Strolling down the cafeteria-filled streets of Buenos Aires, you're bound to see los Argentinos sipping cafe and smoking a pucho, Argentine slang for cigarette. This country has one of the higher rates of cigarette consumption in South America. The people of Buenos Aires, porteños, also make a habit of visiting their psychiatrist, is there a correlation? Maybe, maybe not however my experiences being a resident here over the last several years confirms one thing, these people stress a lot. You see it in their faces on the public transportation and walking down the streets. It could stem from any number of things, but one thing is for certain, their stress leaves for brief moments when sipping their cappucino and smoking their cigarillo.
I was walking down Avenida Santa Fe the other day and I realized that everyone sitting in front of the Parisian-styled cafes had a cigarette and a cafe. Two very active stimulants turning their stressed frowns upside down. I for a brief moment wondered, what's so great about this?
My addiction is more on the healthy side, yerba mate and riding my bicycle. However, I wanted to be Porteño for brief few moments and see what this is all about. I had an extra 8 pesos in my pocket to spare for a cafe con leche (coffee with a splash of milk), so I ordered at the next cafeteria I walked past. With an extra 30 minutes to spare in my daily tasks, I indulged into the more toxic stimulants to feel a little bit more Argentine. Or maybe I was looking for the ultimate teeth-staining experience. Either way, I was missing one thing... a pucho. It didn't take me long asking the old man at the table next to me, "me regalás un pucho por favor, señor?" He gladly allowed me into his world of stimulants. With a flick of the lighter, I was one shrink short of being fully porteño.
To be honest it wasn't as bad as I expected, I could see how these people can become so dependent on these fixes. I can just see my parents back home now saying "noooooooo, don't you dare pick up drinking coffee.... nor puchos!"
Not to worry, after exactly 23 minutes of people-watching, pucho in hand and sipping cafe, I felt a little buzz but was looking for water to rinse out the disgusting after taste. Well, that was fun being porteño on Avenida Santa Fe for a brief moment. It was a good moment but one that confirmed that I have the right addictions. Time to go back to being a gringo on a bike,