Monday, April 25, 2011

U.S. Americans in Buenos Aires: the New Expat Mecca

Looking for an expat Mecca?  It looks like North Americans have found it in Buenos Aires.
La Nacion reports today that there are more immigrants to Buenos Aires from the USA than anywhere else, if you the exclude neighboring countries of Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil.  Over 26,000 U.S. citizens are documented as living in Argentina’s largest city, while it is guesstimated that more like 60,000 are actually calling the once Paris of South America home.
Documentation is actually a bit tricky since the U.S. census does not count expats.  Besides, many live here as either illegally or by renewing their tourist visa every three months by crossing the river into Uruguay to get their passport stamped anew.  
“They come as tourists, others as students, and even newly retired persons.  But they quickly fall in love with its city—its artistic activity, cuisine, nightlife, and devalued currency—and decide to grow roots in this land,” writes journalist Evangelina Himitian for the national newspaper.  (Click here for full article in Spanish.)  
Buenos Aires and Peking show up as the two new popular expat destinations for U.S. Americans, according to a study by University of Maryland anthropologist Judith Freidenberg, a native Argentinian.  Far and away, the largest U.S. expat communities however are in Mexico and Canada, with over two million each.  There are just 10,000 in Peking.  (Do you suppose the language has something to do with this?).
Freidenberg divides the immigrants into four classes: 
(1)  Students who come to learn, have a great time, and then decide to stay, living off their parents and/or by teaching English.  (This and the next group share tips and adventures a lot at, by the way.) 
(2)  The twenty-somethings who are taking an early sabbatical, many of whom end up working in call centers operated for clients in English-speaking countries.  They often choose to live in the hip barrios of San Telmo and Palermo. 
(3)  The young professionals, possibly affected by the recession, who figure they can live better here by working for a multinational or starting a small business.   
(4)  Retired middle-class persons who sell their U.S. home and get a nice apartment in Buenos Aires and live better than at home.
I'm going to add the class of “fools for love,” which describes me and my closest expat friends here!  And while no one in their right mind would move here for the politics, I've been intrigued by the older norteamericanas whose passion for the tango brought them here.  
In a country of 40 million Argentinians, can the new immigrants influence the culture?  Probably not yet, though over a century ago, political philosopher Juan Bautista Alberdi advocated increased immigration  from the U.S., England, and France in order to bolster a pathetic work ethic, which continues to this day, according to my own cultural informants here.  Will this modern-day wave from the North make a dent in the increasingly anti-capitalistic trajectory of the current dictatorial President?  Probably not, especially since most won't even be voting, but surely these folks will have a good time until inflation and joblessness end the party for everyone.  Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy the company.  
Welcome, compatriots!


tinatangos said...

They forgot the people who move there for tango! :-) A group in and of itself. ;-)

Gayle said...

Good point, Tina!!! And what a wonderful, zest group that is! Do you think it is mostly women? And how long do people stay? A few years? a lifetime?

Trương Chi said...

I love Messi, I love Argentine football team !