Becoming Porteños

A perfectly balanced day of working from the apartment, some grocery errands and a brief exploration of the hood and beyond – including a much needed haircut at A$10 each. A really nice experience despite some language difficulties, but Ants persevered and our requests were understood and meticulously carried out. A good haircut! (A short back and sides by the way seems to end up being a “corte classico” for those interested – Ant).

We’re up with the light here as the early morning fog lingers and seemingly pours over the cerros down to El Plan and the ever busy port below. Some coffee on and a light breakfast and we’re set for the day.

Down narrow painted streets from Cerro Artilleria we headed through Plaza Echaurren (there’s a small supermarket there we’ve used before), a rather down at heel kinda place which has seen better days. Apparently it was the first square in the city dating back to early colonial times and it was clearly built with European grandeur in mind but, like many of the buildings on the port front, parts are extremely run down (read derelict in many cases) and await the hand of the developer to sweep in and ‘gentrify’ the place, rip its heart and soul out and make it like everywhere else. (A couple of apartment developments, however, seem very sensitive to time and place – making much use of corrugated iron for example – so there’s hope the local soul will be maintained). Unfortunately for now it’s rather rough and ready and we got quite a few aggressive stares and the occasional comment thrown at us as we passed what felt like a convention of town drunks, but on we ventured – foolish perhaps, but hey. Climbing some stairs (and more stairs) we reached Cerro Cordillera with its heavily painted little square and its ascensor in the process of renovation and following one particular laneway were met with a hand-painted-by-hippies sign that read ‘Calleja Sin Salida – Go Home Gringos’ – so we did.

On the whole though this is friendly place, particularly away from the port – where the many cerros are pretty much inhabited by local residents going about their business, as so very few tourists or ‘gringos’ seem to stray away from the major sites of Cerro Alegre and Concepcion. I’m sure the same can be said for any working port that’s so closely connected to a city – I’m thinking Naples or Marseille perhaps. But there’s always a nod and a smile and a hola / buenos días / buen día / buenas tardes from everyone you pass on the street and shop you go in. Who knows, we might just achieve porteño status after 3 weeks…we’re certainly working on it.

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