Tango in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires has made a name for itself as one of the most exciting cities in the World. It is not difficult to see why. With its charming architecture and rich history, it is an absolute must see for any intrepid traveller.

Buenos Aires is also the home of The Tango, and Tango dancers can be found throughout the city, even using street corners and pavements as their stage. Every form of the remarkable dance and activity related to it can be found in Buenos Aires. Tango is so interwoven into the fabric of the city that you find it everywhere. Television, movies, magazines, the Tango culture is prevalent everywhere. If it is the history of the passionate dance you would like to learn or indeed the moves themselves, it is certainly possible in Buenos Aires.

Tango Clubs are popular and are located everywhere. It is not hard to find a Tango club if you fancy trying out a few steps and watching as the pros take to the floor. You will be sure to pick up some great tips and steps to help you master the art of Tango dancing.

If it is more of a spectator role you wish to take, then how about catching a show whilst visiting the city. There are Theatres such as the Recoleta Cultural Center which holds Tango shows and performances every week. Built in 1732, it was originally a convent connected to the Basílica del Pilar and couldn’t make for a nicer setting to watch some Tango carried out by the professionals. Even restaurants often entertain their customers with Tango performances, so you can combine the delights of a nice meal and a drink with a show.

Informal Tango group classes are offered throughout the city which do not involve scheduling or regular commitment. These are a fantastic way for the traveller to learn a few steps on an informal basis whilst meeting other would-be dancers in this remarkable city.

Tango Your Way to Good Health

Everyone knows that ballroom dancing is a fun form of exercise, and that dancing the Tango is particularly fun. Did you know that not only is dancing the Tango a great way to lose weight and look good, it has numerous other health benefits as well?

The Tango, which originated in Argentina, is a sultry and sexy partner dance, one that was originally danced in Argentina’s brothels. It moved into mainstream popularity, and has become a sensation. There are two main styles of competitive Tango dancing: American Tango and International Tango.

Dancing the Tango can do many things to improve your overall health. For one thing, dancing the Tango, or any style of dance for that matter, helps improve your respiratory functions.

If you are looking for a way to improve your posture, look no further than dancing the Tango. When you take Tango lessons, your instructor will drill good posture into you, until it becomes second nature. If you want to learn how to practice perfect posture before you begin your Tango lessons, here is a great method: stand or sit up straight; shrug your shoulders up towards your ears; bring your shoulders back; relax your shoulders. You should now be in perfect posture.

In addition to creating better posture, dancing the Tango can also help to improve your balance. When learning the Tango, students are learning intricate footwork, which requires balance, so, even if you don’t realize it, your balance will improve with each lesson. Many people say that after only a few weeks of lessons, they have noticed a marked improvement in their balance, and are more confident of their footing when they are out in public.

Dancing the Tango has even been known to help Parkinson’s patients. This condition often causes patients to have difficulties with balance and walking. In some studies, Parkinson’s patients have been divided into two groups, with one group doing regular exercise for a specified period of time, and the other dancing the Tango. These studies have shown that the group that Tango’d found more improvement than those who did the regular exercises.

Don’t forget your sexual health! Not necessarily physical, but the emotional side. Dancing the Tango is incredibly sensual, and if you and your partner (your significant other, or maybe the partner you met at your dance class…wink, wink) want to try something new to spice things up, there’s nothing much spicier than the Tango to get you in the mood!

So, as you can see, dancing the Tango is not only a fun and sensual way to exercise, it is a really awesome way to improve your health, and it doesn’t even seem like work! You will lose weight, gain muscle tone, breathe better, walk taller, and you balance will improve. What more can you ask for, just from one little style of dance?

Imagine You Were a Tango Teacher – Advantages of Tango Holidays and Lessons in a Small Group

Asking yourself where to go for a tango holiday or where to take lessons of this beautiful dance, being an Argentine Tango dancer mainly you have two options. Visiting a big festival with hundreds of participants or learning at a Tango holiday in a small group.

Big festivals certainly offer more distractions, and one can meet more people to socialize.

What however are the advantages you have, participating in a Tango workshop in a small group

Some advantages are obvious for everybody.

Teachers have enough time to care for every participant, giving advice individually. Participants have the possibility to ask their tango teachers at once when they haven’t understood something

Classes in the familiar atmosphere of a small group however offer advantages you might not realize at first thought.

Just imagine being not a participant of the tango workshop but a teacher. Imagine you would teach at a big festival.

In the morning from 9:30 to 11:00 o’clock maybe Tango intermediate level. After that Tango intensive workshop with “sacadas”. From 2pm Vals Cruzado for beginners and at 4pm Vals Cruzado intermediate level with “giros”. After 6pm Milonga Traspié until… and so on, and so on…

All that during two, three days with changing participants, the biggest part of them you see in one of your Tango lessons only once, maybe two times if you´re lucky.

Let´s assume you are a good Tango teacher not yet dulled by traveling and teaching at all the different festivals, seeing all the new faces. Do you think you can do justice to all the participants attending your classes?

There are many teachers who really do their best. Yet as a participant do you assume, an instructor at a big event, can give you the best tuition, having to cope every day with lots of new people, with their smaller and bigger problems and their different dancing levels?

And what about the time when the lesson is over. Do the instructors still have time and energy to talk with you. Can they answer the questions the participants still might have, while the participants of the next class already are waiting impatiently.

Maybe the biggest advantage a small workshop offers is the abundance of time everybody has.

The teachers have a full week to concentrate exclusively on the participants.

They are able to perceive individual strength and weak points and help everybody to dance better.

Another advantage is that there is no next group when your lesson is over. There is lots of time to answer questions, which pop up in your mind after the class, to chat, to explain…

And the teachers don’t leave once the class is over. They are available, maybe at the pool or during the meals.

What do you think? Do you learn better, quicker and with less stress in the familiar atmosphere of a small class. I certainly do.

By the way, I don’t say you shouldn’t go to big Tango festivals. It can be fun and another welcome opportunity to dance this sensual Argentine dance.

When it comes to getting results from the teaching however, you probably should not expect to much, when you attend a workshop where 20 couples or more are considered a “small class”

Wolfgang Sandt

Wolfgang Sandt Sculptor, stone mason, painter and tango teacher Via Campagna 17 Castel Rigone 06065 Passignano sul Trasimeno (PG) Tel/Fax 075 845457 Cell 349 0764 009 Wolfgang lives and works as free artist near Munich, Germany, and Passignano sul Trasimeno, Italy. Apart of being a sculptor He is as well tango dancer and teacher. He has been dancing Argentine Tango since 1994 learning from the worlds best tango dancers and teachers. He gives Argentine Tango lessons at Villa La Rogaia in Umbria, Italy focussing on the understanding of the music, on the harmony with the partner and the other couples on the dance floor and the joy of dancing rather than memorizing steps.

Dance Argentina’s Tango In Buenos Aires – 5 Lessons About This Sensual Dance

Being deeply attached to Argentina’s idiosyncrasy, most precisely to the soul of Buenos Aires – the cosmopolitan European-like capital of Argentina -, tango is now danced everywhere in the world, though there might not be a better place to dance it than in the many typical ballrooms of Buenos Aires’s neighborhoods.

Wherever you go, the music of tango immediately brings to people’s minds the name Argentina, a country full of natural and cultural treasures that cherishes a passion for tango that goes beyond all frontiers, cultures and languages. Every year thousands of international tourists of all ages come to Argentina to explore their beauties and learn Spanish, and when in Buenos Aires they cannot help themselves taking at least a couple of lessons and dance a tango!

Argentina’s tango has a language, a symbolism and a mystery that portrays the spirit of Buenos Aires’s people. Besides, if you happen to come to Buenos Aires, you can also learn Spanish and understand tango’s lyrics. The following first five lessons will give you an insight into this Buenos Aires’ dance.

Lesson 1: The first and most important thing about tango is how to embrace your partner. You might think there is nothing new to discover behind it. Yet embracing your partner the right way is one of the secrets of a good tango dance. Your embrace must be firm, but without pushing your partner. Your legs must be closed to each other, but without taking your partner’s breath away. Since your balance is in both of you, you should learn to communicate to enjoy the tango.

Lesson 2: Now we will learn the basic steps. There are eight beats in tango: One, two, three, four, five, and when changing to the fifth step the woman must lead all the weight of her body on her right foot, and then, with that same foot but changing the direction of her weight, she moves backwards, and you continue dancing: Six, seven and eight!

Lesson 3: Once you have learnt the basic steps, you need to know how to combine them in different steps and figures. In the eighth step there are two beats: One that lets you come in and the other that lets you come out. They go around the couple, and here the man can choose to give her partner enough space for her to move around, or accompany her movements.

Lesson 4: Synchronizing your movements is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of Argentina’s tango. To be successful, the man has to call his partner’s attention; otherwise he is invading her territory. Always remember that in tango, as in life, if you do not take your time to listen to your partner, what was meant as a dialogue may become a monologue.

Lesson 5: You are not going to learn any new step now. Before you continue, you should know quite well what you are doing. If you cannot understand what it means to dance Argentina’s tango, if you cannot feel its essence, no matter how well you dance, it will never be a real tango. Tango is danced by an embraced couple. You embrace your partner with your arms wide open and you surrender to your partner’s embrace. Argentina’s tango is about a corporal and affectionate dialogue.

Buenos Aires’ tango is more associated to a ballroom dance, and so Buenos Aires offers many traditional places where tourists can go and spend a wonderful night, tasting Argentina’s delicious meals and wines, and enjoying the company of a good live orchestra, while they learn Spanish in a great Buenos Aires’s atmosphere.

There are many novel tendencies nowadays as regards this dance. For example, some foreigners come to Buenos Aires and hire the services of a private tango dancer while some others profit from their travel to Argentina and join courses where they can learn Spanish and Tango at the same time. Buenos Aires is one of the cities most chosen for this purpose. Many young travelers wish to learn Spanish and immerse in the culture of Argentina since this is an only opportunity to spend some time in Buenos Aires, one of the most cultural dynamic capitals of the world, meet foreigners, learn Spanish in a Latin American environment, and dance tango as Argentina’s people do. So, Shall we dance a tango?

Visiting Buenos Aires Tango In Argentina

About a year ago my wife and I went to the movies to distract us from a difficult period in our lives. I had no way of knowing then that one day I would end up in a shoe shop in downtown Buenos Aires wearing a Carlos Gardel hat while strutting the tango snugly against various young Argentine women in tight clothes. And not just with my wife’s permission, but it was her brilliant idea in the first place.

Nothing much of interest was playing that hot summer night at our local movie Cinemaplex. But we could both agree to settle on a movie that had a picture of Richard Gere and lovely Jennifer Lopez on the billboard. It was called Shall We Dance.

I don’t like to dance but I don’t mind watching Mrs. (or is it Miss?) Lopez in tights. About half way through the movie I realized the degree of my wife’s enthrallment in Mr. Gere and the romanticized tale of Tango being presented in such a touching style. I was surprised when even I began to shed a tear at the end of the movie.

Tango. This was all my lovely wife could speak about. She researched it, rented tapes, bought shoes, and of course she made me sign up for tango lessons. To my disappointment, my tango teacher was not as exotic as Jennifer and I soon lost interest after my 4th class because I didn’t manifest into Richard Gere.

But my wife’s interest increased to the pitch of, “I want to go to Buenos Aires” on a daily basis. Finally I relented. A place I had never been, a language I had never spoken, and all because of a few dance steps I knew very little about.

I rented an apartment in San Telmo for 2 weeks at more than a third less than the cost of a hotel. After we paid the landlord, I unpacked and took a stroll around the neighborhood looking for tango. The first thing I noticed was the age of the architecture. It reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Wrought iron balconies and super sized windows. I saw about 5 interesting restaurants on my lap around my block as well as a few extraordinary women. I did not identify any immediate signs of tango but I kept seeing an old picture of a man that looked to be somebody famous and debonair.

The following day my wife and I went shopping for antiques and other unique items. We saw a sign for tango classes in a window and signed up for a 2 hour class at the price of $20 USD. The class was a living nightmare. Not only could we not understand what the teacher was explaining, we found the instructor to be very strict and rude. And the other students were taking it very seriously and laughed at us. It was a disaster and I swore I would never dance again.

The next day, as we wondered the cobblestone streets of the tango district, I saw a tango nightclub that was painted exotic colors and I bought 2 tickets for a show and dinner. This dinner had courses the size of free samples at our hometown grocery. And once the show began, I kept wondering where the rest of the band was. Were they out back smoking? The whole cast included 6 people. About half way through the show, the spotlight turned on us at and the MC began asking us questions in Spanish. I turned red and my wife and I felt very embarrassed as the crowd around us laughed at a joke we did not get.

Enough tango I told my wife. She suggested we take a city tour and found one in English for 20 pesos. This was her first good idea. I learned a lot that afternoon about Buenos Aires and the fascinating politics that could give most people whiplash. Our guide informed us about a Day Of Tango Tour that would guarantee a positive result and a deep look into the tango of Buenos Aires. I protested hard. My wife made a reservation anyway and at the last minute, I agreed to accompany her. Mostly due to fear about her dancing alone with Latin men.

This tour started out in a great café in the city. Then we walked through the old tango district and I finally learned about what I had been looking at the whole time. I learned who the man in the picture was, Carlos Gardel, and I discovered the history of the dance. Men created it and danced with each other in the beginning. They set the roles of women in a submissive stance thus making tango a manly dance. I could appreciate that.

We went to several areas of the city before we got to our tango lesson. We purchased tango shoes handmade at a 3rd of the cost in the US. Our teacher was very sweet and patient with us and as we danced, others began to join us. Amazing women about 30 years younger than me found themselves in my arms, looking up to follow my interpretation of the classic music. I got to kiss each one on the cheek after a 3-minute jaunt around the dance floor. Somebody put a tango hat on my head and my wife began taking pictures of my giant grin and me. It ended all too soon with more kisses and hugs and laughs. And I did indeed find that I had manifested into Richard Gere. Perhaps even a little better looking.

Well, the Day Of Tango Tour was paying off nicely. We went back to the hotel and changed into evening attire and were escorted to a historic restaurant where Carlos Gardel watched over us from his familiar pose in the black and white picture. We had the befe de chorizo and were glad we did. Then off to a real tango show. The kind I had expected to see. And after hearing about it all day, and learning the moves, I could really appreciate what I was witness to on the stage. The talent was incredible, and they were all so young. This time, the band was a proper band with a few accordion players who could really squeeze the thing into some expressive melodies. The music was great, the show was great, the day was fantastic and it all ended too soon.

Finally we had found tango in Buenos Aires, and had enjoyed ourselves immensely.

When we returned home the first thing I did was sign up again for tango lessons and asked my wife, “Shall we dance?”

“Si” she said.

Fabian Salas, Researcher and Teacher of Tango Nuevo

Sometimes when you speak about one of the great masters of Argentine Tango, you take it for granted, that everybody already knows everything about them.

Maybe though it does make sense to tell a little about Fabian Salas.

During its “Golden Age”, Tango had been danced everywhere in Buenos Aires and you learned to dance Tango watching your parents or other dancers from your town quarter.

This happened completely naturally. Everybody watched and imitated the good dancers…and practiced. Opportunities to do so you found everywhere. Nobody had to think about teaching methods or didactics.

Fast forward to the eighties. After the end of military dictatorship in Argentina the Tango scene has changed completely. Only a few dancers remain who have lived in the Golden Age and can pass on their knowledge. Most of them are excellent dancers, but have never wasted a thought on how to teach Tango efficiently.

A group of young dancers around Fabian Salas and Gustavo Naveira now tries to figure out, how the old milongueros danced. They try to get a profound understanding how the movements and dynamics of the dance work and develop for the first time a didactically based teaching method. This method until today has a big impact on all Tango dancers, no matter whether they dance traditional Tango or Tango Nuevo.

But they do not stop at that point. With their profound knowledge of the dynamics of Tango they break with old, sometimes rigid conventions and develop a new way of dancing Tango, more open, more fluent. And they start to dance to music, which hasn´t been considered danceable until then, for example the music of Astor Piazzola.

Fabián Salas becomes world famous as one of the main characters of Sally Potter´s world famous Tango movie “The Tango Lesson”, together with Gustavo Naveira and Pablo Veron. All three of them are beyond any doubt fantastic dancers. Yet there are different aspects contributed to them.

While Gustavo Naveira is said to be the main choreographer and inventor of those three, and Pablo Veron is considered the technically best dancer, Fabián Salas is without doubt the best teacher of the trio. He developed a unique style of teaching and is considered one of the best tango teachers worldwide. Whoever gets the chance to learn from him, specially in a small, intimate group gets more than simply “Tango lessons. It is a unique experience which catapults Fabiáns students dancing abilities to a higher level.

Yet Fabián Salas is not only a teacher but also the founder and main organizer of the CITA, the world´s most renowned Argentine Tango festival. Here he brings together tango dancers from all the different styles of Tango, from Tango Nuevo to more traditional.

Wolfgang Sandt

Wolfgang Sandt Sculptor, stone mason, painter and tango teacher Via Campagna 17 Castel Rigone 06065 Passignano sul Trasimeno (PG) Tel/Fax 075 845457 Cell 349 0764 009
Wolfgang lives and works as free artist near Munich, Germany, and Passignano sul Trasimeno, Italy. Apart of being a sculptor He is as well tango dancer and teacher. He has been dancing Argentine Tango since 1994 learning from the worlds best tango dancers and teachers. He gives Argentine Tango lessons at Villa La Rogaia in Umbria, Italy focussing on the understanding of the music, on the harmony with the partner and the other couples on the dance floor and the joy of dancing rather than memorizing steps.

Tango Cabaret Group – Surrealism and Tango

The Surrealism and Tango project makes use of images to go to the origins of tango – A dance danced only between men around 1890 in the whorehouses on the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Manhood was there of extreme importance and the only women who could come close were the European prostitutes working there. Those women copied that tango, without lyrics, to dance it between themselves. Both groups could only exist by that “absence” that is the essence of the genre.

Jorge Luís Borges says: “Tango, has an infamous origin that can be felt.” That origin is law, the law of courage; that gangster pride that prises the mother, but despises any woman’s love and doesn’t respect any authority.

Cerrame el ventanal, que quema el sol, su lento caracol de sueño; ¿no ves que vengo de un país, que está dormido, siempre gris, tras el alcohol? (“Close the window for me, the sun is burning, its slow snail of dream; can’t you see I come from a country that is asleep, always gray, always behind alcohol?”) say the lyrics from La última curda, written by Cátulo Castillo.

The sun attacking a mythology of the night, attacking a men only lodge that sings deceipt with a dark voice.

Primero hay que saber sufrir, después amar, después partir y al fin andar sin pensamiento (“First you have to learn how to suffer, then love, then leave and at the end walk without thought”) says Virgilio Expósito in Naranjo en Flor and his verses only confirm again the sadomasochism in tango. Nothing can tempt the unbeliever, neither love, nor country or intellect. But then again the contradiction is present in this brown river: Almost 80% of all tango lyrics talk about love.

Tango Cabaret Group paints his scenes with this material. Surrealism is deep inside the genre. From Carlos Gardel’s origins and his “sexuality” to the repudiation Piazzolla had to suffer, nothing holds the permanent truth. Because tango is feeling, as the popular expression goes, “Tango is a feeling that is danced”, and there is nothing more ambiguous than a feeling.

Argentinian director Pino Solanas, in Tangos, the Exile of Gardel, was right when showing tango being danced in hazy corners, like out of a dream. And with the same fanciful psychic automatism he puts together two Argentinian myths having a “mate”: Carlos Gardel and General San Martin (together with Simon Bolivar one of America freedom fighters).

Tango Cabaret Group works in a similar way when makes XI century Persian poet Omar Khayyam sing tango; or when the same actor and singer plays a pimp and immediately afterwards a French madame in Buenos Aires.

In the show artists like Salvador Dalí, Marquis de Sade or Frida Khalo make an appearance. They have other origins, but they are very close to tango because of their provocative work and because they were and still are condemned by the establishment. At the same time that André Breton and his stunned visionary friends were working on the Surrealist Manifesto in Paris, tango was forbidden in Buenos Aires for being a lecherous dance.

Tango Cabaret Group lyrics are far from the tango stereotype and dive into today issues like religious fanaticism or emotional intelligence. That’s why the connection between surrealism and tango is not a whimsical one, it defines the band’s aesthetics and ethics.

Using Euro Converters Effectively

Euro converters and Euro calculators are popular tools that facilitate the calculation of the Euro exchange rate against different world currencies.

On 1 January 2002, the European Union witnessed a major change with 12 of the then 15 member states adopting the single European currency, the Euro.
On 1 May 2004, the European Union experienced the largest enlargement wave in its history after ten new member-states joined the EU. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007 and all these new member-states are expected to adopt the single European currency when they meet all convergence criteria.

At present, 16 of all 27 EU member-states have replaced their national currencies with the Euro. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

In addition, three other European states – Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican – also adopted the Euro as their official currency under special agreements with the European Union. On 1 January 2011, Estonia will officially adopt the Euro with more new member-states expected to enter the euro-zone soon.

Thus, countries in Europe and abroad were forced to develop various specially-designed Euro converters and Euro calculators to easily handle calculations and transactions denominated in Euro. In fact, a Euro converter is a normal calculator that features an additional function to convert value denominated in the previous legal tender to the new value in Euro. For example, a value expressed in US Dollars can be easily converted into Euros with a single click.

The use of such tools within the euro-zone gradually decreases due to the growing familiarity of businesses and people with the single European currency. However, customers in many countries outside the euro-zone find these Euro converters useful, especially in countries and economic zones with strong Euro presence. For example, Montenegro adopted the Euro as its official currency although the country is not a member of the European Union, the euro-zone respectively.

The term Euro converter also refers to various software and online tools that provide functionality to convert Euros into other currencies and vice versa. Every Forex trader around the world utilizessuch tools that are extremely helpful when the matter in hand is fast currency conversion.

If you are constantly trading a particular currency pair, for example, theEUR/GBP, you definitely need a sort of built-in or standalone Euro converter. In practice, all Forex software is shipped with such functionality and even the most basic free tools can function as a currency converter or calculator.

You can find myriads of Euro converters online while all professional currency converters also offer this functionality. People in the euro-zone already think in Euros and do not need such tools in their everyday life but if you live in a country outside the euro-zone and have to conduct deals or other money transactions that involve Euros, you most probably should install and take advantage of some type of Euro converter. Bear in mind that not all such software and online tools are reliable; therefore, try to find a product that connects to and receives data from a reputable source like a well-known Forex broker or dealer.

What Is Causing the Euro Crisis: A Financial Mess, Cultural Diversity or Globalization?

We all know how the Euro crisis began: with Greece and lies about its public deficit. Then over the next two and a half years, the drama expanded to include Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Now the Spanish banking system threatens to collapse and take with it the Euro. But what is really causing the Euro crisis?

Is it “just” a problem of sovereign debt and speculative attacks fed by the bond markets conviction that the Euro is not defended by credible institutions and financial power the way the US dollar is? Or are other factors at work here, in particular cultural divergences and globalization?

Let’s take them in turn.

1. Financial Factors

On June 2nd 2012, Soros, in a memorable and much-discussed speech in Trento (Italy) has made the point that Angela Merkel is responsible for the way the crisis has unfolded: she put a stop to Germany in its traditional role as the engine of a federated Europe. How did she do this? It seems that after the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 she declared that “the virtual guarantee extended to other financial institutions should come from each country acting separately, not by Europe acting jointly. (italics added)”

Bizarre as it may seem, if you read Soros’ speech as presented now on his website you won’t find this particular reference to Ms. Merkel’s declaration – undoubtedly taken down under diplomatic pressure. Mr. Soros may have cleaned up his speech to please the Germans but the fact remains that if Ms. Merkel and Germany had moved immediately to quell the speculative attacks on Greece, we would not have a Euro crisis now.

Mr. Soros made two further important points: we have just three months to stem the Euro crisis before it destroys the European Union and only the Germans can do it. This three month’s window is a consequence of the next government election in Greece (June 17): one may expect the Greeks to be ready to accept the bailout agreement but unable to meet the conditions. So the crisis will come to a climax in the fall just when the German economy will be weakening as its major exports markets slow down. Under the circumstances, “Chancellor Merkel will find it even more difficult than today to persuade the German public to accept any additional European responsibilities.”

How did we get into this situation? Because the Maastricht Treaty created a common currency without prior political union: it took a step that was too big to be sustainable. As long the economic winds were favorable, the instability was not perceived. The common currency threw together countries at very different levels of development: for Germany, i.e. “the center” that includes other northern European countries like Finland or the Netherlands, the Euro was an opportunity to expand exports. The Euro was cheaper than the national currencies had been and all the necessary measures to improve competitiveness were taken, chief among them restraint on salary increases. For Southern European economies, i.e. “the periphery”, the Euro became a source of cheap credit feeding a dangerous consumption and housing boom. Commercial banks, allowed to accumulate government bonds without having to set aside equity capital, gobbled up bonds of the weaker euro members to make an extra profit.

When the 2008 Wall Street crash came, European governments engaged in massive deficit spending and the “periphery” found itself in the position of a third world country that has become heavily indebted in a currency that it does not control. Financial markets discovered that such government debt was no longer sovereign. Banks loaded with these bonds found themselves insolvent. Result: a closely interlinked banking and sovereign debt crisis.

In the spring of 2012 the Bundesbank, with claims of some 660 billion euros against the central banks of the Eurozone periphery, began to shed them off, in order to limit the losses it would sustain in case of a Eurozone breakup. Furthermore, it has always been against expanding the money supply or adopting any financial fix, most notably Euro-bonds, even though they would be an instant solution. Why? Because since the Bundesbank is in the driver seat, it would find itself having to guarantee them.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy: once the Bundesbank does it, all banks do it. They are reordering their exposure along national lines: the “center” is shedding bonds from the “periphery” and conversely there’s a capital flight from the periphery towards the stronger Euro countries. Towards Germany in primis – indeed German bond yields are near zero! As a result, credit to enterprises, especially the medium and small ones that are a major source of employment, becomes less available and unemployment soars in the periphery.

Hence a deeper crisis. A wider divergence between Germany and the rest of the Eurozone. Moreover, an orderly break-up is not in the cards because the current re-ordering of Euro financial exposure within national boundaries is not completed (it would take several years).

Yet those who would suffer the most from the break-up would be the Germans themselves. They’ve benefited the most from the Euro so far – a cheap Euro has been the source of Germany’s success in exports – but a restoration of the Deutschmark would be very painful since it would be valued much higher than the Euro ever was.

By end June, a European Summit should come up with proposals to avoid a Euro break up. So far, it appears that the following financial measures are under discussion:

a form of European banking union, with perhaps as a first step a European Bank Deposit Insurance scheme to stem capital flight;
a functioning bailout fund, strengthening the already approved European Stability Mechanism so that it is capable of providing sufficient financial support to the eurozone banking system;
Eurozone-wide supervision and regulation.

It is probable that Germany will do whatever is needed to preserve the Euro but no more, allowing the internal divergences between the center and periphery to grow, thus preventing the European Union of ever achieving a federal union like the United States.

What is needed is to convince the Germans to do more? For a real political change, Ms. Merkel will need to leave and that won’t happen before 2013. Only then, and assuming a more pro-Europe party emerges, might Germany be more amenable to sustain the Euro and solve the euro management problems.

Problem solved? Not if some other negative factors are at work in Europe, in particular on the social/cultural front.

2. Cultural Factors

Cultural divergences could well be the forces that will overturn the boat.

Some researchers and most recently NYT columnist David Brooks (see his excellent article here ) have argued that the European union project makes no historical sense in the face of deep-set cultural divergences. Brooks reminds us how the world, after the disasters of World War II, yearned for peace and harmony: it was in this favorable setting that multicultural and supranational entities like the United Nations were created and with it all the international organizations still with us, chief among them the World Bank and the IMF. Those were also the years of the birth of the European Union project that began with the creation of the Coal and Steel Community, an optimistic effort by Germany and France to bridge their differences and “never” go to war against each other again.

Now, the pendulum has swung the other way: cultural divergences are increasing, not diminishing. There is a “failure of convergence” not just between countries but also within countries.

Consider the United States: a single country with a single currency, but as Brooks points out: “the country has become more polarized, not less. The country has become more difficult to govern, not less.” This is why the 21st century will be, as he puts it, “the segmentation century”. With the rise of modern communication technologies and Internet, “people’s tastes have become more parochial, not less.”

Brooks argues convincingly that the failure of convergence is most striking in Europe. While “a tiny sliver of European society”, as he puts it, is becoming more transnational, only “only 2 percent of Europeans live in a different European nation than their country of citizenship.” Habits, values and opinions differ from country to country. For example, 40% of Danes believe that work is a “very important” part of their lives, compared with roughly 65 percent of the French. According to Pew Research surveys, 73 percent of Germans think that economic conditions are good right now. In France, 19 percent think that, and in Spain only 6 percent. Europe means different things to different people. There is not even an understanding that Germans are closer to Greeks than they are to Chinese or Iranians.

Add to that the fact that there’s been a resurgence of local regionalism: the Basques in Spain, the Flemish-Walloon rift in Belgium, the Lombards’ Northern League in Italy etc. Not to mention the remarkable success of nationalistic, anti-immigrant parties like Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, a veritable throwback to 19th century chauvinism.

In this environment, it should come as no surprise that the European Union project has a hard time surviving…

To make matters worse, there is another negative factor at work here, the one which underlies the other two: globalization.

3. The Impact of Globalization

Over the past decade, globalization has progressively impacted developed countries, and in particular the Eurozone, in the following ways:

governments are progressively losing control over their tax revenues: it becomes ever easier for big, global corporations and the ultra-rich to escape taxation. To illustrate, two examples will suffice: the Greek shipping industry is not taxed by the government, the theory being that if shipping magnates were taxed, they’d move elsewhere, hence it’s useless to even attempt to tax them. General Electric, the American corporate giant, has over one thousand staff dedicated to exploiting tax loopholes with the result that GE pays one of the lowest corporate taxes in America: last year, despite $14.2 billion in worldwide profits including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations, GE did not owe the US Government any taxes in 2010;
competitiveness in the industrial sector is threatened by emerging economies (the BRICS) and outsourcing is eliminating jobs, particularly in manufacturing, causing increasing unemployment;
the IT sector and other advanced technologies such a green energy have not so far created enough jobs to cover the losses in industry; as a result, unemployment is not only sticky, it has grown especially large for new entrants in the labor market, in particular the young.

Conclusion: Quo Vadis Europe, Can you Reform?

This is the general backdrop against which the Euro drama is unfolding: a financial mess, cultural diversity and globalization. Which means that even if a “financial fix” is found to shore up the Euro, the long term downward economic trends due to globalization will continue as Eurozone governments find it hard to raise adequate revenues; as European industry finds it hard to compete with cheap imports produced in the BRICS; as the loss of jobs in manufacturing is not compensated by gains in other newer sectors.

Over time, this means the Eurozone as a whole is growing poorer (even if the Germans still feel rich!) And obviously less able to afford its expensive welfare system. Austerity is the catchword. Cuts into pensions and health care benefits appear inevitable. The alternative is to make the management of the welfare system more efficient. But that implies reforming the state bureaucracy, cutting out red tape and unnecessary duplicative jobs, streamlining management processes, suppressing clientelism etc. This concerns in particular the euro “periphery” though even the “center” is not immune to the need for administrative reform.

Are Europeans even capable of reform? The Germans demand it. But will the cultural divergences stop reform in its tracks? Very possibly. People in the periphery are already rebelling against austerity: from there it’s but a small step to rebel against any kind of reform, however much needed.

The only way to move forward would be to believe once again in something BIGGER: the “fantastic project” of the European Union, as Mr. Soros calls it. You need dreams to overcome the grim reality of chauvinistic retrenchment, each country behind its own borders.

Is the European dream dead? Can it be revived? What is surely lacking in Europe is a leader with a European vision. Ms. Merkel often talks about wanting “more Europe” but she doesn’t seem to be aware that time has run out on her. The Euro financial mess has to be fixed now and cannot wait the decades necessary to overcome cultural divergences and achieve reform, step by step the way Ms. Merkel wants to do it.

What is needed is a European leader with the courage to push for European federation now. Someone charismatic.

Can Mr. Hollande, the new French President do it? Can he be considered charismatic? I doubt it. Certainly his heart is in the right place: he talks about the need for growth and that is a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t address the fundamental issue, which is a lack of European cooperation.

Europeans need to understand that they are in this together because they’ve adopted a single currency. Now they need to take that final step and complete the process to sustain the Euro.

If not, the Euro will drop dead, and Europe with it. The tsunami will be enormous, the shock waves will hit the American continent as well as the BRICS. It is in everyone’s interest to see Europe solve its Euro problem.

The Most Amazing Markets in Latin America

Chichicastenango in Guatemala

Chichicastenango is located around one hundred and forty kilometers northwest of Guatemala city. It is home to one of the most famous native markets in, perhaps, all the Americas. The Market convenes on Thursdays and Sundays drawing the K’iche’ Maya of the nearby areas as well as vendors from all over the country. These vendors sell their products in a variety of ways, languages and dialects. The Chichi market used to be within the central plaza but it has now expanded into all the adjacent streets as well.

The preparations are made a night before by setting up booths in the plaza and surrounding streets of Chichi. The markets start with sounds of firecrackers and homemade rockets. The crashing sounds continue all through the day.

Although it is not immediately obvious to the tourist newcomer, the market is highly organized, with vendors of specific goods occupying traditional sites in the market area. Each item has its own area where vendors can put their products on display. You can also see various native costumes from all over Guatemala.

Other sights include processions, street musicians and traditional dances, antique shops, a Mayan artifact museum and the city cemetery.

Pisac in Peru

Most visitors, on their tour to Peru, try to see the Sunday market, however there are similar markets on Tuesday and Thursday as well. Pisac is a beautiful Andean village well known for its Sunday market. Despite its fame, the market maintains its local charm. Villagers come from miles in order to sell their products in this market. The tourist section offers quite a few varieties of handicrafts.

Pisac is a great place for buying the local ceramics especially hand-painted beads in various colors.

Otavalo en Ecuador

For anyone visiting Ecuador, one of the destinations is Otavalo because of the famed market or the Fiesta del Yamor, which is celebrated in September.

Otavalo is situated north of Quito within a two hour drive. It takes a few days to see the market in Otavalo and to visit the villages that supply most of the textiles sold in Otavalo.

Otavalo markets are open every day but the busiest day is on Saturday. If you go out early, you can have an all day experience of the market. You can stroll through the food and produce section, wander the artisan market from where you can purchase arts, crafts, and textiles.

The history of the textiles can be traced back to the colonial days when the land around Quito was awarded to several people, including Rodrigo de Salazar. Salazar established a weaving workshop and imported new tools and techniques from Spain. Some of the techniques used in those times can be seen in demonstrations at the Obraje Weaving Museum.

San Telmo in Argentina

The small Plaza Dorrego is the center of the San Telmo Antiques Fair of Buenos Aires. Each Sunday, the plaza is transformed into a flea market, which contains hundreds of booths that sell everything from outright junk to costly antiques. The market is a great place for browsing and watching. There are numerous sidewalk cafes surrounding the San Telmo market making the atmosphere festive. San Telmo is also the center of Buenos Aires’ tango district and, occasionally, you can see a couple dancing in one of the market’s open spaces.

There is an artisans’ market in the park surrounding the Recoleta Cemetery. If you like hand-made jewelry, then you will be quite interested in Recoleta artisans’ market.

The Ipanema hippie fair in Brazil

Since 1960s, Feira Hipe or the Ipanema Hippie Fair is held in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on every Sunday. It began as a small affair which was initially organized by the Hippies in order to sell their crafts.

Since then, the Hippie Fair has evolved into an important arts and crafts market, which shows the works of some of the best artisans of the city.

The Ipanema Hippie Fair is held every Sunday from 9 in the morning till 5 in the evening. It takes up a whole city block located in the northern part of Ipanema, close to the southern flank of Copacabana Beach.

It is a highly organized market where stalls are set up around the perimeter of the park. Painters exhibit and sell their paintings in the center of the park.

Locals and tourists crowd the place all day long. Though, credit cards are accepted by some vendors, still it is better to use cash. Some vendors will accept US dollars as well as Euros but their preferred currency is Reais.

The Ipanema Hippie Fair is essentially not a flea market and it is very difficult to come about used items or bargain. However, you can find all qualities of arts and crafts sold at quite reasonable prices. You can pick some cool souvenirs in this market.

For more info visit South America tours

Lorena Petsios is the Director of Absolute Latin America a company proud to offer very competitive prices and excellent quality in all the tours.

Our team of dedicated and creative Travel Designers pride themselves on the ability to provide our clients with exceptional personal service and support. We will advise the best option and create an amazing tailored experience that best suits your needs. Our expertise and connections ensure the most intricate travel arrangements can be organized in Latin America.