As a student aspiring to earn a degree in Economics, it is slightly ironic that I decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before traveling here, the Argentine Paradox was something I had only read about in textbooks. After living amongst locals for a little over two months, I have been able to witness first-hand what it’s like to live in a country that has economically experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows in a little over a century. In addition, I arrived in Argentina at an interesting time where, just recently, an unproven government has taken over for a former controversial government that was in power for nearly 15 years.
If there is one word I could use to describe Argentine people, it would be “passionate.” Take a few minutes to appreciate the pure devotion and ecstasy that make up the art of the Tango and you will know all there is to know about the very passion that carries over into everything from asados and wine to politics and futbol.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice after my first few days in Buenos Aires was the astounding presence of street art that’s cover seemingly every wall in the city. As I became more comfortable with the city, I found myself taking different routes home in hope of discovering different paintings. The passion put into each piece shows the presence it has had in the city through years of dictatorship and democracy, happiness and discontent, and prosperity and failure.
When the opportunity came up to take a street art tour through my ISA program, I learned the history of street art in Buenos Aires. Street art hasn’t always been welcomed in the city because of the negative connotations that are associated with graffiti. Spray painting fronts of homes and buildings with profanity became such a problem in the city that bans on all street art were put in place. In the past few years, people have come to see the difference between graffiti and street art. Inside of pushing the art away, people have started to combat the invasive graffiti by welcoming street artists to paint the fronts of their buildings and homes.
The thought behind this movement is that people are less likely to vandalize people’s property when there is already artwork on it. An unspoken rule is that if you can’t paint it better, leave it alone. This rule has stood the test of time, where almost all every painting has remained unharmed. Now that people have come to accept the street art, it has opened up a city full of empty canvases and an unlimited opportunity to bring beauty to the streets of Buenos Aires.
The world awaits…discover it.