One of the women in the level two Spanish class has some connections here and was invited on a guided tour of the Congreso building while she was here. She graciously arranged for a group of us in the first three levels of Spanish class to go, so I got to explore in depth the imposing Congreso last Wednesday!
It started with a little bit of initial confusion, with nobody there to greet us as amazingly our group was closer to American time than Argentine time (aka a group of ten people actually arrived within just a few minutes of when they said they would). Eventually a guide and our fellow student’s contact arrived, and we found out that the guide only spoke Spanish. So anything after this paragraph, take with a grain of salt. I’m only at level one of Spanish, after all!
The guide handed out mini copies of the Argentine constitution to everyone, we went through security, and we were in! First stop, the official ceremonious doors and entryway, almost all of which was made from imported materials. In fact, that holds true for pretty much the entire building.
Next came the room with all the flags of the different provinces, with its stained glass roof under repair. Apparently it’s been under repair for a while, as every time bad weather arrives, the glass gets moved around by the wind. Sounds challenging, and like maybe they need a different way to fix the panels down.
Then came a super imposing room, the center of the building, the Blue Room. The Blue Room is located directly under the dome and houses the constitution (one of multiple original signed copies, if I understood correctly). There is a magnificent chandelier dripping in baccarat crystal and showcasing plaques on the metal part that represent eight or nine important moments in Argentine history. (I didn’t quite get the details on what those events were, however.)
We visited a room used by the senators to relax. It’s full of leather and the scent and atmosphere of old men, which may not be fair as I have no idea of the average senatorial age here – and there was only one senator in the building anyway as it’s between sessions right now. Another room was decorated in pink and was the equivalent room for women. Quite pretty and a nice thought for back in the day, though now, appropriately, both rooms are for both sexes. We disturbed a staffer of some sort having coffee in the pink room, but at some point he stepped out so we could then visit.
Next came one of the most amazing moments: we got to enter the Senate, sit in the senators’ seats, and even go up in the front of the room and sit in the Vice President’s seat. Everyone had been taking a ton of pictures of themselves posing in places during the tour – this was where I stopped taking pictures of just the building and posed myself!
Our foray into the Chamber of Deputies’s side of the building was shorter: we entered the (very large) Chamber and the waiting room in front of it. By now I think people were getting tired, as we had been there for quite some time what with the tour guide’s lectures and all the photo-taking. But we got to wrap up in my favorite room, the library! It was absolutely beautiful.
In fact it was all beautiful. It seemed very European, very 19th century, even though it dates from later than that.
We headed out as it grew dark, and I went off for dinner and then my first venture out to a milonga. La Viruta offers tango classes most nights of the week and is very welcoming to beginners (at least during the class – I got asked to dance several times by individuals who ran away when I told them I was a rank beginner. Not that I blame them. Too much.) I enjoyed it despite the fact that it was extremely crowded in the beginners class. After the classes, the floor opened for dancing (aka the milonga part of the evening) and I enjoyed watching some very good dancers tango. I even managed to not scare someone by my newness and danced!