Learning to Live Like the Locals in Buenos Aires
Three days ago, I walked off the plane and started my law school adventure in Buenos Aires. Wait, what…three months ago?! Where has the time gone?!
Living in yet another city that never seems to sleep, I find that days and night fly by in a blur. During the day, we’re just normal law students…except we’re learning about the laws and legal culture of Latin America, which are quite different than what we’re used to studying in the US. Civil codes, military coups, and legal changes are regular points of discussion in Professor Böhmer’s class, while Argentina’s economic crisis and the arbitration that resulted are hot topics in Professor Rivera’s class. In the clinic, we’ve discussed Latin American perspectives on human rights, while working on projects intended to help with issues as diverse as freedom of expression and fracking. We debate philosophy and politics with our Argentine classmates, and catch up over soda and snacks during the break. Note to those who come here in the future: the mercado across the street has the best prices for Milka chocolate, while the kiosko has the best variety of snacks. Trust me, you’ll get to know those places well.
Occasionally, our week consists of a field trip as well. Most recently, we visited Judge Inés Weinberg at the Buenos Aires City Supreme Court and spoke with Deputy Manuel Garrido from Argentina’s Chamber of Duties (similar to our House of Representatives). Both trips were incredibly interesting. Judge Weinberg provided us with insights from her time at the Supreme Court, as well as her time at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She talked to us openly about everything from political pressures placed on the court to her decision-making process to the obstacles that she has faced as a woman in her field. She also brought one of her clerks to speak with us, so that we could compare the experiences of clerks in both Argentina and the US. Especially for those of us who have met with judges in the US, it was fascinating to compare the similarities and differences of the two systems.
Our meeting with Deputy Manuel Garrido was thought-provoking as well. We discussed differences in national security strategy, political campaigning, and congressional procedure. He was funny and frank about the excitement and frustration of politics. We also toured the Palace of the Argentine National Congress (similar to our Capitol Building) and learned about everything from the building’s chandeliers to its high-tech fingerprint scanners, which are used by deputies and senators to vote.
By night, we explore the city after we finish our reading. Luckily for us, restaurants don’t even really open until 9:30. There are amazing, inexpensive restaurants throughout the city; on weekends, when we have more time, we even head to puertas cerradas (“closed door” restaurants), which offer you a chance to meet a chef in his or her home and enjoy a fantastic, home-cooked meal together with only a few other people. It’s quite the experience! Afterward, if it’s the weekend, we might head to a tango lesson.
However, some of our most memorable nighttime moments come from a source that you might not expect….our professors! Each and every professor here in Buenos Aires has gone above and beyond their job description to ensure that we not only grow academically and intellectually, but expand our cultural horizons as well.
Professor Rivera was the first professor to show us how Porteños really live. From the beginning of our semester, he was always extremely helpful in recommending places to see and restaurants to try. However, above all else (except perhaps methods of dispute resolution!), Professor Rivera is an expert in Argentine soccer. He would recommend teams to follow and games to watch, and once he heard that we wanted to attend a game, he volunteered to be our guide.
Thus, we stepped out of a rented van on a warm, late summer night in Argentina, and became part of the swarms of people headed into el Nuevo Gasómetro stadium to watch San Lorenzo and Unión Española play soccer in the Copa Libertadores. The crowd beamed with colors and pulsed with noise…and once the game started, the whole stadium seemed to have its own heartbeat. Fans chanted while players zigzagged down the field. Unfortunately, the night ended in a tie for Professor Rivera’s favorite team, but it was a win for NYU Law. We were truly immersed in the life of the city, while getting to know each other and our professor even better.
Professor Saulino and Professor Bertoni helped us immerse ourselves in yet another everyday part of Argentina culture: empanadas! Recognizing that most of us had become huge fans of the typical Argentine empanada, Professor Saulino kindly invited us to her home to learn how to make them. We prepared pans and pans of empanadas, learning how to twist and tuck the dough just right—or at least trying valiantly to figure it out. Professor Bertoni helped as well and brought his family to enjoy the night with us, with his daughter kindly making us personalized pictures to preserve our memories of the evening. Professor Rivera also joined us and we enjoyed a meal of hard-earned, delicious empanadas together. A dessert of assorted helado (ice cream) was the perfect finish.
Hearing about our love of delicious Argentine food, Professor Böhmer offered to hold one of his famous asados (similar to a BBQ). As we chatted among ourselves and with several of our professors, Professor Böhmer grilled steaks, sausages, and bread, filling the room with mouth-watering aromas. Every last bit of meat was eaten and enjoyed, and everyone relaxed together contentedly with full bellies, discussing everything from A-papers to our professor’s experiences as LLMs to the best places to visit in Salta. It was the perfect way to relax before finals time kicked into full swing. It was also the moment when I realized that with the legal and cultural knowledge our professors imparted in and outside of class, we just might be mistaken for Porteños. Maybe. I hope!