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The census: life goes on pause in Buenos Aires for all but its Visitors

As many of you may know, today is an Argentine holiday or feriado due to the national census that is being performed, something that is done in almost every advanced nation, with the last one being taken in 2001.  To give you a basic overview, a census is conducted in order to obtain critical information of a country’s population such as the proportion of adults to children, average level of education and median household income.  To use a crude analogy, a census is much like a diagnostics test for engines where the surveyor (in this case, the government) checks to see which parts are functioning well and which aren’t.  From there, the government will use this information to distribute appropriated funds to the parts of the country where they are needed the most.

But how will this affect you and why the heck is everything going to be closed today (including bars and clubs which will shut down when the clock hits 12 – about now)?  Well, the way censuses are conducted in Argentina is quite different then what you may be used as the whole “study” is conducted in one day where you must wait for a census worker to stop by your house or apartment to ask a few questions.  Much like a cable company with horrible customer service, these workers can be expected between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm, essentially ruining any plans you could make and causing the city’s restaurants, stores and cafés to close until tonight.

Luckily, as an extranjero (foreigner) you won’t have to wait around all day as the census only applies to citizens of Argentina and foreigners who have lived here for five years or more.  But what is one to do in a city that is essentially a ghost town for twelve hours?  Here are few suggestions of ways to spend your “holiday” (weather permitting, of course):

-Pack yourself a picnic (with maté of course) and spend a lazy afternoon in Plaza Holanda, a wonderful park which is normally packed and hectic on the weekend.

-Go to barrio Chacarita (a lesser known neighborhood but safe and appealing nonetheless) and get “lost” for a few hours in the numerous side streets and cemetery located off the corner of Jorge Newbery and Corrientes
-Download a “guided tour” for your IPod or MP3 player and learn a little about the history of Buenos Aires while walking at your own pace

-Check out the beautiful Parque Centenario in Caballito, complete with a running track and a designated “public exercising space”

-Print out or (or buy) a map of Recoleta Cemetary and go on a creepy “Easter egg” hunt for the tombs of some of Buenos Aires’ and Argentina’s most famous historical figures

The underlying theme in the above mentioned activities is explore the city and take advantage of the day off as there’s no reason to have a wasted day just because everything is closed.  As millions of porteños are stuck in their homes on a beautiful day, take the time to find out the reason that they proudly call Buenos Aires home.

Mike