here's an article that i found on avenida 9 de julio in buenos aires from last weekend's newspaper.
Excitement abounds on Buenos Aires' famous street
BUENOS AIRES -- In the two minutes and 20 seconds or so that it takes to cross "The Widest Avenue in the World" the fortunate pedestrian might notice some or all of the following:
- The faint whiff of burning incense.
- Ten dogs on one leash.
- A man rowing a boat on dry ground.
- The digitized chirping of imaginary birds.
This is Avenida 9 de Julio, the often-clogged artery that runs through the heart of Argentina's capital. Downtown, the avenue stretches across 16 lanes of traffic -- and in some places balloons to several more, counting corollary streets that run immediately alongside in places. It is divided by pedestrian islands in the middle, and crosswalks interrupt the avenue at each block.
"You just have to respect the traffic lights," said Maria Rosa Lannes, 64, preparing to cross at its hyperkinetic intersection with Corrientes Avenue at about 10 a.m. "That's the most important thing."
Possibly. But before the lights even come into play, you have to respect the curb. Stand beyond the line of the curb -- even one step -- and your toes are asking for it. The aggressively efficient drivers of Buenos Aires make the most of each traffic lane, customarily ignoring the painted lines and jamming their cars and trucks into whatever spaces they can.
The spaces where they can't is where the motorcycles go.
When the "walk" sign lights up, the rush of pedestrians trying to make it to the other side begins. Not all the way to the other side, of course. That would be a fool's quest. They just want to get to an island in the middle, then wait for the next stoplight cycle.
Matias Medina, 22, is a pedestrian on a mission: to get the 10 dogs tethered to his leash across the street without incident. He is one of the city's many professional dog-walkers, and his reputation depends greatly on the safety of his charges. "It's not easy," he said, pausing at the curb with his panting crew. "To be a dog-walker here is a job, for sure."
Speaking of jobs, the intersection is a hotbed of them. When the traffic stops, people such as Javier Cocero, 39, wade out among the stopped cars holding advertisements for magazines and radio stations on large boards. Others hawk wares from notebooks to electric doorbells, including one model that makes a sound like a chirping bird.
Diego Balmaceda, 36, is one of several island dwellers who have set up souvenir shops selling things such as yerba mate gourds, key chains and incense sticks. He usually keeps one stick burning to attract customers.
He figures the weirdest thing that's ever crossed his path was the guy in the boat.
The man had cut a hole in the middle of a boat frame; his legs stuck through the hole, allowing him to walk the vessel across the street.
"He had an oar, and was pretending like he was rowing," Balmaceda remembered. "I think he was mad at the government."
Not surprising, because the avenue is a magnet for the politically engaged. About twice a month, political demonstrations -- both for and against the government -- cross the avenue here, said Roberto Salmon, 32, another vendor on the island.
On this day, hundreds of people carried flags to celebrate Argentina's approaching Independence Day. Pedestrians and drivers clamored for the attention of Diego Colombo, 38, who handed out free flags on behalf of a radio station.
"Don't give him one!" yelled one man leaning out of a truck window, smiling and pointing at one man approaching Colombo. "He's Brazilian!"
Argentina's ever-simmering rivalry with Brazil, in fact, raises serious questions about the avenue: Is it really the widest in the world? Could thousands of Argentine postcards be wrong? Could Brazil, of all places, have them beat with the Eixo Monumental that runs through Brasilia?
Yes, according to several Brazil-friendly Internet sites that claim the title on its behalf.
But they're wrong. Kind of. Ask any Argentine.
The vast majority of the Eixo Monumental's width is the green parkland that separates its two six-lane roadways.
Avenida 9 de Julio has more lanes. That's what counts in Argentina.
Claudio Martinez, 32, a bicycle messenger, said he loves the street. Pity it doesn't seem to love him. He said he's been hit by cars here three times -- in 2000, 2002 and five months ago.
"It's an amazing avenue," he said, affixing a flag to the fender of his beleaguered bike, "but you have to be careful."