Why the Porteños Look So Good PDF Print E-mail
South America - Argentina
Written by TK   

Buenos Aires is a city brimming with confidence.  I never had the pleasure of experiencing the ‘Paris of South America’ before the economic crash, but even as a city now in the midst of recovery, there is still a pervading air of confidence in the local population.

The beautiful locals strut about like there is not a care in the world and despite economic hardship, the younger generation still parties like there is no tomorrow.  So, as a foreign visitor to Buenos Aires, I often ask myself, “Where does this confidence come from?”

Well, behind all of this carefree confidence there lies a peculiarity.  It seems like that the Porteños cannot cope without going to the gym at least three to four times a week.  Really.  I used to believe that gym culture was basically confined to California.  And then one Thursday afternoon, upon walking into a gym just off Gurruchaga St. in the Palermo district, I was proven absolutely wrong.

There was seriously more sweat pouring out of that gym than from Pete Sampras in his heyday.  There were more spot checks being performed than at a drycleaners.  The local women were busily jumping around in group packs in an aerobics room, shouted at by a quasi drill-sergeant.  And the men all seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with looking at their reflection in the mirror, as if mirrors were going out of fashion.  And it was not just your standard gym junkies, Muscle Marys and tri-athletes in training.  The gym was full to the brim with young adults, students, mothers and even a few over-fifties striving for physical perfection.

There actually appears to be more gyms than steak houses in the boroughs of Palermo and Recoleta.  Every day when I entered one of the gyms in Palermo, the space was jammed packed with everyone trying to sculpt the ultimate body.

Suddenly I was enlightened - the atypically perfect Porteño had not just been blessed with good bodies by Mother Nature; they are a result of zealous gym attendance.  Porteños are practically obsessive about their looks.

For the local men, looking good seems to go beyond even the definition of metrosexual.  A lot of the men’s lives ostensibly revolve around the gym - once they are done with their work-outs they flutter like butterflies around the gym, socializing.  And it is not that rare to see better dressed men than women in Buenos Aires, which is remarkable considering how stylish the women are to begin with.

The funny thing about immersing yourself in any given culture is that you start acting like a local in the blink of an eye.  This is the only rationale explanation I had for the fact that I embraced the gym ethos myself whilst staying in Buenos Aires.  I am quite averse to spending any time in gyms, let alone going more than once per week.  However, here I was staying in one of the world’s most hedonistic cities supposedly on a holiday, and somehow I was hitting up the gym every few days.

I learnt words and concepts that I have never come across before during my life and probably never want to become familiar with again – sets, kettle-bells, the pros and cons of doing cardio over weights, lycra, push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups, ergo machines, body combat, treadmills, sweat towels, and the virtues of a sauna post work-out.

However, it was extraordinarily difficult to actually concentrate on the exercise due to the sheer number of attractive women waltzing about the gym at any one time, and rather than concentrating on butterfly sets, I soon had butterflies myself trying to summon the courage to approach the Porteñas with my broken Spanish.

Whilst immersed in the Buenos Aires gym culture, it struck me that no sane person puts themselves through this without a good reason.  And it seems to me the reason is that Porteños put serious pressure on themselves to have the ideal bodies that are constantly shown-off on billboards and around the clock on TV.  It is like the overriding goal of many Porteños is to forever improve their appearance, and this is reflected everywhere from the gym culture, to the beaches, to the impeccable fashion sense, and even to the disturbing tendency of Argentines, young and old, to embrace the LA culture of plastic surgery.

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