WHEN I first came to Buenos Aires, I played a particular conversational card when (especially older) porteños asked what I thought of their wonder city.
I wanted to say something complimentary and simple, enough to earn a smile, but not so much that my rudimentary castellano might trip me up first. And so, lo and behold, out came the favorite line of travel agencies and second-rate tour books: “It’s the Paris of South America!” This happened at least five times in my first two weeks, and it worked every time. Eyes lit up, smiles broadened and a proud “Ah, siiiiiii!” bellowed from the heart of each porteño. But these moments were never without feelings of guilt. Though it was an easy way to bring a smile to the face of every porteño I met, it did have the one problem of being untrue.