Little Buenos Aires

Meet Silvina, la flaca de explosiva

"Do you consider yourself a feminist?" I ask.

"Yo lo que soy es una desgenerada -- I'm more of a degenerate," Silvina answers with a smirk, biting her bottom lip. A sexual predator in the most pure and innocent way, Silvina loves sex, men, and flirting. Riding in the car with her one night, on our way back from Normandy Supermarket, she flirts with every man walking on Dickens Avenue: "Here all you have to do is smile and wave and before you know it you'll have a handsome bachelor sitting in the passenger seat of your car."

Most of the things Silvina says are expressed with sexual undertones. She loves to pose in front of the camera. Before Alex left he shot photos of her dressed in black Victoria's Secret lingerie. He left her one photo and took the rest to Argentina. Silvina showed most of her young male neighbors and even displayed the pic on her refrigerator. Back in Argentina Alex showed the ones he took with him to his father and friends. "They told him he was crazy for leaving behind such a woman," Silvina says.

One night in apartment seven, John and his roommates were playing a soccer video game. (Losers wash the dishes.) AC/DC was playing on the stereo, and the slackers from Miramar were passing around a faso (a joint). The walls are adorned with a Bob Marley poster, a magazine cut-out of a marijuana plant, and a giant Indian dream catcher. A bookcase is filled with empty liquor, beer, and wine bottles. "The bottles are an offering to La Virgen de las montañas," Allen says. But, I remark, there's no statue of a Virgin to place an offering to. "I don't think she'll be coming here," Allen laughs. "We just want to be ready."

Once the weed kicks in, John answers my questions about why he came to Miami. "Our parents are comfortable in Miramar," he says. "But they have only enough for themselves. There's nothing for us there. In South America Miami is the golden dream." A friend who is visiting argues that leaving Argentina for Miami, Spain, or Italy has become fashionable among young Argentines. "Okay, so it's appealing, but people are leaving because they are prompted by a reality," John counters. "The reality is that there's no room for us. But now that I've lived the dream, I think I'd rather go back."

Economics wasn't the motive for Silvina's move, she contends. She was upper middle class, her family traveled frequently to Europe. Her father, who passed away in Silvina's arms when she was sixteen, was in the military for ten years, then became a contractor on profitable construction projects. Silvina hardly ever worked. In fact, confirms her mother in Argentina, she owns two homes, five apartments, and two retail spaces in her native country. But none of the rental property is occupied. "I attended the best private schools," Silvina says. "The only thing missing was knowing where I came from."

When Silvina married Nelson, the couple depended partly on the family's riches and partly on Nelson's job working at a Pepsi factory. "My mother gave us anything we needed," Silvina revealed one night while hanging wet clothes on a line outside her place. "I wanted Nelson to start playing a more dominant role as the family's breadwinner. That's why I decided we should relocate. But look at me. Here in Norte America I'm poor, working as a housecleaner, de cabaretera [lap-dancing] on the side." Recently Nelson was fired from his job painting buildings. "He would show up to work whenever he felt like it," Silvina says. For her part she couldn't take any more of the cleaning life. So tonight, in a different part of town, Silvina is looking for work as an exotic dancer. By the end of the month she'll have to pay rent.

"I'm probably going to end up moving in with my husband," Silvina pouts. "Where else am I going to go? Me, the kids, and the big-screen TV....

"I suppose I could sell the TV ... but no, what am I crazy? I can't sell that TV -- it's a great TV....

"I mostly just glance at it when I can. My kids have it mostly tuned to music videos. But I don't care what's on. Che,the few seconds I get sucked into it is like being at the movies. It's one of my few escapes, sabes? Alex is another escape for me ... even though he's gone."

Names in this article have been altered in some cases. All incidents are true.

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