Little Buenos Aires

Meet Silvina, la flaca de explosiva

But Deputy Maximo Gowland describes the exodus as being heterogeneous. "There are all kinds," he says. "From investors to blue-collar workers to the sons and daughters of the comfortable middle class." This group of young people, in their midtwenties to early thirties, comes as tourists and then sticks around to "see what happens." Some are students, others are typical middle-class slackers, often partly subsidized from home by Mom and Dad.

In the North Beach enclave known as Little Buenos Aires, working-class Argentine families with little or no educational background mix with the sons and daughters of the privileged middle class. "Their parents were European immigrants who saw Argentina rise. Ironically just as their parents emigrated to Argentina from Europe, this new generation have themselves become immigrants, however temporary it may be," professor Szuchman says.

Argentines can travel as tourists to the United States without American visas and stay in the country for up to 90 days, thanks to something called the Visa Waiver Permit Program. Owing to hard times back home, many Argentines are taking advantage of their traveling perks. But they're overstaying their visits in Miami-Dade. According to Gowland, there about six flights daily arriving at Miami International Airport from Argentina. More and more are beginning to drink their maté in public.

Silvina, La Explosiva,at home with young guitarista
Steve Satterwhite
Silvina, La Explosiva,at home with young guitarista

In Miami there are at least ten publications for Argentines, according to Gowland. Three civic organizations in the area -- the Association of Argentines in Miami, the Lions Club, and Association San Martiniana (named after Argentine independence hero San Martin) -- are among the dozen groups throughout Florida. On the beach soccer fans wear their favorite team jerseys everywhere -- red and white River Plate fans; yellow and blue for Boca Juniors. (Fútbol is Argentina's passion, and the game played in North Shore Park often sparks into flame.) One guy I met had Diego Maradona's face -- an Argentine soccer legend-turned-coke addict -- tattooed on his arm. Neighborhood cars are adorned with Argentine flags and nationalistic paraphernalia. Argentine delis, cafés, and restaurants are lined along Collins Avenue between 65th and 75th streets and along the 71st Street commercial corridor. "They stand out from other Latin Americans," says one non-Argentine neighbor. "They come, they stay, and they're loud about it."

"The question is how long are they here for," Szuchman says. "Argentines have had a history of migrating and then returning. They don't leave Argentina happily."

Silvina is an exception. She was thrilled to leave Miramar, the cold weather, and her domineering mom. "I was one of the first to arrive here," she claims. "In 1995, when I came, there were very few Argentines. Now they're everywhere."

"I tried to get away from [los Argentinos], and they followed me," Silvina contends sarcastically. "They should all go back to Argentina. Que se vayan," she says loudly, one day walking back from the beach. A young Argentine couple is walking hand in hand just a few steps in front of her. Silvina breaks out into frenzied laughter. "Que se vayan todos los Argentinos. Son una porqueria -- they're trash."

Apartment seven, behind Silvina's place, is the nightly gathering spot for the clan of Miramarans inhabiting this slice of Miami Beach, Silvina's fan club, los chicos del siete, of which Allen is the newest member. Jokingly he calls his place el boliche -- the nightclub. "People are constantly coming and going," he says "We can even identify everyone's particular knock. So we don't bother opening the door anymore, we just shout, “Come in,' or else we leave the door open. Though lately the mosquitoes and palmetto bugs have been forcing us to close up." Los chicos used to throw asados [barbecues] every Friday, just outside their apartment. The Argentine tradition is perhaps the closest thing to a meat-eater's nirvana on Earth: "If I go a day without meat, I feel something is not right," Allen affirms. "We're carnivores," he adds with a mischievous smile. "Vampires!" Birra -- beer -- is usually the chicos' drink of choice. And cigarettes (puchos) are chain-smoked. "Oh ... I can tell you some anecdotes about our gatherings," John says one night, while sitting near the sidewalk.

Now that Alex is gone, Silvina has started frequenting apartment seven again, once her children are tucked into bed. There she is the center of attention. The "boys" from Miramar see her as both a mother figure and sexually tempting. "When I hang out with them, se cagan de la risa -- they die of laughter. Que tengo, payasos en la cara. What is it with me? Do I have clowns coming out of my face? No la verdad es que son unos buitres. No, really, they're vultures. You see their faces, and you think they're angels. They're not," Silvina warns. "Mujer que ven, mujer que quieren montar. Any woman they see they want to ride. In fact," she adds, "there's so much jerking off going on in apartment seven they could open a ricotta factory.

"But I have no problems," Silvina continues. "I'm into menores [minors]." Silvana, however, is mostly all talk. Lately her mind has been on Alex, who's back in Miramar. "Alex used to say to me: “Silvina, you're so liberal. I love that in a woman. You have no problems with sex.'"

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