Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO, URUGUAY-When visiting a big city, it is easy to be overwhelmed by crowds, noise, and pollution. This can be the case in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, there is a peaceful retreat that is only a boat ride away.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay is a coastal city along the Rio de la Plata that offers a relaxing getaway from the stress of city life. According to gosouthamerica.about.com it was founded as a Portuguese settlement in 1680 and was the focus of struggle between the Portuguese and Spanish who founded Montevideo. For years Colonia del Sacramento operated as a contraband port, evading the strictures imposed on trade by the Spanish crown.

Today Colonia del Sacramento is a port and trade center, but is most known for being a resort city.

The easiest way to get to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires is by Buquebus (http://www.buquebus.com), a ferry service. There are two speeds of ferry to choose from.  A trip on the fast boat lasts about one hour while a trip on the slower boat lasts about three hours. The faster boat is more expensive. Depending on how much time you would like to spend in Colonia, the faster boat may be worth the extra money. Tickets start at around USD $48. Weekend ferries may be crowded and more expensive.

Once in Colonia del Sacramento there are many options for transportation. Scooters, bikes, golf carts and cars can all be rented hourly or daily. Rental offices can be found just outside the ferry terminal. Since prices vary, you should shop around to find the best deal on the vehicle you would like. Taxis are also available but are not as common as in larger cities.

For the visitor just looking to spend a day exploring Colonia, walking might be the best option. The main attractions are fairly close together and all within walking distance.

The number one rated attraction on Trip Advisor is the Colonia del Sacramento lighthouse. Built in 1857 from the ruins of Convento de San Francisco, this lighthouse offers the chance to climb to the top and look out over all of Colonia.

The lighthouse is located in Barrio Historico. This part of town offers a glimpse into 17th and 18th century Colonia. The district has several museums as well as Uruguay’s oldest church. In 1995, Barrio Historico was designated a UNESCO heritage site.

The Plaza Mayor is located in the Barrio Historico and is known for its museums. One is the Museo Portuguese, which offers a look at Portuguese architecture, furnishings, and military uniforms, standards and other items. The other is the Museo Municipal, which has both Spanish and Portuguese items and furnishings and other items illustrating colonial life.

When it comes time for a meal in Colonia del Sacramento, El Drugstore is highly recommended. This restaurant features bright colors and pictures covering the walls. It offers an outdoor seating area including a table inside an old car. El Drugstore offers a large selection of food with menus available in Spanish and English.

Colonia del Sacramento also offers a wide variety of local shops with items to please almost any visitor. Since this is a tourist town, the items available are mostly souvenir items. One store offered antiques as well as products made from local stones. Another store offered hand made utensils of bone and bowls made of wood.

Colonia del Sacramento is a place that cannot be completely summarized.  Its charm is best discovered by taking the time to explore the city and experience its small wonders.

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Los Madres de Plaza de Mayo

 by, Hillary Houston 

     The sun is shining as the icy breeze cuts to the heart, reminding the protesters of Plaza de Mayo of a much colder time in Buenos Aires.

Protestors paint white head scarves, or paῆuelos, with names and dates of the disappeared in an attempt to bring attention to their cause.

     Protestors march, wrapped in blankets clutching each other as they bear the burden of a haunting history. The voices of opposition come from the disturbing stories of mothers and grandmothers who long to see their missing family members.
     Argentine mothers whose children “disappeared” during the military dictatorship called the Dirty War, from 1976-1983, cry for answers and object to being forgotten.

     The Dirty War was a seven-year military campaign carried out by the Argentine government. The military government maintained its power for so long by wiping out anybody who challenged their authority.

     Both opponents of the government as wells as innocent people “disappeared” or were kidnapped in the middle of the night. These people were taken to secret government “detention centers” where they were tortured and killed. These people are known as the “los desaparecidos” or “the disappeared’.

     “I regret not getting more involved with the disappeared,” Uki Goñi, an Argentine journalist reporting the mothers’ testimonie, said. “But if I had, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
     Family, friends and community members gather every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to protest the disappearance of their loved ones.
     The Madres de Plaza de Mayo is an organization of Argentine women who fight for human rights in order to achieve a common goal. Their name comes from the Plaza de Mayo at which grandmothers and mothers of the lost first gathered in 1976.  For over three decades, the Mothers have struggled together in search of closure and truth.
     Generations of mothers have supported each other in their pursuit to find their missing sons and daughters. The mothers argue that under the military dictator, Juan Domingo Perón, as many as 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed. Three of the founding mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have also disappeared.
     Without consequences or explanations, the protestors insist on bringing their cases to justice.

     “Considering the past and our struggles with the government, the Argentine people have slowly adapted the habitation of evil,” Goῆi said. “Years ago, speaking out against the government meant life or death, so most people chose to not say anything.”

     Currently the Argentine government has admitted to 11,000 disappeared cases. Still, no apologies or memorial efforts have been made.
     Today, masses of white head scarves, or paῆuelos, banners, and pictures of the missing bring attention to this true human tragedy. In front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, hundreds of lost names are blessed by gatherers as they walk and chant.   
     The exact number of those missing is impossible to determine due to the secrecy surrounding the abductions but the Mothers’ association seeks to keep the memory of their disappeared children alive through their courage, persistence and independence.

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A Day of Polo

By: Ben Dobbs

As someone who does not have much experience riding horses the idea of playing polo does not sound that exciting. In fact when I was told that we were going to be playing polo I slightly shrugged at the idea.

Even though I enjoy riding horses, trying new things and taking on challenges headfirst the idea of running down a field with a stick on a horse did not sound appealing.

However as we were riding in the car to the polo fields I got to hear stories from our professor of how great polo really was. I was still a little bit skeptical but as we pulled up to the fields and saw people practicing I started to change my mind.

Photo By Fernando Nieto

When we met our instructor, he started off telling us some simple safety tips and a quick over view of how to play polo. It seemed easy enough you get on the horse, hold on and hit a ball with a stick. Easier said than done.

When we mounted our horses I suddenly felt that I was ten feet off the ground. I did not feel like my life was in my hands any more.

The instructor led us on to the field and let us ride around to get used to being on the horses. After riding around for a little while I finally felt comfortable on the horse. I started to get a lot more excited thinking this is going to be fun.

I thought to my-self I might actually enjoy this. The instructor said it was time to grab the mallets and start hitting the ball and learn the rules. I thought it was going to be easy. All you have to do is look for the ball, get your horse to go up to the ball, swing and hit the ball. Needless to say I missed the ball quite a few times.

Photo By Fernando Nieto

After playing around for a little while we got ready to start a match. If you have never seen a polo match the beginning of the match looks like two groups about to standoff and go to war. The two teams line up across from each other. The ball is thrown into the middle and the game begins.

Everyone is scrambling around for the ball and it looks like a bunch of ants going for food. But after one team gains possession of the ball the game starts to get more interesting.

The only thing that was on my mind during the match was that I wanted to score a point and I did not want to fall off. Luckily I accomplished both. I didn’t fall and managed to score a point in the last half of the game. It was so invigorating to be riding down the field hitting the ball, as it got closer to the goal. When I made contact with the ball that one last time and it went into the goal the feeling was incredible.

By the time the match was done I did not want to get off. I wanted to keep playing and improving my skills in a game I know found incredible.

Photo By Fernando Nieto

My only piece of advise for polo is that if you do not ride horses often you might want to prepare to be sore. For the next couple of days I was very sore and had to sit in the hot tub at the hotel for quite a few hours.
If you ever get the chance to play polo I highly recommend it. It is a very exhilarating experience. There is no greater felling than scoring a goal in polo.

If you are as skeptical about polo as I was, I can guarantee that if you give the sport a chance you will change you mind in a heartbeat.

So the next time you have an opportunity to play polo, go out and experience all the fun that it has to offer. If you spend one day out on the field you will not regret playing polo.

Pollution in Buenos Aires

by Jessica Byrd

Buenos Aires, Argentina has had increasing smog issues due to the pollution from unregulated vehicles and emissions from power stations.

The city’s pollution levels are not as high in the summer and fall months because of strong winds because of the city’s location on a flat plain next to the La Plata River system.

However, in the winter people are at a much higher risk of getting respiratory infections because of the high amounts of pollution that remain in the area.

“The pollution here is very bad,” said Buenos Aires resident, Celia Garcia, in an email. “It feels like it gets worse every year because of the extra traffic every year.”

The increase in pollution has lead many citizens to protest over the health risks posed by the poor air quality. In response, the government set up air quality monitoring stations in the two places with the worst air pollution concentrations.

“The hospitals here have carbon monoxide readers that the nurses use to read peoples’ poison levels,” said Uki Goni, an author and resident of Buenos Aires.

Another attributing factor to pollution being worse in the winter is during the coldest days of the year the thermal power plants burn a gas and oil mixture.

In 2008 Eagle Coating, an insulation company, was hired to coat the pipes at the thermal plant in order to diminish pollution.

The project was a success and the company has since been hired for a second insulating and surface corrosion plan. According to www.eaglecoatings.net, the combination of these two plans should significantly cut down on pollution from the thermal power plant.

One of the reasons vehicle pollution is so high is because there is no regulation requiring catalytic converters in cars.

In 2006 tests by Scielo, a Latin American applied research company determined that inhalation of the city’s air during the winter months can actually be detrimental residents’ and visitors’ health.

Through these efforts the Argentine government aims to reduce pollution within the province and improve public health.

The Romance of Buenos Aires

by Jessica Byrd

There are many reasons for people to visit Buenos Aires. Some visit to experience the birthplace of tango, some go for the leather goods and some go for the shopping. However, it isn’t until people arrive that they truly see the romance that Buenos Aires has to offer.

Never worry again about being late for that business meeting. In Buenos Aires the taxi drivers will get you where you need to go in a flash, literally. You may break your neck in the process, but at least you won’t disappoint your boss by being late.

Want to take dancing lessons but don’t want to pay for them or fight the crowd? Problem solved! The streets of this wondrous city offer you every opportunity you need to get your toe-tapping skills to their maximum level. Broken and uneven sidewalk combined with strategically placed doggy landmines create the optimal dance course for any beginner.

If you’re looking for a long romantic dinner out with your significant other, then look no further. In Buenos Aires time is not of the essence when it comes to eating. Take as long as you like to look lovingly into your partner’s eyes because it’ll be at least two hours by the time you get through your meal. Keep in mind that this is at some of the faster places to eat.

Window shopping is a great way to pass the time away when you don’t have anything to do, but sometimes just looking through the window isn’t enough. However, then there is the concern of taking up the workers’ time when you aren’t really interested in buying anything.

Once again your problems are no more. Look around the shops all you want without concern. All the workers will do is stare you down to make sure you don’t steal anything. Other than that, expect no other annoyance from them and be able to browse at your leisure.

If you tend to have a problem with keeping things you don’t need anymore then Buenos Aires is the place for you. All you have to do is bring some of that old stuff out with you and some nice resident will be happy to lift it off your person. What could be easier than that?

The marvels of Buenos Aires are an endless adventure. Between the endless dance course, dinner conversations that are timeless and never having to worry about extra junk, it’s a wonder anyone ever leaves.

A Stroll Down Calle Florida

By: Ben Dobbs

Polo Pony Party

Photo by Fernando Nieto

by Jessica Byrd

If you ever have a chance, there is one thing you must try: polo.

However, polo is not a game for the faint of heart. Imagine racing down a 300 yard field with seven other mounted players bearing down on you with large, wooden mallets in hand.

All the players are trying to smack a tiny ball into their respective goals and you never know when you or your horse are going to be bopped in the head by a stray mallet.

If you’ve never seen or played a game of polo you should understand that the rules were made only to keep people from playing the game. There seemed to be a lot of them and an infraction incurs a penalty.

As fun as it was to learn how to play and whack the ball down the field, I can’t tell you how many penalties I earned while playing. Although, the elation I felt when I finally hit that ellusive little ball through the goal posts was incredible.

It’s a small wonder I was able to make it up and down the field at all considering the state of my horse. Actually, it was more of a pony. A very thin pony that would barely trot to the ball unless I was “rude” to it by using the little whip the instructor had given out.

When the game first begins it is like an ultimate stand-off. Both teams line their horses up facing each other about three feet apart. The ball is then hit into the midst of players and it is every man for himself. Like I said, this game is not for the faint of heart.

You can get a penalty for everything, and I did. You can’t cross in front of another player’s horse when they have control of the ball. You can only hit the ball with your right hand. There are countless more rules than this.

I was in a group of seven and after our instructor gave us some basic instructions we split up into teams and had a match.

I am proud-and very surprised-to say that our team was awesome and would have made quick work of the game. The winner is the first team to score seven. However, when the score was six to one our instructor decided to join the other team. Needless to say, they quickly caught up.

In the end, it was close, but my team prevailed but it wasn’t without a lot of effort at the end. Our instructor was completely right when he said that the last goal is the most difficult and the other team had great defense.

I would highly recommend trying this game at least once to everyone.  However, if you aren’t accustomed to riding horses, you may want to make sure you won’t have to be doing anything strenuous for the next few days. I can tell you the recovery period for your behind is nearly as brutal as Ole Miss losing a football game, and that is something that no one enjoys.