|A lovely day in Autumn -- A hillside in a park in downtown Buenos Aires, where Portenos (Buenos Aires residents) take in some sunshine.|
A grenadier stands on patrol. Grenadiers are an official contingent of soldiers assigned to the President. This soldier is not permitted to talk. They sometimes faint from the heat. Behind him is the Kavanaugh Building, one of Buenos Aires's first skyscrapers.
This Spring, we were fortunate to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, I gave an all-day presentation on pharmaceutical database marketing. This has been a special subject of mine, since I wrote a book on the subject in 1995. Our visit is the subject of this photo-essay.
I hope you will enjoy this offering in any number of ways... as an account of a business trip and presentation, and also as a portrait of some of the beautiful dimensions of Argentina -- people, places, art, and experiences. All were worth the 11 hour plane flight!
How it happened
The way this talk came about initially was through my writing a series
of articles for Direct Marketing Magazine in the 1990's. The subject
of those pieces was successful marketing on the internet. My future friend,
Pablo Felix of Argentina, read these articles and initiated a series of
e-mail correspondences with me. Then he discovered my pharmaceutical book,
bought a copy and even began translating it into Spanish.
A Buenos Aires downtown street, near our hotel. Typically clean, with narrow lanes and a combination of new and older buildings.
Several years later, Pablo invited us to visit his country, but this came at an inopportune time. Then in January of 2001, we got another invite. In short, the deal was for me to give a presentation to pharmaceutical execs and in return we would receive two free air tickets to Buenos Aires, and free hotel for several days. Also, Argentine pharmaceutical executives would have a chance to learn more about the unique information I had gathered in my book and slide presentation.
More important than all of this is the very real friendship that has arisen between Pablo and us.
Pablo's entire goal during the period leading up to our visit was for him to find a way of bringing us to "B.A."
|Equestrian statue in a Buenos Aires park.|
I am glad that Pablo has succeeded. He is such a warm, friendly and intelligent person, that his character and friendship shaped all dimensions of our visit. All of the architectural delights and scenes we have seen have been colored by his hospitality and warmth. That's the way it should be when visiting a new place -- having a great friend makes all the difference.
The hardest part of my visit was preparing for my talk. Six and a half hours is a long time, even for a major yapper such as myself.
The longest I had ever spoken publicly before on one subject was 1.5 hours for the Bell Atlantic Success education series in the early 1990s.
Those were sprints in comparison! Of course, I wanted to provide nothing but solid, high-level content.
With an audience this sophisticated and a program of this scope, that took some doing.
I am glad that I worked for many hours to develop about 50 new slides to add to my previous 80, hitting just about every possible source to update and strengthen my material. The graphics that I created from images of relevant web sites, ads, graphs and direct mail samples also added substantially to the interest-level of what I presented.
|More than 70 pharmaceutical executives attended the presentation. Some flew in from Uruguay. Translations were via FM speakers connected to the two translators, who worked from the specially constructed glass booth you can see at the back of the room.|
My greatest fear from the beginning was of running out of exciting material in, say, five hours and having to say apologetically, "That's all folks!"
That's a good line for Bugs Bunny -- but not for a speaker!
I was glad to actually get started, because I knew I'd finally be able to relax after this quasi-marathon.
Our hotel, which was also the conference center, was the stylish Melia
Confort, part of an upscale Spanish-owned chain.
|I moved frequently around the room and reached people at the back end of it, such as these folks. A roving mike lady fielded their questions and comments.|
The 70 or so participants included decision-makers from many of the region's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers including Merck, Roche, Pharmacia, Gardal and others.
A contingent even flew in from Montevideo, Uruguay, which is only a 50 minute flight away.
The crowd was very interested -- their profession -- and had many contributions and specific questions they wanted answered. Many were interested in the potential of web site development, especially for reaching the physician market.
Direct to Consumer Marketing is illegal or simply not done here, apart from patient adherence programs. This made a difference in the relevance of my talk, since a good deal of it focused on this subject. However, they were even interested in that part of the talk:
-- in part because they know that DTC will be the wave of the future and will eventually hit Argentina
-- in part because the requirements of OTC
I was wireless-miked and encouraged to roam the long narrow room, which I did. The night before, I transferred my Power Point presentation to a laptop they rented for me. I did this with the help of an external zip drive that Pablo handed me. They rented a laptop for me, too.
|A spacious boulevard called Avenue de 9 de Julio, capped by an oblisk reminiscent of our Washington monument.|
Two problems occurred before the talk -- first, I could not plug anything into the 220v outlets. The outlets provided did not seem to match the prongs of the rented laptop or the transformer I had purchased. Secondly, I couldn't hook up all of the devices. It was a jungle of electronic spaghetti!
The hotel staff at the beautiful Melia Confort was very helpful, though. They rescued me from the electronic nightmare. First, the man found multiple outlets hidden under the surface of the room's desk. Nice hiding job! They even had the right prongs.
I got the show transferred and prepped for my talk till 2 a.m., and set my alarm for 6:30. Since the phones were dead, due to bad wiring, the staff agreed to awaken me with an old fashioned knock on the door.
It would have been bad form to be sleeping, unshaven, witless from lack of sleep and in pajamas with 70 eager attendees waiting for me downstairs!
I began the talk slowly even with 130 slides (called diapositivas in Espanol) and yet was not confident that this content could fill 6.5 hours. After all, I did not have amazing anecdotes to accompany each and every slide. So a rate of 20 per hour did not seem like a lot.
I'm glad I did extensive additional note-taking in red pen in my presentation notebook before the event. I significantly beefed up the information I had in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as this is a major area of international interest and a significant item in the advance billing for my presentation.
After taking 4 hours to move through 45 slides, I finally felt I had enough material to carry me along into the home stretch. One gent in the audience told an interesting story about his promotions to MDs for Prozac... His firm commissioned a history of Psychoanalysis in Argentina. They used this 3-volume book as an incentive for shrinks to allow meetings with sales reps. This was a fairly creative approach and we heard many stories of similar local creativity.
|El Cabildo, an historical location important to the history of the indepedence struggle in 1849.|
The Pink House is the Argentine equivalent of our White House. The current president is de la Rua, who coincidentally was in Washington meeting with Bush during our visit.
The Casa Roja is guarded by Grenadiers, similar to British Beefeaters, although their garb is not as elaborate. They march in an interesting lockstep in semi-robotic fashion as they proceed around the Plaza de Mayo.
|The Casa Rosada is in effect the "rosy house" or Pink House, where President de la Rua now lives. It is painted red with animal blood -- but don't ask me why!|
On the sidewalk of that Plaza, relatives of disappeared persons have painted outlines of their relatives' bodies in white paint.
I always enjoy zoos. This one had charming flamingoes, llamas, a camel with a tipped lump (he needed Viagra), a lion sleeping with his paws in the air, and much more.
|Statue at the Zoological Gardens.|
|Pond at the Zoological Gardens in downtown B.A.|
|Giraffes at the Zoo do not speak Spanish!|
|Statues like this set the scene in the Botanical Gardens.|
The Botanical Gardens were lovely especially because of the park's use of classical and romantic sculpture in combination with plantings.
|I love this insane-looking scene from the Botanical Gardens. Reminds me of a scene from the Peter Weiss's play, The Presecution and Assasination of Marat, as performed by the Inmates at the Asylum of Charenton.|
DOWNTOWN - GALLERIA PACIFICO, THE FLORIDA
The Florida is a major, closed street dedicated exclusively to shopping.
You can stroll on it and relax, not buy a thing and enjoy the street life.
|A newsstand on the Florida. You can get an English-language paper -- the Herald Tribune, but it will cost you $3.50!|
|Sorry about the poor quality of this pic, but I thought you might like to see a hint of the elaborate ceiling murals inside Galleria Pacifico.|
|This boy played for us on the Florida.|
Perhaps the prettiest mall upon it is the Galleria Pacifico. I especially admired its 19th Century architecture, which reminded me of that of The Bourse, a downtown Philadelphia shopping center and former commodities exchange. Those of you who know me well will recall that I was Publicity Director for The Bourse in the early 1980's.
|This ornate front belongs to the Naval Club on the Florida.|
As part of my job I proposed and completed a photo display on its history, architecture, and rehabilitation during the late 1970s and early 1908's. So I have a special appreciation for grand, restored architecture. The murals in this building gave me special pleasure, though they were not explained on the premises.
This museum had a good share of works by famous painters whom I enjoy, such as Degas, Manet, Gauguin, Toulous Lautrec, and others.
|Photo of a painting by Segui, which of course does the original an injustice. His style during this period of his reminds me of the cartoonist R. Crumb and his "White Man" series.|
I very much appreciated the work of Argentine artists represented, including Segui.
|A busy cosmopolitan street in Buenos Aires. Commercialism is prominent but restricted to certain areas.|
With our friends, we visited a tango club, Esquina Homero Manzii. The empressario of our event, Maximo Sandberg, selected this night spot. It was an excellent choice!
|Kids playing in a classic Greek love temple.|
We did not see Portenos tangoing, but we did see a very special show while sitting perhaps 30 feet from the stage.
They made liberal use of a fogging machine which actually added to the atmospherics. A singer named Alberto started the show. He was dressed in the style of the famous tango composer and singer of the 1930s, Carlos Gardel. Dancers were sensuous and dramatic in their presentations. The audience did not dance at any point.
The show included about 20 numbers, including several that were strictly instrumental. The arrangement featured a pianist, violinist, acoustic bassist and bandoneon player, plus several singers. The bandoneon is like a small accordion, and its sounds seems to be one of the critical ingredients that defines tango.
It was a fabulous show -- sexy, involving, emotional and stylish -- a window into recent history and perhaps into the Argentine soul. Our friends had never been to a tango bar -- but that's typical of residents of a large, cosmopolitan, metropolis, isn't it?
How many New Yorkers have been to Radio City, after all?
However, they knew many of the famous tango tunes by heart.
|Boys playing in a park in San Telmo.|
|Mothers protesting in the Plaza de Mayo.|
The Plaza de Mayo is a large public square. It is famous for protest by the Mothers of the Disappeared. These are mothers of political protesters, mostly left-wing, who were "disappeared" meaning killed by the regime of generals of the 1970's. The generals during that period were Videla and Viola.
|The bandana is the symbol of the Mothers.|
The mothers have now become grandmothers and continue their protests on a regular basis.
|A lovely church in atmospheric San Telmo.|
On Saturday, we visited the charming neighborhood of San Telmo. This area is somewhat like Greenwich Village, but is more atmospheric in that it is less overwhelmed with traffic and such.
|A poster of Carlos Gardal, the most famous tango singer of the 1930's. Gardal was also a film star. He died in a plane crash at the height of his fame. This shot was taken at an open air artisan's fair in the center of San Telmo.|
The open air fair at the Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo had hundreds of booths selling antiques of all varieties.
In the gorgeous white autumn sunshine, with the temperature at about 70 degrees F, it provided a delightful opportunity for strolling and shopping.
|Child and pooch in San Telmo.|
The National Historic Museum contains many artifacts of the War of Independence, in 1816, including a reproduction of the room in Luxemburg where the revered liberator Simon Bolivar died.
A good place for traditional Argentine fare is a restaurant called El Estable, or The Stable on Paraguay avenue. This was a parilla restaurant, meaning that they cook on a grill called a parilla. I had my first blood sausage or Mocilla, definitely not a treat intended for every palate. It's a large, almost black sausage, and the texture is sticky and in my view delicious. But once again is clearly not for everybody!
|The downtown Customs House.|
The Theatre Colon is the nation's national theater.
|A portion of the ornate exterior of Teatro Colon, where many important concerts are held|
The exterior was beautiful in what I believe is a rococco style, with elaborate moldings and sculptures. I hear the inside is far more magnificent, but did not have a chance to see inside. The backstage tour of opera stage sets, costumes and more are said to be fascinating -- maybe next visit!
|This is a mural on the way to Boca. Sorry about the bluriness -- it was shot from a moving car! Notice if you can the 3-D figures peering from 2nd story windows.|
Boca is a neighborhood founded by Italian immigrant workers at the turn of the century. One of its distinguishing features is its brightly painted walls. Also, many statues, murals and relief works enhance a wall there. Most art seems to focus on worker scenes, and it all ads up to a unique effect.
|Old and new buildings like these are often side by side -- or built into one another.|
A highly touristy but pleasurable walk may be had along a narrow alley called El Camito -- the little street. There we saw dancers, singers, a paralyzed man who painted with a brushes held in his teeth, and much more.
|Monuments like this appear in prominent places, along wide boulevards.|
A drive through Porto Madero, the riverside district, showed the many former workers' homes and granaries that have almost all been converted into modern housing.
It's a shame our trip had to end, but we hope to return, perhaps someday soon.
|Teatro Cervantes is the national theater, where dramas are shown.|
We lacked time to travel beyond Buenos Aires, but there are numerous attractions of every kind beyond the city's boundaries. Next time maybe we'll make a trip north to see Iguazu Falls, one of the world's great cataracts.
|Host Pablo Felix (left) and I share a short moment as a tall friend looks on. Pablo was our host. A wonderful person, in every sense.|
I'd recommend a vacation in Argentina to anyone looking for a civilized, world-class experience in a beautiful Latin American city. Of course, not everyone can expect the incredible hospitality and friendship that we enjoyed. But the city alone has so much to offer on its own terms, making a visit worthwhile!
To reach Albert Fried-Cassorla, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org