The sun shone on the Mersey most of the weekend. I've not spent time there before, but I'm sure it's not always so warm. It brought out the summer frocks, Scousers in their smart casuals. It seemed the city was dressed to impress on Hanover Street, where they make the Liverpool paseo. And in the heat this could be spring in Buenos Aires.
The comparison is not far-fetched. These are two cities of the nineteenth century, built on the muddy banks of sprawling estuaries: built too on trade and the transit of people. They are cities that have boomed and bust and where too many have had to scuffle to survive. Some do so even now, a legacy of what Liverpudlians euphemistically call Scallywags, and the Portenos Las Grunajas. It is estimated that during the nineteenth century, roughly nine million emigrants passed down the Mersey seeking a new way of life, and millions arrived by La Plata seeking the same thing. Both ports drew a diaspora who stayed too, Irish in the case of Liverpool, Italian in Buenos Aires. Both for years formed the labouring underclass which built the modern city, but which also transformed its bedrock to give its culture a special flavour, and a legacy in each case of respectively rock n' roll and of tango. The result is two cities which are in their own terms vibrant and self-aware, with a civic pride which is in defiance of the distain in which the rest of their countrymen often hold them. It can be heard in I wish I was back in Liverpool and in Buenos Aires, Mi Querida equally, and other songs much like them. The spanish may have an elegaic edge which the scouse bonhomie may not permit, but they share a very sentimental affection.
The visual parallels are there too. The streets insistently conduct you from the low hills behind the river downhill from fine houses where the money has lived to where a century and more ago the money was made, Recoleta to La Plata, St James' to the Mersey, until you cross the roaring traffic of the highway that divides the two worlds, whether it be the Avenida Nueva de Julio or the Strand. But the docks now are theme parks, bars and galleries and restaurants repurposed from the mighty wharfside buildings, where the locals stroll and spend when once they would have sweated and toiled. In both places, bold and dramatic palaces have sprung up sharing the twisting concrete and glass of the new international architecture that might be anywhere and nowhere. But it's trying to say in both places: Look, times aren't so bad, we're making money.
Then there's the football.
But it has to be admitted that in the eyes of the world, Buenos Aires has the glamour, Liverpool the grit. Eva Peron had a political contemporary in Liverpool: it was Bessie Braddock.