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Rosario, the Argentina of national icons

Francisco Pardo

Sebastián Utreras

The LATAM route that connects Santiago, Chile, to Rosario, Argentina, is the perfect excuse to visit this city with a port spirit that seems like it’s always smiling.

 

Rosario is a city of stars. Its sky has two suns: one in space, in the middle of Argentina’s blue skies, and another in the country’s flag, which was first hoisted here in 1812. Coincidence or not, the city is also the birthplace of national idols that shine all over the world, like soccer player Lionel Messi, who has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or four times, and Fito Páez, the songwriter who sings, “walking around Rosario will always make you smile again.”

 

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Its strong commercial past as a port helped forge a unique  personality in this city, where passion and art are the norm. “Since the river was surrounded by buildings connected to the port’s activities, we needed to use our imagination and creativity,” says Fito Páez. Thus, a creative culture was born, and Rosario has boasted talented people like now-deceased cartoonist Negro Fontanarrosa appear in bars like El Cairo, located in the city center – which still has a table reserved for his friends, covered with their smiling photos.

 

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Even the architecture of the city center is evocative of starred stories: among imposing structures like the hotel Savoy, the Bolsa de Comercio and the old customs house is the extremely beautiful El Círculo Theater, which dates from 1904. Built at the request of the local population, its acoustics were highly praised by Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, an opera ‘rock star.’ “He came to perform El Pagliacci in 1915 and left us a note saying that the theater was every bit as fine as the world’s other grand opera venues,” says Gladys Ferrero, who guides backstage tours of the locale.

 

Passion of multitudes

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A taxicab conversation: Someone says the city, and perhaps the country as a whole, likes to think in dichotomies: Boca vs. River, Ford vs. Chevrolet, sweet mate vs. bitter mate. In Rosario, the main example is the relationship between the two most popular soccer teams: Newell’s and Rosario Central.

 

Newell’s stadium, christened in honor of former player, current coach and team idol Marcelo Bielsa, is located in Parque de la Independencia Here you can find  an equine racetrack, a paddleboat lagoon, along with bridges and trails to explore. The park is also home to Rosario’s City Museum, where gardens served as the setting for two classic photos of Che Guevara, who was born in a homestead that can be found at 480 central Calle Entre Ríos. In one of the images, he appears just a few years old, while the other was taken during  his stopover in Rosario during his famous travels across the continent of South America. While Newell’s stadium is next to a park and has a mural of Maradona – who played for the team in 1993, as Messi did when he was a child –  to, Central's stadium has its own beach called Caribe Canalla.

 

This team's stadium is known as Gigante de Arroyito, in reference to the residential neighborhood where it's located, in the north  along the Paraná River. “My whole family cheers for Central, starting with my great-grandfather. He used to live three blocks away and I always came to the club,” says Martina Estévez,the tour coordinator, as soon as we set foot on the field. “Caribe Canalla has an active life. The beach stays crowded from November to May. I adore the river. I love this place,” she says.

 

Negroni and medialunas

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“We consider Netflix to be our main competition,” laughs Matías Jurisich, the mixologist in charge of the bar at Chinchibira, located in the upbeat neighborhood of Pichincha. “I can have a fernet and coke at home in an air-conditioned room in front of a 100-inch screen. That's why we look for more spectacular experiences,” says Jurisich, who steers our conversation toward the city's food: the river fish (which you can try at the restaurants Bajada Escauriza and Bajada España), the medialunas (croissants) at Nuria, the Carlitos (pronounced with a silent 's,' it's a kind of grilled sandwich) and the ice cream. 

 

Night falls and a quick trip to the bars Ceviche, Negroni and Piel de Toro, provides a glimpse of the fiery local youth, which thrives in the skateboarding scene at Parque de España; the circus pirouettes of the students at Escuela de Artes Urbanos; the art galleries and exhibitions at Macro, the contemporary museum situated where grain silos once stood (right next to the bar Davis, definately worth a visit); the kids playing for the team's junior divisions; and the quintessential Rosario passion and amiability. 

 

LATAM has direct flights to Rosario from Lima, Santiago and São Paulo.