What Not to Wear When You're Yelling At People in the Street and Buying Drugs

Catherine Seltz-Drew
June 3, 2016

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream About Everything

Argentines are very vocal people. Strolling the streets of Buenos Aires on any given day, one can encounter various demonstrations. Masses of people will march through the city streets, carrying colorful banners, chanting, and beating drums.

 Literally everyone holds a demonstration for every conceivable issue and occasion.   

Teachers went on strike about the lack of funding for education. Taxi drivers held demonstrations across the city to protest the arrival of Uber. The unions went on strike about unfair labor conditions. A portion of the population held a demonstration in protest of Obama’s visit to Argentina.

The demonstrations generally remain peaceful, with the police in full riot gear watching from a safe distance. This is due, in part, to the legacy of the previous Kirchner administration, which more or less forbade the police from interfering with the protests unless necessary. However, with the election of President Macri, who has a decidedly less “leave it to beaver” attitude towards protests, the winds of justice are beginning to blow in a heavily conservative direction. According to new legislation, protestors are now given ten minutes to disperse before the swift hand of the law falls heavily upon them. Given the population’s previously explained penchant for voicing their displeasure in a very vocal and public manner, this new law has ruffled more than a few feathers.

So when you are walking through the streets and hear the faint beat of the drums in the distance, you know the voice of the people is about to be heard.

Fashion in Buenos Aires: An Eclectic Mix

  • Let's Do the Penguin Huddle: Full down feather jackets- designed to insulate the wearer from Arctic-level temperatures- are a required item once the temperature falls below 65 degrees. I have never seen a population less acclimated to cold weather, although it does make sense given the fact that their “dead of winter” temperatures level out at a mere 40-some degrees. As a native Minnesotan, I can’t help but turn my nose up and regale my Argentine friends with stories of -15 degree winters that drag on for 7 months at a time until I begin to seriously question the life choices that led me to live in a place where 2 months of mosquito-y summer is somehow an excuse for the frigid temperatures the rest of the year. But I digress... I will admit that these past 3 months in Buenos Aires have absolutely ruined my tolerance for cold. Warmer clothes are a necessity, if not to combat the outside “chill” then to fight the drafts that sweep through the old buildings. Central heating is not a common fixture in this antique city, thus I often find myself in old, drafty stone buildings that are heated by a single thermostat nailed to the ceiling that sends meager tufts of lukewarm air into circulation from its high perch. I pine for the days when I could skitter down to the thermostat controls in my house, crank the heat to 85 degrees, and park myself on top of a vent like the lazy sloth I am at heart. 
  • Miniumum 3 Inches: The fashion of the early 2000s is alive and well in Buenos Aires. Quite literally every shoe seen on the street and in stores has a 3-inch thick platform sole to give the wearer extra pomp and height. An added advantage is that the wearer is lifted an extra few inches off the sidewalks of Buenos Aires, which are littered with dog poop, smoldering cigarettes, and debris from unfinished construction sites (as much as I love you Buenos Aires, clean your crap up). So really, the shoes are more of a necessity than a fashion statement.
  • Skinny Love: Big girls/average girls/girls who just like looser clothes, beware; the city is unkind to those over size 4. Argentina literally had to pass a law requiring clothing stores to carry larger sizes as nearly every size sold in stores targets a very narrow (pun intended) body type. Sadly, this is result of Argentina’s crippling problem with body image issues and eating disorders, but that’s a story for another time. My advice: in general, don’t come to Buenos Aires to shop for clothes. Your money is better spent on 15lb steaks, mate, and Malbec.
  • Dress to impress: The only time I have seen men and women wearing workout attire is if they were actually in the middle of the physical act of running. Personal appearance is taken very seriously in Buenos Aires; both women and men take pride in their clothes, shoes, and hair before leaving the house. The old days of throwing on a pair of leggings and UGG boots and limping to class like the sloppy mess you are at heart are over. The few lost minutes of sleep in the morning to make yourself look presentable will be worth it, trust me- or else you will be turning heads in the street, and for not for the right reasons. 


  • Everything is behind the counter: The good, the bad, and the ugly are all confined behind the counters of Argentine pharmacies. Even medicine that is typically considered to be harmless (when consumed correctly, obviously) is kept under safeguard, from ibuprofen to eye drops. In order to access literally any medicine that does not fall into the “granola-eater” (read: hippie herbal supplement) category, one must consult the many white-coated pharmacists that prowl the area.  
  • No prescription, no problem: A striking contrast to the fact that almost everything kept behind the counter is that you don’t need a prescription to gain access to most medications. Instead, medicines that in the United States would require a prescription from a doctor are made available for purchase, granted through the medium of a pharmacist. For example, most antibiotics don’t require the consultation of a doctor for distribution. Only ‘heavier’ drugs- such as Adderall or Percocet- require express permission for access.  
  • Dr. Who?: Argentina has neatly leapfrogged an annoying step in the hierarchy of medical bureaucracy: the doctor’s visit. Rather than make a doctor’s appointment, travel to the hospital (where most- if not all- doctors are seen, regardless of the severity of the issue), wait in line, and so on, one can simply duck into the nearest pharmacy and consult the resident pharmacist for medical advice. Of course this is utilized primarily for less severe issues, but from my experience pharmacists are well equipped to listen to a list of symptoms and provide the appropriate medicine. As the descendant of German Lutheran Midwestern farm folk, for whom hospitals were considered unnecessary unless the injury sustained could not be fixed at home (i.e. excessive bleeding or active dying), the Argentine medical system is a dream come true. 

On an entirely unrelated note, someone has been posting pictures of Jim Carrey around the neighborhood. Whoever they are, they must be dedictating a significant amount of time to this endevour because he is EVERYWHERE. Ah Buenos Aires, you never cease to amaze me...



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Catherine Seltz-Drew

<p>My name is Catie Seltz-Drew. I am currently a junior pursuing a degree in International Studies. My semester in Buenos Aires will be my fourth experience abroad following a year in Italy in high school and two previous semesters abroad in Rome, Italy and Seoul, South Korea while in college. I have a passion for cooking and eating; I love learning about a country through its cuisine. After my semester in Argentina, I will graduate from Loyola and hopefully continue to travel and eat my way around the world.</p>

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