Bound For Buenos Aires, Part V

After rounding up our hand luggage, we debarked at the docks of Buenos Aires,  wishing a kind farewell to the crew and remaining passengers.  We got a taxi into town and checked in the  Fulbright Commission, then part of the United States Information Agency (later subsumed into the U.S. State Department) that was a contact entity for U.S. citizens.  I was on a private, not government fellowship (with the Inter American Press Association) I was later to receive (over the decades) a three USIA fellowships.  The staff at the Fulbright Commission was very helpful.  They suggested we check in at  a new hotel down near Rivadavia  (a major thorough fare that runs across much of Buenos Aires).  We had gotten some dollars changed into Pesos at an commercial money exchange.  Inflation was high in Argentina and the government was keeping tight control on transactions in which dollars and pesos were exchanged.  The official rate, as I recall, was three pesos for a dollar.  But there was a demand for dollars ( a solid currency) Argentines who wanted to travel abroad or buy goods abroad, so there was  thriving black market in pesos.   People approached us in the streets (our clothing and especially our American shoes gave us away as foreigners—not our skin or hair color.  Seventy percent of the Argentine population was directly from Italians or came directly from Italy. The dollar seekers offered to take us to money exchange houses that were paying much more than the government set price three pesos for a dollar.  Technically it was against the law to exchange dollars anywhere but at the government exchange. But everyone did it.    We got a good price for initial exchange of dollars, and with pesos in pocket took a cab to the Hotel.  We were greeted warmly by the hotel (I’ll ask Chris if she remembers the  name of the hotel—years later I went back and  stayed there during one of my assignments years later when the hotel was no longer new) for we were among  the first guests to check in to the new hotel.

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