Going out to eat is not something I do very often, partially because I lack the money to do so and partially because I´m generally not that impressed with the food in restaurants in Buenos Aires. The two exceptions to this are parrillas (grills) and the Peruvian restaurants. Argentina is of course known for its meat, the grilled chorizo and provoleta (a hard provolone cheese grilled with olive oil and spices) are delicious, and hole in the wall parrillas with grizzly old parrilleros (grill dudes) complaining about last Sunday´s loss of their favorite soccer team are always entertaining and satisfying in a completely greasy way.
Walk-up parrilla in San Telmo
More often, though, we´ll be lazing around the house on the weekend, or come home exhausted from a long day, and someone will say, "Uy vamos a Perú..." (Let's go to Peru!) which generally means one of several restaurants within walking distance, half a roasted chicken, salad and fries for 28 pesos (about 7 dollars), which results in two very full and very happy people in the course of under an hour. But, for the forementioned cashflow problem, we try to ration our visits, so the conversations actually go more like this: Tengo hambre...vamos a Perú? O lo resolvemos aquí y vamos el fin de semana con mas calma? Bueno, esta bien...(I´m starving...should we go to Peru? Or we´ll figure out something here and go this weekend when we have more time? Fine, okay...) Last Friday night, after having had this conversation the night before, we finally got to Peru and I invited a friend who had just got in from Colombia to come along. (Certain people had to finish a grant translation because although they had already done it, they had very very stupidly forgotten to save. This is a state of mind that is scientifically known as zero desire to finish said work and lots of desire to do anything but.)
Argentines at this moment in time do not generally have warm and fuzzy feelings about the very large Peruvian community here. Many will tell you, unasked, that Peruvians are thieves and that they come to Argentina to steal and live as squatters. Last year a Peruvian colleague came for a conference here. He was taken to visit la Villa 31, one of the tougher slums in the city that doesn´t have running water, and when I asked him what he thought he said "I couldn´t believe that there were Peruvians living like that. Why would they come here to live like that? I´ve never seen anyone living in those conditions in Peru." The reasons are complicated I´m sure, and the feelings on both the Argentine and Peruvian sides are complex. Like most conflicts with immigrant I imagine it´s going to take time and intermarriage and a degree of assimilation on the Peruvian´s part. And lots more ceviche and banging roast chicken.
At El Carlitos there almost always seems to be at least one transvestite in the room. (There does seem to be a large amount of transvestites of Peruvian descent in Buenos Aires, but I never hear any complaints about this particular presence. More on this later.) And then, as we were sitting around, stupidly full and content and lazily gossipy, someone put El Gran Varon on the jukebox. The waiters started singing along, casually, quietly, as did the tables on either side of us. You could hear the table (dark-skinned guy on date with bored-looking transvestite) behind us singing along. Our (Colombian-American) table was singing. El Gran Varon is a salsa tune about a transvestite who is rejected by her father and ends up dying alone in the hospital from AIDS. The title, El Gran Varon, refers to what her father referred to her as a child, Simon my son, the great male. It´s a great song and it´s incredibly progressive given that it was recorded in the late 80´s in Latin America (or in the states for that matter).
No se puede corregir a la naturaleza, a lo que nace doblado, jamas su tronco endereza,
no te quejes Andres, no te quejes por nada,
si del cielo te caen limones aprende a hacer limonada.
You can´t change nature, he that is born gay is never going to be straight,
don´t complain Andres (the father), you don´t have anything to complain about, if the sky rains lemons learn to make lemonade.
You can find Carlitos, and very likely me, at Corrientes 3070, two blocks from the Abasto shopping center.