Tag Archives: argentina

Cecilia Mandrile’s dolls and the impermanence of life

I met Cecilia Mandrile because I liked very much and was captivated by the doll houses she created and traveled with. She wanted to portray impermanence through her traveling projects. Cecilia creates prints from scanned fragments of her own body and would disguise self portraits in her dolls, carrying and leaving them in buses, stations, streets and airplanes. Cecilia thought art was a fairytale she could never be part of but her grandmother, a painter and piano professor, encouraged her.

Cecilia loves to travel for she says “you see yourself from a distance and get out of yourself.” Traveling helps her to sort out what she’s feeling. She believes traveling makes you more open, respectful and kind because when you travel and come back, you come back to the same place but you change. “To me, art and creativity has to be with feeling incomplete. Art is problem solving.” she told me. Cecilia had an accident, a brain injury, where she was in an emotional coma. “When you are really sick, it silences you. It’s like emptiness” she shared. “When you translate that wound, sadness can transform into positive. “She also told me she admired her mother who went back to school at fifty four years old for a degree in photography.  “I’m for you these days, before night, before I die” she told me when I flew into Córdoba to spend a week with her.

Her first approach to art was through literature and she became known as the official poet of her grade school. She received her PhD from Bristol School of Art, Media and Design; an MFA from the University of Maryland and a BFA from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. I immediately loved the unusual look of her website. I don’t know where she gets her heart but it is big and beautiful.



Cecilia Mandrile’s dolls with bed

Speaking of beautiful hearts, Cecilia introduced me to Lucrecia Urbano, who runs Zona Imaginaria, where she teaches art to children and print making to adults. Lucrecia was kind enough to take me to Museo De Arte Tigre outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Museo De Arte Tigre is located in a 1912 social club and is worth a visit just to see the architecture of the building.

Here are some paintings at Museo De Arte Tigre by Argentinian artists:

Milo Lockett is known for his tireless humanitarian work. He has been donating his paintings over 40 years to benefit Unicef and Children’s Hospital.

Milo Lockett

Milo Lockett

Atilio Malinverno was born in Buenos Aires and was a master of landscapes. I only saw one painting of his at the museum and wanted to find out more about him. His website is filled with breath taking paintings.


Atilio Malinverno – Ultimos rayos – 1927

Benito Quinquela Martin (1890- January 28, 1977) was born in La Boca, Buenos Aires.  He was buried in a coffin made for him the previous year that stated “Que quien vivió rodeado de color no puede ser enterrado en una caja lisa”, which translates to “He who lived surrounded by colors cannot be buried in a flat box.” His coffin had a painting of the port of La Boca on it.

Benito Quinquela Martín – Veleros Iluminados – 1950  

child in Museo de Arte Tigre museum

Cat in Córdoba, Argentina with one blue eye and one green eye

Cecelia Mandrile in Córdoba, Argentina

Olivia taking in the sights at Iglesia de la Compañia, Córdoba

Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Olivia says the best part of traveling is coming home with more appreciation of what she has. Sí, es la verdad” I told her in complete agreement.  


Lucrecia Urbano: Life, love, art and asking forgiveness

Lucrecia Urbano creates images from discarded wine bottles, empty perfume jars and various types of broken glass.  As I looked at the images she showed me, my eyes saw much more than melted glass. I was witness to her process, through art, of the meaning of life and death. Lucrecia explained that she cooks the glass in an oven and after removing the shapes, she photographs each specimen and lastly, as her degree & obsession is printmaking, she hand prints each and every image.

As I stared at her work, I felt a stirring inside which happens when I allow myself to sit still and breathe.  I turned to her and asked “please tell me about your fascination with glass.” She explained that her father was sick and dying in the hospital in 2001 and died in Feb 2002. “In 2002, I started to work with glass. I decided I could see life through the art of glassmaking. If you are a poet, you have words. For me I understand life through the lens of art. Es las manera para mirar la vida: Juntar y realman algo nueva, como transformer. “It’s a way to look at life: to gather and reconstruct something new, like transforming.” El crystal tiene capacidad de cambiar, como nosotros.  “Glass has the capacity to change, just as we do.” She shared about breath, our inhale and exhale, we change, and then we’re gone.

Lucrecia Urbano has two passions; art and helping people. She has set up Zona Imaginaria; a home for local and international artists to live and work together. In the process of creating this home, she began to teach art to the young children who gathered around to watch the painting being made on the front of the house. The children were fascinated by the colors, the paint cans, and the brushes.


Lucrecia, after seeing that I travel with a small doll called Olivia smiled and without any judgment whatsoever said “Cada una tiene sus propias locuras.” “everyone has their own type of craziness.”

She’s her own person who travels extensively, seeks out adventure and expresses her life through her art with a depth to her that is far reaching. Lucrecia has another favorite expression:

“Es mas facil pedir perdon de perdir permiso.

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Lucrecia at Museo De Arte Tigre

Lucrecia was born in Cordoba, Argentina. She has a B.A. in Printmaking from  Universidad Nacional de Cordoba.

Jewish life in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It was 1938, during Kristallnact, or Night of Broken Glass when Jewish homes, shops, villages and towns were ransacked and set on fire. My father was 15 years old when he heard a knock at the door of the 1 bedroom apartment he shared with his 7 siblings, mother and father in Bedzin, Poland. The Germans were there to take my grandfather away but my father talked the men at the door into taking him instead. He never saw anyone in his family alive again. My father survived 8 concentration work camps, a year long stay in a hospital when the camps were liberated in May, 1945,  as he was down to 65 pounds, when he crossed a boat to arrive in New York, alone.  He was able to rebuild a life for himself in California and passed down the importance of being a Jew to me. I moved to Israel when I was 20 years old to work on a kibbutz and study Hebrew. Since then I have always had a life long love of Judaism. A large part of my attraction in wanting to discover and explore Buenos Aires was my understanding of a large Jewish population.

Argentina has one of the greatest communities of Jews in Central & South America, around 250,000; of that 200,000 live in Buenos Aires. The population is 85% Ashkenazi and 15% Sephardi Jews.  After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, many Jews settled in Argentina. At the end of the 19thcentury, Jews fled the pogroms and poverty in Russia and because the policy of immigration was an open door, another wave of Jews headed for Argentina. Jews were persecuted for political activities and from the original 500,000, we now have 200,000. Many left to Venezuela, U.S. and Israel.

A Jewish tour of Buenos Aires brought me to AMIA-which was founded to promote the individual, family and growth of Jewish life in Argentina. It’s truly an umbrella for the Jewish community. In 1992, AMIA was bombed and 29 people were killed.  On July 18, 1994, a car was driven into the center which killed 85 people including many children. This bomb imposed a new era where the community prioritized justice and preserved the legacy of a rich cultural tradition that honors life.  The new building has barriers in front so no car could drive through now. No justice has ever been served for the innocent men, women and children who died. Justice is a word that seems to provoke many emotions for me as no justice was ever served by the man who abused my mother. But I digress.

plaque at AMIA

I wish I could have seen all 80 synagogues in Buenos Aires in my time there. I  visited the Paso synagogue and the oldest synagogue in Buenos Aires; Libertad. Olivia managed to find a moment for her favorite past time; reading. Buenos Aires has one of the world’s four remaining Yiddish daily newspapers. Others are found in Paris, Tel Aviv and Birobidjan, in Siberia.

In spite of the ups and downs of antisemitism, especially, but not only, during military repressions, Jews have played an important role in industry, commerce, the arts, literature, journalism, and also in politics.

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Olivia exhausted from lofty reading goals

Memorial for the Jews that died in 1994 car bombing

Libertad Synagogue

Interior of the ark- Libertad Synagogue

Libertad Synagogue

Libertad Synagogue

You can hire a lovely, older Jewish couple to do half and full day tours tailored to your interests.


La Boca & San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina

San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, the birthplace of the tango and an artist’s quarter. The Spanish influence can be felt as I walked around the outdoor market in search of bombillas for yerba mate.

boy in outdoor market in San Telmo selling teas & mate

San Telmo market

San Telmo market

San Telmo Market

San Telmo

San Telmo

San Telmo

Next stop was La Boca, the seat of the first port of the city and where immigrants would arrive between 1880 and 1940. It was one of the original neighborhoods in B.A. with an Italian influence.La Boca was aptly named because it is located at the boca (mouth) of the Riachuelo (little river) where it merges into the much larger Rio de la Plata.It has a colorful, European flavor to it.They built their homes from limited materials they were able to gather found discarded in shipyards mainly wood and sheets of metal.  The resulting structures, known as conventillos (tenement houses), provided a room for each family and one kitchen and one bathroom which were shared by all the tenants.  The patio and the irregular balconies provided the meeting points where these people intermingled and shared their cultures.  Though different European cultures blended together, much of the cultural essence of La Boca came from the largest group, the Genovese Italians. Seeing how many people live around the world has always provided me with a deeper appreciation of what I have in the United States.

I had a destination I needed to see, Caminito (little walkway or little pathway in spanish) which inspired a traditional, tango song. Me encanta este canción y la musica española. I have been listening to the Julio Iglesias version for years ever since I first stepped foot in Guatemala in 1983. There’s 2 versions by Julio; the tango and the slower, romantic one from the 80’s. I prefer the slower one. Check out this jody video. Julio definitely didn’t have MJ’s flair and genius for making music videos. How about his boat being pulled by a station wagon at the end? Hilarious.


Caminito lyrics

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

un perro en La Boca-dog in La Boca – Who’s your mom?

La Boca

La Boca


Caminito que el tiempo ha borrado,

que juntos un día nos viste pasar,

he venido por última vez,

he venido ha contarte mi mal.

Caminito que entonces estabas

bordeado de trébol y juncos en flor,

una sombra ya pronto serás,

una sombra lo mismo que yo.

Desde que se fue,

triste vivo yo,

caminito amigo

yo también me voy.

Desde que se fue

nunca más volvió.

Seguiré sus pasos,

caminito, adiós.

*Caminito que todos las tardes

Feli recorela cantando mi amor

No le digas si vuelve a pasar

Y me llanto de suello

Caminito cubierto de cardos,

la mano del tiempo tu huella borró;

yo a tu lado quisiera caer

y que el tiempo nos mate a los dos.

Desde que se fue,

triste vivo yo,

caminito amigo

yo también me voy.

Desde que se fue

nunca más volvió.

Seguiré sus pasos,

caminito, adiós.

Julio Iglesias – Caminito (English Translation)

Little path that time has erased

who together one day you saw us pass by,

I have come for the last time,

I have come to tell you about my misfortune.

Little path which you were then

lined by clover and reeds in bloom,

a shadow you soon will be,

a ghost the same as I.

Ever since she left,

sadly I live,

Little path, friend

I too am going.

Ever since she left

she never again returned.

I will follow in her footsteps,

Little path, goodbye.

Little path which every afternoon

I traveled happily singing my love

do not tell her if she comes back

that my tears watered your soil.

Caminito covered with thistles,

the hand of time has erased your imprint;

At your side I would like to fall

so that time would kill us both.

Ever since she left,

sadly I live,

Little path, friend

I too am going.

Ever since she left

she never again returned.

I will follow in her footsteps,

Little path, goodbye.

Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dating back to 1858, Cafe Tortoni is the oldest coffee shop in all of Argentina. I love that there was a line of people waiting outside to have a seat at the famous Cafe. I walked in and saw a man standing in one of the back rooms.

Cafe Tortoni
Cafe Tortoni exterior

Me encanta la comida en Buenos Aires-I love the food in Buenos Aires

This one’s for you, Bbird.

It’s all about food and love.

juevos y jamon (eggs & ham)

ensalada caprese

milanesas a la napolitana con papas soufflé, ensalada caprese

ravioli al pomodoro basilico (spinach & ricotta ravioli w/pomodoro sauce & basil

Mozzarella, tomate & albaltaca empanada, cebolla y queso empanada, ensalada mixta

juevos con tomate & cebolla (eggs with tomato & onion)

Ensalada de atun, tomate, cebola y juevo dura (tuna, tomato, onion & hard boiled egg)

bruscetta en pan de campo honjos dorados, cebolla carmelizada & queso brie

taboulie, ensalada belen, keppe crudo, hummus, banir, eyatra/muyata, aceituna

ensalada de mix de hojas, palta, juevo duro, cibolette & vinagreta de nueces greens, avocado, chive, hard boiled egg,

Flan & mate en Córdoba

tamale en chala – minced meat & red peppers wrapped in corn husk

locro saldeno – maize and meat stew

grocery market outside Buenos Aires in San Fernando

People love this in Argentina, Uruguay,Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, south of Chile,the Bolivian Chaco

my favorite goikey-chocolate & coconut

Olivia-always exhausted at the end of each day but with a smile on her face

Rufina Cambaceres dies twice in Buenos Aires- a tragic, yet beautiful tale

I’m told most tourists come to visit Eva Peron’s tomb but I was more interested in Rufina Cambaceros; “ the girl who died twice.” Eva Duarte de Peron’s tomb is the most famous in Recoleta Cemetary but Rufina Cambaceres’s story is the most disturbing. Rufina came from a wealthy family, heirs to a large cattle fortune. She had discovered her fiancé was having an affair. Three doctors pronounced her dead and she was buried alive on her 19th birthday. The explanation doctors gave later is that Rufina suffered from catalepsy which is characterized by rigidity and low vital signs.  Catalepsy is the classic buried-alive diagnosis, and the one used in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Premature Burial.” BTW, Rufina is buried three blocks south of Eva Peron.

I’m thinking it was her worst birthday ever. A few days after the funeral, a cemetery worker was concerned about grave robbery when he found that her coffin had moved within the crypt and the lid was broken in place. Rufina, woke up days later after her burial to find herself trapped, tried desperately to escape, then died of a heart attack. Scratches were on her face and covered the inside of her coffin which was opened after her screams were heard. Her father rebuilt the grave site so she is seen opening her own doors.  I was in front of her tomb for so long that people started to ask me questions and I found myself explaining Rufina’s story in Spanish, as if I was a tour guide. Rufina’s story should cheer up anyone having a bad break up and yes, a broken heart and sadness can kill or transform.

Rufina Cambaceros

Rufina Camberos

Rufina Camberos

The profundity of sadness is not easy for me to articulate. When I saw paintings by Suzan Woodruff, I saw sadness. Art work by Cecilia Mandrile moved me to write to her (hence a large part of why I am in Argentina) to help me to understand her sadness. The death of Lucrecia Urbano’s father began her creative process with glass. Hope Edelman’s experience of losing her mother created a sadness that planted the seeds for her Motherless Daughter’s book.  I believe my grandmother’s experience of sadness at watching my mother being abused is why she became sick with leukemia. I truly believe Michael Jackson dealt with his sadness with his expressions of music & dance. Feelings of something being incomplete or something lacking stirred a need to create & to help people cope with and understand their sadness.





Eva Peron’s tomb is the most visited grave in Recoleta Cemetary. You can always find it as there are hoardes of tourists and flowers. It  was not so interesting to me after the story of Ruffina Camberos. It is a little ironic that Evita was supposed to be buried under a monument which would represent the ‘Descamisados’, the poor working class, but she ended up in a cemetery which represents the wealthiest of Buenos Aires.  Recoleta Cemetery is the most expensive real estate in the city.

Eva Peron

Eva Peron

St. Augustine, after a personal crisis, went through a profound change in his life. He quit his teaching job, gave up any idea of marriage, devoted himself totally to G-d. He said he heard a childlike voice telling him in a sing-song voice, “tolle, lege” -“take up and read.” He gave all his money to the poor, just like St. Francis of Assisi and converted his home into a place where all his friends could live. He was one of the most prolific Latin authors.

San Augustine

oh vosotros que nos llorais

no os dejeis abatir por el dolor

mirad la vida que comienza

y no la que ha concluido

Here’s my translation:

Oh, we should not cry

Do not let yourselves be discouraged by the pain

Look at the life that begins

And not at what has ended

Here is Cecilia’s translation:
Oh, you, who are crying to us,
Don’t let pain defeat you,
Look at the life that is beginning
And not to the one that just have ended.

En frente del cementario es una esquina donde hay un café llamado La Biela donde Borges, el escritor solia pasar la tardes. Borges nacio en Buenos Aires. In front of the cemetery is a street where there’s a café called La Biela where the writer, essayist, poet and translator Borges would hang out in the afternoons.  Borges was born in Buenos Aires.

hot chocolate at La Biela

In describing himself, he said, “I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors.”

La Biela was born as Viridita, a sidewalk Café with 18 tables on a narrow sidewalk. Viridita is a mispronunciation of Veredita, a diminutive of sidewalk in Argentine Spanish. It stands in the shade of the mythical 18th C tree, in front of the church of Nuestra Señora del Ria. It’s a landmark and a connecting rod in the social life of La Recoleta’s neighborhood. From there, I walked to Museo Nacional Bella Artes; one of the most important fine arts museums in Buenos Aires.

Upon exiting I was excited to get to my next stop.  I made some mistakes. I was tired and should have listened to my gut that said “go back to your apartment.” The next one was getting into a cab to make my way to a different part of the city. I broke too many of my own traveling guides to myself: never get in a cab outside a museum, don’t carry cash after changing money and don’t walk around tired. All lessons.  When I went to Puerto Madera and paid to go into the museum, I was told my money was “falso”. A cab driver outside Bella Artes had taken my real money and traded it for fake, a recent con in the city that taxi drivers are playing.  I was going to go to Coleccion de arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat. I paid to go in and started to look at the Argentinian art. I was too upset to enjoy the museum. I headed back to my apartment to ponder why. If this is a world where we are all infinitely connected, then why would someone do this? I was left with gratitude that he didn’t have a gun or knife. The truth is there is tremendous crime in Buenos Aires but that doesn’t color the city for me at all. How about the fact that I’ve traveled in places with tremendous poverty like Peru, Bolivia… and I’m robbed in the chic neighborhood of Recoleta? What I came to understand is that instead of listening to the voice inside of me that told me to go back to my apartment, I pushed myself to see more.


Clementine Helene Dufau “Chant a la Beaute-1909”

Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.

Jorge Luis Borges

For Hope – “What if Brussat quoted Brussai in Brunei?”- Hope Edelman

Spiritual literacy is the ability to read the text of your own lives for spiritual meaning. That means looking at the things you encounter, the animals you encounter, the people, the places where you are, looking at your relationships, looking at all your activities and seeing that within them there is a significance and meaning. The medieval monks used to say that the world was liber mundi, a book to be read. In Islamic tradition, they will say that everything is a letter from God that you’re supposed to read. If you’re Native American and you walk through the wilderness, they talk about “reading sign.” So if a bird appears, it has meaning. That bird is a sign. So spiritual literacy is recognizing that everything you encounter in your daily life is a sign that can be read.

Mary Ann Brussat

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