Carne [Beef]: Special exposition of the Museo de la Ciudad

Serendipity. That happiest of things. That great gift.

I was walking down Defensa after class.

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…seemed awfully big and fancy for a carniceria.

Ah–oh!

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This is not the main location of the Museo de la Ciudad, but the Casa Altos de Elorriaga location, which is currently, magnificently, and tragically temporarily, a museum to Argentine beef.

So what will you find in a glorious exposition dedicated to meat, that most Argentine of culinary indulgences?

HISTORY!

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A TIMELINE OF BEEF: The first cows arrive in 1549!
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2002: The first Argentine cloned calf is born!
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2008: Political machinations affect beef!

HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS!

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Including racist marketing!

But that is absolutely not all. No indeed. Got something meat-related in mind? NAME IT, SON.

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BOOKS ON BEEF PRODUCTION
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GET EDUCATED IN ARGENTINE CUTS
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WEIRD OLD CARTOONS

Have you ever wondered if the Argentine relationship with beef can be statistically quantified? WONDER NO LONGER.

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The only nation that consumes more beef per person than Argentina is Uruguay. BARELY.

So what do Argentines use all that meat for? The interior patio holds the answers you seek, friend.

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Beef is often located in guiso (stew), milanesa, and empanadas.
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Beef is also featured in an asado, which is an Argentine barbeque.
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Beef can be found in street food. You can tell this cart is another historical artifact because today, 18 pesos will buy you literally nothing.

Are you more interested in “how the sausage is made,” so to speak? It looks something like this:

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Moo.
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The “dirty zone” is where steak is born.
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Someone made a tiny side of beef for this display.

So, meat plays a pretty big role in Argentine culture. But what about Argentine pop culture? Has there ever been a famous sexploitation film in which meat featured heavily alongside a celebrated bombshell and a future father of an Oscar-winning writer?

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I mean, why are you even asking?

But maybe your cultural tastes are more highbrow. You appreciate fine art. Painting, sculpture. These media speak to you and inform your experiences. You enjoy seeing beauty rendered immortal by the hand of a master.

You will find your treasure here, too.

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MEAT PAINTING.
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MEAT AS A CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE
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LOOK AT ALL THIS MEAT ART, BUDDY.

All in all, “Carne” is a masterpiece. Obviously. It might be that someone in a position to affect these sorts of things noticed that it is the 50th anniversary of the film “Carne” and just ran with it. If that’s the case, this exhibition is even more superb. It’s open to the public, it’s free, there are promotional postcards–but it closes down on September 30th, so you only have a month to experience “Carne.”

Museo de Patología de la Universidad de Buenos Aires [Pathology Museum of the University of Buenos Aires]

The Museo de Patología was the first museum established within the University of Buenos Aires, in 1887.  The first specimens came from the medical school hospital, and later, small collections from other hospitals were incorporated, making the museum an interesting piece of heritage for the medical school.

Sooooooooo…..

This museum is really a collection of specimens in jars.  Like, body parts. There were so many fetuses, you guys.

As you might imagine, the museum has a notice posted admonishing visitors to consider the collection a place of learning and reflection and not a freak show gawk fest. Understandably then, photographing the specimens within is not permitted, and I did respect that. But holy shit there are people who did not and so there are photos available on Google Maps. They don’t include what were grimmest for me personally, so yay?

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The museum is tucked away on the third floor of one of the UBA’s medical school buildings. You can just walk in, sign in, deposit any backpack you might be carrying in a locker and continue to the collection. Before you enter the actual zone, you might take a look at the exhibits they have outside the door.

Stock-photo cool guys are prohibited.

These exhibits have a few of the milder specimens, and give some information about the pathologies involved.  If you’re disappointed by the lack of a human specimen example for mermaid syndrome, don’t worry–you can find one inside, you absolute lunatic.

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This is the head of a sheep with cyclopia. There is a human specimen inside. There’s a lot of sad stuff inside.

Ever wonder what the effects of tuberculosis look like on the inside?  You are in luck, buddy.

 

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Lung holes. It looks like lung holes. Although it can also mess up  literally everything.

This case explains that tuberculosis is a common infection in Argentina; one in three people have come into contact with the bacteria. There are three possibilities in case of contact: the body fights it off completely (ya good), the body doesn’t fight it off (ya sick), or the body fights it off just enough to prevent symptoms but not eliminate the bacteria (ya latent). It lays out the risk factors for developing the disease, and now you can lie awake at night, contemplating the fragility of the human condition.

This here is a fatty liver.

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Also from a tuberculosis patient, incidentally. I would like to note that the Wikipedia entry for “fatty liver” begins with “Not to be confused with foie gras,” which makes this my favorite “not to be confused with” label ever.

The display on liver health includes very helpful emojis.  While that might seem a bit jarring juxtaposed with actual diseased human organs, I actually appreciate the effort made to communicate the information visually and clearly.  Science museum exhibits are introductions, not text books.

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If actual french fry cartons came like this, I might be successfully guilted into ordering the smallest size.

Inside, the museum is apparently undergoing a bit of a renovation, although what that entails isn’t clear; presumably the jugs of formaldehyde on the floor will at least get a cabinet during visiting hours.  The whole museum is two large rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, crowded with shelves and shelves of specimen jars grouped by pathology.  The labeling is minimal, and includes no context information.  This didn’t really bother me–aside from making it a collection for a highly specific audience that does not include me, museum-going boob Jo Public–until the tattoos.  There are several pieces of skin (and one entire hand) displayed specifically for their tattoos.  My exceedingly-chill-about-going-to-see-corpse-pieces friend and I estimated, based solely on a couple of dates included in the tattoos themselves, that they were probably around 100-125 years old.  We also assumed they came from indigent patients at the medical school hospital.  However, there is nothing to really confirm this in the labeling.  There were a couple that seemed to have belonged to a sailor (sailors?) that had an anchor and the USA and Norwegian flags.  There were a couple of examples of basic line drawings of circus performers, like a trapeze girl (boobs out) and a strong man.  The subject matters also seemed to bear out our extremely rough idea of their age and origin.  Tattoos are not a pathology, so the lack of context here was galling.  I really, really wanted to know how old they were, who they belonged to, how they came to be preserved.  This was easily the most interesting part of the collection, for me.  As a museum that specifically includes the public in its mission, it would be nice for it to have more explanatory and educational displays.  A cohesive exhibit about the history of the museum would be very cool, too.

Aside from all the jars, the museum also includes a historical library of pathology books in various languages as well as historical laboratory equipment.  It is, as I mentioned, open to the public, but if you’re bothered by preserved body parts (think torsos and heads, not just organs and tissue), it’s best to give it miss.  There is no signage in English, and since using your translation app is easily mistaken for photography, you’re on your own if your Spanish is terrible. The museum is located in a medical school building a couple blocks from the D subway line.  It’s open Monday through Friday from 2pm to 6 pm, and it is free.

Museo Casa Carlos Gardel [Carlos Gardel House Museum]

Tango, as you might have deduced if you’ve spent 15 seconds in Buenos Aires, is kind of a big deal here.  There are tango street dancers, tiny stages for performers at touristy restaurants, and ample opportunities to be tutored.  There are big, flashy tango shows, small tango shows, tango shows at historic tango bars/restaurants.  Tango postcards, tango art, tango CDs, tango souvenirs.  Hand to god, I have seen a wooden statue of Jesus playing a bandoneon for sale in San Telmo.  I totally should have bought it.

But the tango isn’t just for the tourists.  The dance and the music are very real and integral parts of the Buenos Aires cultural identity.  There are milongas of all sorts, where people go to dance.  The two parks closest to my place roll out temporary dance floors on Sunday evenings in the summer.  Tango music is everywhere.

Which brings us to Carlos Gardel.

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Gardel was born Charles Gardès  in 1890 in Toulouse, France, to a young laundress and a dude who was married to someone else.  Berthe Gardès did officially call out her baby-daddy, but we know how these things go for women, and when little Charles was two, Berthe moved them to Buenos Aires to begin a new life as a “widow.”  There, they would be called by the Spanish version of their names, Berta and Carlos Gardel.

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Berthe, called Berta in her new homeland, [bottom] and the sperm donor [top]
Incidentally, Paul Laserre would show up in Buenos Aires to ask Berta to marry him and “legitimize” Carlos when Carlos was around 30 years old and had conveniently released his first hit record.  Carlos told his mom that if she could live without the guy, so could he, and didn’t see him.  WELL PLAYED.

Carlos himself would muddy the facts of his birthplace by claiming Uruguayan citizenship, stating he was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay (he then acquired Argentine citizenship).  This was probably done to smooth over an upcoming tour of France, has he had never registered for military service, as required of French citizens.  This paper trail has led to different early biographies and native son claims, but look the museum has a copy of his French birth certificate so Uruguay should pipe down.

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I took a particularly poor photograph of it.

The museum is inside a house in Abasto that Gardel bought for his mom (he lived there for awhile, as well), and consists of four rooms.  The first room is dedicated to his early life.  In a museum dedicated to a musician, the multimedia experience is pretty important, and the Museo Carlos Gardel does a pretty credible job providing it, including the rather touching addition of the sort of song Berta would have sung for little Carlos.

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Gardel would develop as a musician, and in 1917 create the “tango canción,” the form of tango vocals that united the voice with the musical and dance themes of tango, when he recorded Mi Noche Triste (listen to it here).  This style became an enormous part of tango, and tango became an enormous part of Gardel’s life.

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The sheet music for Mi Noche Triste from 1917.

The next room of the museum is the recording room.  It’s quite small, but here you can see artifacts from his music career and select from over 300 recordings made by Gardel to listen to at the listening stations.

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As a nacent ukelele player, I immediately spotted what had to be his greatest work.

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To continue on from the record room, you go through this doorway:

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It’s a particularly ominous doorway, and thanks to the museum design, even if you know nothing of Carlos Gardel, you know that good news is not on the other side.

The room on the other side of the heavy curtain is the funeral room. Gardel died at the age of 44, at the height of his music and film career, in a plane crash in Colombia.

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The room includes film from the funeral, the scene of an outpouring of national and international grief. His mom, heartbroken, would shortly thereafter follow her son in death.
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I can tell you the group that made this memorial poncho asked a pilot to throw it out of her plane before it was placed on his coffin; what I cannot tell you is why.

The final room is the cinema room, which I think is a fitting way to end the museum, not only in terms of floor plan, but also in terms of image.  After all, Berta would continue watching Carlos’s movies to see him again, and this is a lasting legacy for a performer.

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The room includes a timeline of his movies, photos from the production, and posters.

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Terrifying posters!

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A totally normal asado, which are often attended by pristinely dressed gauchos and men in tuxedos while the hostess cuts meat over the fire wearing an evening gown.

So, if you’re super into the history of tango, 1930s cinema, or turn of the century music, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel is worth a visit (not to be confused with the Gardel museum outside of Tacuarembó because Uruguay just cannot let it go).   The signage is all in Spanish, but they do have an English language handout that will walk you through the rooms.

The museum is located at Jean Jaurés 735, close to the H and B subway lines, in Abasto. As always, check their website for current information, but as of this writing, the entry is 30 pesos (about US$1 right now), free on Wednesdays and generally for students, school groups, retirees, disabled visitors and their attendants and those under 12. It’s closed on Tuesdays.  It’s a residential area, so there are some places to eat here and there.  There’s also some pretty nice fileteado-style murals across from the museum.

Paseo de las Esculturas [Promenade of Sculptures]

Boedo is not a neighborhood that draws the tourism of a Palermo, but there are some cool things there, not the least of which is the feeling of visiting a non-tourist-centric barrio.  It’s an old working-class area that drew a lot of immigrants, and Boedo has a rich history in socialist and anarchist politics, artistic movements (particularly left-wing and literary), and tango (for a brief primer in English, go here).

If you find yourself in Boedo (and you might, there are tango shows, historic cafes, and the Museum of Modern Art is also there), take a bit of time to visit the main drag (Avenida Boedo) and the few blocks of sculptures installed along it.

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There are some neat ones, and you know you’re in a quality place when there’s art just lying around on the street.

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I was intensely curious about the relation of the leaf to the body, so here’s the back.

So go check out the museums, pop into Cafe Margot, and appreciate the sculpture.

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This one is my faaaaaaaaaavorite.

The Paseo de las Esculturas is comprised of 20 works along Av Boedo between San Juan and Independencia.  It’s easily accessible by subway (the E line).