Monday, March 12, 2012

Asunción - Parte II

So that urban character. The personality quirks of a city.

I spent much of yesterday walking around the older part of town. No historic part of Asunción is completely preserved, but there are a large number of beautiful old buildings scattered around are large part of the city. They are most concentrated in the core historic district, with the presidential palace and other government buildings, and the main plazas, but can be found in gradually decreasing frequency the farther you go from this core. Like a scatter plot. The buildings are grand and heavily ornamented. They seem to be evenly  spread out along a spectrum that runs from perfectly restored and beautiful to completely falling apart. So I mean you're likely to find a about equal numbers of semi falling apart and semi-restored buildings too.

The rest of the buildings in the old city are very ugly modernish cement structures. They seem mostly to be painted yellow or white and blue and all are covered in soot and dust. There are some tall buildings which are equally ugly and covereed in soot and these are scattered around downtown but not in any way that forms an attractive skyline.

That is the old city. The new city is the Americaland that has been constructed to the South East. It is shopping malls and mansions, huge streets and SUVs and security gaurds. This is where the aristocracy lives. It is where most of the important business is conducted, with corporate headquarters and large banks. The character of the new city is quite different from the urban density of the old city. It is much like American suburbia except with much dirtier cars and roads. You can still see poverty, but the deeper you go into the nieghborhoods the more the whole rest of Paraguay is shut out.

I have a friend that works as a teacher in the American High School in this part of town. I stayed with him the other night and it was wonderful to be in a house so comfortable and American. I am grateful for his and his roomates' generosity. I used thier wifi and we exchanged movies with our laptops and drank coffee and I used thier fancy minty natural shampoo. They live in a bubble though, and it was hard to believe I was still in Paraguay. I could have been in a semiposh California suburb.

Then we went out to brunch yesterday in a cafe the food was great but I was really blown away by the good taste. Many of the fancy places are ostentatious and grandiose, but tasteful and creative design is something I have come to long for. The old city has its grand old buildings and some fine restaurants and hotels that are very tasteful in a traditional way. The good taste in a postmodern setting is more difficult to achieve, I think, and it is in very short supply here.

Of course that is all very subjective and intangible.
I don't really like that side of town though, it is too elite and also I have my prejudice against suburbs. I meant to write more about the old town, which I spent some time exploring last week. I will get to that, in Parte III...!

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