I don’t know why I feel compelled to write an article with such “serious” overtones as this one but to rave about the city of Buenos Aires without painting an entire feature seems a tad dishonest. Right now as I sit at an Internet café that has become my second home in Palermo, I occasionally catch the glimpses of city life outside the window. Two sights are vying for my attention and it’s hard to decide which is more heartbreaking.
It’s no secret that debilitating poverty despite exorbitant social welfare policies ravages large cities, especially in large underdeveloped countries. It’s more visible in the downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods that have descended into little more than shantytowns. But in the northern part of the cities it’s easier to become mesmerized by the modern skyscrapers and leather goods stores while not even noticing the poverty stricken people sitting outside designer boutiques.
If you were in my place as I write this you would see a young mother who has her right leg amputated venturing into the street when the light turns red in the hopes that some driver will be having a reasonably good day and feel compassionate enough to offer some token change. Unfortunately on a day like today, she isn’t having much. Sadly it isn’t as wrenching as the other scene unfolding right below where her leg should be. Her two children, I would suppose the oldest being 3, are trying to keep entertained. Her youngest has found an empty water bottle that is doing the job but he isn’t able to quite get the hang of his new toy and so every few minutes it roles into the busy street and he crawls away after it. Time and time again the mother makes haste with her crutches to retrieve the bottle and toss it towards the safety of the sidewalk. Everyone that passes by wouldn’t think to help.
Perhaps I’ve become so focused on this particular scene because I’ll soon be back in the comfort of the Pennsylvania suburbs and I feel some guilt or if it’s simply human compassion; I’d like to think it’s the latter. Regardless of my personal feelings it does provide a glaring picture of the rich-poor gap that exists in countries like Argentina, and worldwide. While I by no means am at either end of the spectrum, the fact that I’m comfortably sipping coffee as I type on my computer and the woman outside tries to survive makes me grateful for that which I do have without question. Of course the cynic in me leaves room for the idea that the “water bottle into the street” is just a gimmick to evoke sympathetic feelings of nearby gringos.