway that leads to the perpetually
snow covered glaciers in the south. I have not visited
any other place on earth with which I can draw a good
comparison. Perhaps Alaska, where I long to go, provides
somewhat similar landscape reflecting the beauty of eternally
average tourists, Patagonia provides the joy of experiencing
the ride on dog sledge and snowmobile. And if one has
considerable affinity for wild animals and zeal for adventure,
Patagonia will be an exciting place to go. Depending on
the season, tourists can see such exciting animals as
whales, penguins, Fuegian Red Fox, Grey Patagonian Fox,
Castilla Rabbit, Canadian Beavers, Muskrats, Guanaco,
Sea Lions, Andean Condors, seagulls and eagles. My point
of interest in Patagonia was to visit Perito Moreno glacier
at El Calafate, a place that takes half a day to reach
from Rio Gallegos, the capital of Santa Cruz, by a four-wheeler
jeep. The Perito Moreno glacier was an unforgettable sight.
When the sunlight reflects on the immense glacier it sparkles
like a huge bluish crystal. Occasionally big chunks of
ice come off the glacier with thundering noise.
in Patagonia, I further went down the south and arrived
at the southernmost city of the world Ushuaia, surrounded
by lakes and magnificent mountains. The city is located
in the province of Tierra del Fuego. The missionary zeal
of the Europeans brought them this far. But one man's
conquest was another man's demise. Some 10,000 original
inhabitants whose ancestors came from Asia many thousands
of years ago -- disappeared completely. A visit to the
National Park in Ushuaia was worth it. I was told the
colonisers introduced the Canadian beaver there and the
little animals played havoc with the trees. I would have
loved to photograph them but in frozen winter it was not
From Ushuaia there is opportunity to take a boat trip
to Antarctica during the summer. One can also go to Malvinas
(the Falklands to the British). While in Argentina, I
wish I could have travelled to the north. But then from
the north to the south the distance is enormous, some
3,799 kilometres, and it is too ambitious for a short-term
tourist to attain that goal. For him the best option in
Argentina is to stay put in its capital, Buenos Aires,
to enjoy the sensual tango, both in the night clubs and
on the streets, and eat a fantastic barbecue dinner of
juicy Argentine beef.
writer is a photographer and author of several books.
He is also president of The Prokriti Foundation.